Oregon is currently in the process of establishing Marine Reserves (MRs) and Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) within Oregon’s Territorial Sea. To assure that residents are aware of impending policy and the science behind it, science educators must formulate education tools that define terms and identify issues, but do not alienate sectors of the public that have alternative viewpoints. Because general ocean literacy is low, there is a need to raise awareness and interest about MRs and MPAs and their current status in Oregon.
The goals of this project were to design an effective museum exhibit, and raise the public’s awareness about MRs and MPAs in Oregon. The specific learning outcomes were to: 1) Recognize that a) Oregon has Marine Reserves, b) Marine Reserves are different from Marine Protected Areas, and c) Marine Reserves are in different locations along the Oregon coast; 2) Describe the Oregon process of establishing Marine Reserves by acknowledging that there are many people involved with a variety of backgrounds, and the visitor can get involved; and 3) Articulate the scientific and potential ecological benefits of Marine Protected Areas and Marine Reserves.
The exhibit was displayed at Hatfield Marine Science Center (HMSC) Visitor Center in Newport, OR. The center is a key site for public education on marine issues important to Oregonians, and supports free-choice learning. A survey was administered at SeaFest 2008 held on the HMSC campus to assess the current baseline knowledge and needs of the HMSC audience. This led to the development of two main prototypes which were evaluated for attractiveness, clarity and messaging. Results from exhibit Prototype II indicated that the messages were clear, but that the text and stakeholder videos were too long, and more interactive elements needed to be added. I conclude with some specific suggestions for the next iteration of the exhibit, and future directions to broaden the impact of the materials developed.