What can you expect to see in the Visitor Center?  Our interactive exhibits help visitors learn about marine research conducted at HMSC and beyond.  As you explore, you may notice that the space is arranged to show the Patterns of Science.  Scroll down to see descriptions of many of our newest, seasonal and permanent exhibits!  

Please Note: HMSC Visitor Center is a working learning research lab. We are recording the visits of our visitors to better understand what they choose to do and with whom in order to improve the visitor experience.  More info

Featured Exhibits

Tidepool Touch Tanks

Gently touch the tidepool animals

Roll up your sleeves and touch living marine animals in our tidepool tanks! Gently touch fish, abalone, and sea stars. Discover what happens when you touch the sticky tentacles of a sea anemone. Get a "hug" from the sea urchins. Friendly volunteers are on hand to answer your questions and help you explore.


Tsunami Wave Tank

Tsunami Wave TankHow do tsunamis affect structures on the coast?  Take the Tsunami Wave Tank Engineering Challenge! 

  • Step One: Build a house with legos.
  • Step Two: Put the house in the wave tank. 
  • Step Three: Use the computer to create a tsunami wave.
  • Step Four: Watch what happens!

See if you can build something that will withstand the energy of a tsunami wave.


Erosion Tank

Visitors build a beach in the Erosion TankVisitors of all ages can experiment with conditions that cause coastal erosion by using the interactive Erosion Tank.  First, learn about the problem of coastal erosion:

  • Step One: Reach into the tank and make a beach with your hands.
  • Step Two: Use the bar to make waves in the tank.
  • Step Three: Make observations about the pattern of erosion the waves make on your beach.

Next, design something that will help protect the beach from erosion.  What effects do waves have on a beach protected by riprap?  How about a beach with a sea wall or a jetty?  Build these structures and find out!


Ornamental Fish Health

These yellow tangs came from HawaiiDo you or someone you know keep ornamental fish?  Check out our three beautiful new tanks of colorful ornamental fish, and learn about the research and education coming out of Oregon Sea Grant's Aquatic Animal Health Program.  Veterinarians and aquarists with AAHP are working to improve fish management techniques, develop new tests to detect fish diseases, and they conduct research on diseases that affect fish.  Their findings promote fish health, survival and sustainability.


Science for Sustainable Fisheries

Model of fishing boat

Learn about the fish caught off Oregon's coast, the gear used to catch them, and the science behind managing for sustainability.  The exhibit features detailed scale models by local craftsman Duke Rider of actual boats that set out from Newport in search of salmon, albacore tuna and shrimp. 

The commercial fishing industry, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, and many others recently partnered in a large scale effort to recover lost crab gear along the Oregon coast. During the two-year project, commercial fishermen recovered over 3,000 lost or derelict crab pots, which were nearly all re-usable and returned to their owners. This project successfully advanced our understanding of the impacts of lost crab gear on marine resources and users and engaged the fishing industry to continue recovering lost gear into the future. A video documentary of the project is now part of the Science for Sustainable Fisheries exhibit.


Our Eight-Armed Greeter

OctopusAn octopus has been greeting the public at the Visitor Center since shortly after we opened in 1965. It hasn't been the same octopus, of course. There have been many greeters, each with its own personality and level of enthusiasm for the job - and each with its own name, chosen by our visitors.

The octopus occupies the first large tank just as you enter our exhibit area. If the tank lid is open and you notice a crowd, that means it's feeding time, always a popular event for our visitors (and the octopus, too!).  From home, you may be able to see our octopus on the OctoCam. When we are without an octopus, you can see other interesting marine life in the large tank.