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Online marine life workshops combine science and art

Off the Oregon Coast, sea stars, sea anemones and sea urchins populate the ocean floor while fish, seals and sharks glide amid rock formations and waving kelp forests.

A series of free virtual workshops in July and August combines science with art to bring this hidden world to light.

The workshops explore Oregon’s five marine reserves — places set aside for conservation and research where fishing is banned.

“The easiest way to think about marine reserves is that they are like parks out in the ocean,” said Bri Goodwin, Oregon field manager for the Surfrider Foundation.

The foundation and Portland’s Elisabeth Jones Art Center are teaming up with researchers to offer the online workshops.

Kids and adults can hear from experts about marine reserves and the research being done to learn more about their inhabitants. Then participants will be guided through an art project to craft at least one sea creature out of wire and paper.

If they wish, people can send their completed projects to the Elisabeth Jones Art Center, where an artist will assemble the creations into a 25-foot-diameter mobile for exhibition at the center.

A date for the exhibition hasn’t yet been set because of uncertainty over COVID-19, Goodwin said.

Southern Oregon has its own marine reserve — the Redfish Rocks Marine Reserve located off the coast just south of Port Orford.

Oregon’s four other marine reserves are scattered along the northern coast.

At Redfish Rocks, five massive rock formations protrude above the ocean, providing homes to sea birds and marine mammals. Underwater, the rock surfaces, boulder fields and cobble support a rich diversity of fish, invertebrates and seaweeds, according to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, which manages the marine reserves.

During the virtual workshop about Redfish Rocks, participants will learn about research on purple sea urchins and make sea urchin sculptures. If time allows, they may also make great white sharks, Goodwin said.

Each of the workshops focuses on different sea creatures and includes instructions on making one to five species, depending on time available, she said.

Other creatures that could be made include sea stars, fish, birds, sand dollars and sea lions, Goodwin said.

“We’re really excited for this opportunity to combine science and art. People will learn what’s unique about Oregon’s marine reserves and have a hand in a collaborative art project made by people from throughout the state to show the diversity of Oregon’s marine species,” she said.

Although the workshops are free, they are limited in participation so pre-registration is required. Individuals may register for one or multiple workshops occurring over the following dates:

  • July 29, 5:30-7:30 p.m. - Cascade Head Marine Reserve
  • Aug. 5, 5:30-7:30 p.m. - Redfish Rocks Marine Reserve
  • Aug. 12, 5:30-7:30 p.m. - Cape Falcon Marine Reserve
  • Aug. 19, 5:30-7:30 p.m. - Otter Rock Marine Reserve
  • Aug. 26, 5:30-7:30 p.m. - Cape Perpetua Marine Reserve

To register, see surfrideroregon.eventbrite.com.

For more information about Oregon’s marine reserves, including the Redfish Rocks Marine Reserve, see oregonmarinereserves.com.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-776-4486 or valdous@rosebudmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @VickieAldous.

Oregon's marine reserves are home to an abundance of sea life. Photo courtesy of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.