NEWPORT - A coalition of private and government councils has designated the public wing at Oregon State University's Hatfield Marine Science Center as a Regional Coastal Ecosystem Learning Center.

The selection criteria of the Coastal America partnership includes being within 10 miles of a coast and devoting 75 percent of public floor space to educational, interactive coastal habitat and ecosystem exhibits.

Other criteria include having outdoor education trails, permanent professional staff for education and outreach, a gift shop, classrooms for children, reference library, satellite receiving and broadcasting facilities, and affiliation with an institute of higher education.

The OSU science center's public wing, which reopened on May 17 after two years of renovations, is dedicated to helping people enjoy marine science by interactive discovery, said Bill Hanshumaker, OSU's marine public educator.

Research conducted by OSU scientists enhances the center and reveals how science creates knowledge used to understand, manage, and sustain marine resources. For additional information contact Vicki Osis, OSU Extension Sea Grant marine educator at 541-867-0257.

Virginia Tippie, Coastal America director, said a dedication ceremony will be held in the spring, with attendance by federal officials and legislators. Other ecosystem centers designated by Coastal America include the National Aquarium in Baltimore, Md., California's Monterey Bay Aquarium and the Florida Aquarium.

Coastal America was established as a partnership among federal, state, and local governments and private alliances to address coastal environmental problems. More than 20 federal agencies and 100 non-federal partners have become involved in Coastal America projects around the U.S. coastline, restoring wetland habitat and fish passage and protecting critical areas for endangered species and other wildlife.

The Coastal Learning Center program provides facilities and outreach educational capabilities to its partners. Partnership opportunities include films, exhibits and ecosystem education programming.

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Terri Nogler, 541-867-0271