Erik Urdahl founded The Spout, an organization that provides information for whale watchers and whale enthusiasts, back in 2009. Urdahl realized that many people who lived in Oregon and along the coast had never seen a whale before—he wanted to get people excited about them. He describes The Spout as “a how-to guide for whale watching, because that was the thing I just kept discovering. People just don’t know when to come or where to look, but it’s really simple actually.”

Another one of Urdahl’s initiative is to make interpretation more exciting. From his experiences, interpretation can be pretty dry sometimes—it’s hard to get people excited about something. He suggests helping people spot the whales first, which gets them excited, and then trying to backfill with scientific information.

Another way that Urdahl believes science outreach can be done is through art and technology. “We have this approach of going up to somebody and throwing a lot of information at them, whereas you could share some images or maybe a video to get them excited about what’s out there. Once somebody gets an idea of what they could be looking at it seems easier to get them actively engaged in it. I think that interpretation can feel a little stale, particularly with certain generations so it’s sort of on us to find better ways to make connections and get them interested. I think art and tech can help immensely.”

When asked about the best part of running The Spout, Urdahl says, “I did a project one year where I took a bunch of people whale watching for the first time and documented their reactions, which ranged from squeals of delight to awe-struck tears. I followed up with some of those people afterward and discovered that some had taken more of an interest in ocean conservation, which is really the whole point of it. I don’t expect anyone to fall in love with whales after looking at a website or being told how big they are. But if we can get people to make some sort of emotional connection with these animals and their world and combine that with some knowledge, then hopefully they will make decisions in their everyday lives with ocean health and general conservation in mind.”

Check out for more information and how to become a whale watcher!


MSI Sponsored-Summer 2019 Internships

The Marine Studies Initiative is pleased to announce MSI Sponsored-Summer 2019 Internships. These internships are available along the Oregon Coast and available to OSU students from any major. The areas of focus include arts, science filmmaking, whale research, engineering, tourism, and education, policy and outreach. Group housing is provided as well as a stipend of up to $6,100. Please see our website for more details.


An Undergraduate Student will have the opportunity to participate in the new Guide Recognition and Training Program (GORP) with the
Oregon Sea Grant/OSU Extension Tourism Program in Coos Bay, & Bandon, Oregon. Duties include conducting an applied research project relating to whale watching, salmon fishing charters, kayaking and as possible other guided activities. This applied research is part of a long term project that is a model for other coastal regions. Intern will have opportunity to publish blog articles, meet with professional guides, experience professional guided activities, and produce short educational videos. Lodging provided at the Southwestern Oregon Community College Apartments on local lake, offices on campus and also at the Wild Rivers Coast Alliance at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort near Bandon.


The application can be found here.

The application requires a cover letter, resume, two recommendation letters, and unofficial transcripts.

Deadline to apply is March 22, 2019




If you have any questions, please email our Academic Adviser Cynthia Leonard at

There are many more marine-related summer internships available. If you are interested in other opportunities, please check out the 2019 Summer Internships page on our website.

Marine Studies Initiative|Oregon State University

300 Strand Hall |Corvallis, OR  97331

Phone: 541.737.2780|

When we are lucky, the skies are clear and if light pollution is low then the sky above is filled with stars. It is a spectacular view to see and if you look close you can see some important starts that have been used for navigation for a very long time.

The Big Dipper

The Big Dipper is an asterism, or a group of notable stars that form a pattern, in the constellation Ursa Major, also known as the Great Bear. Due to it’s prominent shape and brightness, it is one of the most familiar star shapes in the northern sky. It contains eight stars where seven are usually visible to most. The Big Dipper is named for the shape the stars appear in, a handle and a bowl. Each of these stars have a name. Starting from the handle and going around to the bottom of the bowl they are known as: Alkaid, Mizar-Alcor (the first double star to be discovered through a telescope), Aloith, Megrex, Phecda, Merak and Dubhe.


Another important star to know is the North Star, Polaris. This star is very easy to find if you know where the Big Dipper is. If you draw a line through the two outer stars of the bowl it points right to it! Many sailors’ depended on this star to navigate because it points the direction of north.

Using the Big Dipper to find the North Star