Seattle Open House draws more than 1,200 to Sandpoint

On June 9, more than 1,200 visitors to the NOAA Western Regional Center at Sandpoint in Seattle met oceanographers, marine biologists, meteorologists, and engineers at the first NOAA Open House since 2014.

The staff-organized open house, held in conjunction with World Oceans Day, aimed to help the public understand how NOAA unlocks secrets in the deep oceans, tracks rapidly moving storms, operates state-of-the-art environmental satellites, charts the nation's waterways, formulates models to forecast climate trends, and protects our living marine resources.

About 140 NOAA staff volunteers – about half of them from NOAA Fisheries – hosted visitors at booths, tours, and talks during the Open House. Many of the tours filled up hours in advance. Volunteer organizers Adi Hanein and Alicia Keefe coordinated the open house along with members of the NW Regional Outreach Group. Rebecca White from the Alaska Fisheries Science Center designed and printed the graphics.

Five tours were offered during Open House, each focusing on a different aspect of NOAA’s mission:


The NOAA Dive Center trains scientists, NOAA Corps Officers, engineers, and technicians to carry out diving operations at NOAA. The facility includes a 38,000 gallon training tank, hyperbaric recompression chamber, and an L-shaped staging pier on Lake Washington that partially encloses a 30-foot deep diving basin. Visitors on this tour received hands on experience with SCUBA diving equipment and learned how NOAA divers conduct research underwater. Photo: Greg McFall, Office of Marine and Aviation Operations, NOAA

whale bones

Marine Mammals

NOAA Fisheries’ Alaska Fisheries Science Center (AFSC) conducts research on marine mammals, fisheries, ecosystems, and habitat in the coastal waters off Alaska and the west coast of the United States. During this tour, visitors got a glimpse into the AFSC’s  marine mammal research bone collection, featuring skulls and bones from orcas, gray whales, dolphins, and porpoises, a narwhal tusk, and a collection of seal skulls and furs from species living in North Pacific and Alaskan waters. Photo: Su Kim, NOAA, Northwest Fisheries Science Center

ocean floater

Ocean Engineering

The Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory (PMEL) makes critical observations and conducts groundbreaking research to advance our knowledge of the global ocean and its interactions with the earth, atmosphere, ecosystems, and climate. During this tour, visitors stepped into PMEL’s workspace where engineers build and test new technology to collect data about our oceans. Photo: Peggy Mundy, NOAA Fisheries

people in an open hangar with hanging nets

Sustainable Fisheries

The AFSC is responsible for conducting studies and surveys to collect scientific data to support sustainable fisheries and ecosystems in Alaska’s waters. This tour of NOAA Fisheries’ Net Loft showed the research nets used in fisheries surveys, as well as exhibits illustrating how surveys are conducted, how fish are aged, what fish eat, and how the data are used in fishery management. Photo: Peggy Mundy, NOAA Fisheries

man at console


Meteorologists at the National Weather Service Forecast Office in Seattle provide 14 counties and 7 million people in Western Washington with weather forecasts and warning programs. During this tour, participants visited the forecast office and learned how meteorologists use Doppler weather radars, airport observation systems, weather balloons, and marine weather stations to provide weather forecasts and warn the public of weather-related hazards. Photo: National Weather Service

At exhibits and displays around campus, visitors:

Throughout the day, lightning-talk speakers discussed current research on harmful algal blooms, the recovery of rockfish, new Saildrone studies, and the impacts of The Blob and El Niño on the Pacific Northwest. The event also served as a celebration of Springer, an orca calf successfully reunited with her pod 15 years ago. The celebration featured a screening of Orphan Orca, a short documentary that tells Springer’s story, and a Q&A panel from some of the experts who worked on Springer's rescue. 

Participants walked away with a better understanding of the issues facing our oceans and what individuals can do to make a difference. “I was impressed with the knowledge of the speakers/scientists,” one visitor wrote on a comment card. “They seem to care that everyone learn something.”

Want to learn about upcoming events at the Western Regional Center? Sign up for our listserv.

View additional photos of the event

Homepage photo: Su Kim, NOAA