Four indoor galleries exhibit Oregon's coastal animals in their natural habitats: sandy shores, rocky shores, offshore coastal waters and salt marsh wetlands. Each gallery includes extensive interpretive text as well as intricately fabricated habitats within the exhibit tanks. Among the galleries are a demonstration lab, a video theater and a changing exhibit area.
Sandy Shores: Highlights of this gallery include a freestanding pier pilings exhibit. The 4,730-gallon tank replicates the unique habitat formed by docks and piers. A cross section of a wave-lapped sandy beach shows what animals live over sandy bottoms. In all, the gallery holds 13 exhibits.
Animals exhibited in the Sandy Shores Gallery include leopard sharks, flatfishes, tubesnouts, skates, sea pens, sand dollars and surfperch.
Rocky Shores: The large Touch Pool forms the centerpiece of the Rocky Shores Gallery. Staffed by volunteers, this exhibit lets visitors gently touch tidepool residents like sea stars, gumboot chitons and anemones. Other gallery highlights include a tidepool cut-away raked by waves and a deep tide pool in which a visitor-operated videocamera has been mounted for close-up investigation. The Rocky Shores Gallery holds a total of 15 exhibits.
Animals exhibited in the Rocky Shores Gallery include wolf-eels, sculpins, decorated warbonnets and a wide range of sea stars, anemones and other animals found on the rocky coast.
Coastal Waters: The “At the Jetty” exhibit spotlights survival issues of coho and chinook salmon, explaining their life cycle and their tremendous journey from streams to the ocean and back again. Extending into the Aquarium's courtyard with a large wall-to-wall viewing window, the 35,000-gallon exhibit is one the Aquarium's larger indoor displays. Made up of impressive basalt boulders, the exhibit replicates the habitat of the Yaquina Bay jetties, between which salmon must pass on their annual migrations. Large white sturgeons are also featured. Considered ancient fish, sturgeons have been around for some 200 million years. They can live as long as 100 years and can reach lengths of 20 feet. Aquarium visitors enjoy watching these gentle giants poke around the sandy bottom in search of food. The “At the Jetty” exhibit was made possible through the generous support of Spirit Mountain Community Fund and The Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde.
Coastal Waters also houses a moon jelly exhibit, which occupies an acrylic cylinder eight feet in diameter. The jellies are consistently named by visitors as one of the most popular animals at the Aquarium. A second jelly exhibit in this gallery features sea nettles. Other highlights include a 5,000-gallon kelp forest harboring offshore fishes and invertebrates and a 9,100-gallon coastal reef exhibit. The gallery holds a total of 16 exhibits.
Animals exhibited in the Coastal Waters Gallery include basket stars, ratfish, eelpouts, rockfishes and a wide variety of deeper water fishes and invertebrates.
Ocean Exploration Station: Visitors have an opportunity to meet some crustacean creatures up close at the Ocean Exploration Station. The Crab Lab presents an amazing tour of the crustacean’s world, from barnacles to ghost shrimp. You’ll get to know their feeding habits, cycles of life and more. The station also features an interactive touch screen that describes fun and little-known crustacean facts. Topics at the station rotate yearly.
Qwest Theater: A specially produced video, "Graceful Giants", presents the biology and migration of gray whales, among Oregon's favorite coastal travelers. Also shown are "Myth of the Man-Eaters: The Sharks of the Oregon Coast", a video on the realities of indigenous sharks and global species, and "Flights of Fancy: Seabirds of the Oregon Coast", which combines award-winning footage taken in the Aquarium's Seabird Aviary with breathtaking footage of Oregon's wild seabirds to present the compelling story of the seabird life cycle. The video also reveals the secrets and strategies behind the Aquarium's successful captive seabird breeding and research program. All three videos were produced for the Aquarium by Odyssey Productions. Special lectures, presentations and school programs are also held in the Qwest Theater.
Changing exhibits: The New Currents area holds changing exhibits that make revisiting the Aquarium a must. Currently the Aquarium hosts "Jewels of the Sea" exhibit, featuring the largest collection of jellyfish ever exhibited, with over 4,000 square feet of temperate and tropical jellies. Each display is carefully lit to provide jewel-like views of the animals. Also showcased throughout the exhibit is the exquisite handblown glasswork of renowned artist Chris Hawthorne. Hawthorne has created a number of impressive handblown glass jellyfish over six feet in length, coupled with various sized jelly sculptures, which convey the luminescent colors, symmetry and graceful movement of these magnificent creatures.