By Tiffany Woods
NEWPORT, Ore. – Oregon Sea Grant has appointed Tracy Crews as its associate director of education, meaning she is now in charge of its K-12 marine education program, the Oregon Coast STEM Hub, and the public education wing of the Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport.
For the past 15 years, Crews has led the marine education program, which offers summer camps, career days, field trips for school groups, and professional development opportunities for educators.
She helped launch and lead the Oregon Coast STEM Hub, which is one of 13 state-funded partnerships aimed at increasing students’ skills in science, technology, engineering and math.
"Tracy brings a wealth of experience to this new leadership position with Oregon Sea Grant, not just as an educator and a scientist, but as a long-time resident of the Oregon coast and a member of the Hatfield community," said Karina Nielsen, the director of Oregon Sea Grant. "We look forward to continuing our traditions of bringing excellent marine science learning opportunities to Oregon’s coastal communities and collaborating with many of the dedicated STEM-focused organizations, schools and educators of the Oregon coast."
Crews will supervise about 15 employees and provide leadership and strategic planning for educational programs for the public, students and teachers. Some of those programs will take place at the Oregon Sea Grant-operated Visitor Center at Hatfield where Crews and her staff are already envisioning new offerings for the public.
“Keep your eyes open. We’ll keep Fossil Fest and Whale Watch Week but will add more public events and hands-on programs to complement our exhibits,” she said.
Crews said that consolidating leadership of the Visitor Center, marine education program, and STEM hub will allow staff to share expertise, support each other, repurpose content, and reach a broader audience.
“What we’re talking about would be the ability to, for example, take a curriculum that we developed for the marine education program and use it in a public setting. Or we could create marine education activities that are tied more closely to the exhibits at the Visitor Center,” she said.
In the past, Crews helped organize an annual underwater robotics contest; trips in which students learn to conduct research at sea; and an annual competition at Hatfield in which students mock up renewable energy devices.
“In her role as manager of the marine education program, Tracy offered innovative and relevant marine science programming to countless students, educators and families locally and across the Pacific Northwest,” said Bob Cowen, the associate vice president for research and operations at Hatfield. “I am eager to see how the Visitor Center, marine education, and the Oregon Coast STEM Hub thrive and grow under her new leadership.”
Crews is currently leading two grant-funded projects focused on tsunami preparedness and marine debris prevention. In the latter, interns will be placed with businesses to identify strategies that reduce marine debris. Additionally, teachers will be introduced to lesson plans about marine debris and ways to prevent it.
Prior to her employment with Oregon Sea Grant, Crews worked as a fisheries biologist with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife for six years. She oversaw several volunteer- and student-run fish hatcheries, coordinated habitat restoration projects, and provided hands-on education to thousands of students annually.
Crews, who lives in Yachats, was also a high school science teacher in Texas and a science program director for the Newfound Harbor Marine Institute in the Florida Keys.
She earned a bachelor’s degree in marine biology from Texas A&M University and a master’s degree in marine science from The College of William & Mary where she was employed by Virginia Sea Grant as a research assistant.