About the Ocean Inquiry Project

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The idea for Ocean Inquiry Project (OIP) crystallized when the founders discussed potential intersections of teaching and research activities on Puget Sound. From a teaching perspective, we found it difficult to locate Puget Sound data to use for classroom exercises or to find inquiry-based curricula about the estuarine environment. This was compounded by a lack of boat-based science opportunities for students, particularly those from the many regional community colleges offering oceanography classes. From a research perspective, the oceanographic properties of Puget Sound are generally under-sampled in both space and time. Environmental monitoring programs and oceanographic research projects need more data than are currently collected, partly because the Puget Sound system is quite complex. OIP addresses both problems by combining on-the-water, inquiry-based education with research quality data acquisition.


Ocean Inquiry Project educates students and community members of all ages through boat-based, scientific inquiry on Puget Sound, making them partners in estuarine research by contributing data to current projects and long-term databases.


  • Foster an appreciation of the ocean and increase awareness of human impacts on it.
  • Enlighten participants about the process of scientific research through hands-on involvement in it.
  • Expand the horizons of students of all backgrounds, genders and ages through first-hand, observational science experience onboard ships.
  • Facilitate collaboration between students, teachers and researchers using Puget Sound as a teaching tool through regular data collection and analysis.


July 1999
Our first cruise! We collected field data and instructed an Ocean 101 class from Seattle Central Community College. Ideas begin to swirl about the value of what we’d just done – it was a very powerful thing.
December 1999
At a gathering over coffee on the UW campus, several principals discussed organizational possibilities and commitments. (Would this really be harder than becoming a professor?)
Spring 2000
We conducted more cruises, held more meetings, and kept dreaming up ways to do this better, more regularly, and more officially.
November 2000
OIP incorporates as a non-profit organization in Seattle, WA. Principal officers are Christian Sarason & Fritz Stahr.
August 2001
OIP achieves IRS 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status.
September 2001
OIP becomes an official partner with the University of Washington School of Oceanography, the Washington State Department of Ecology, the King County Department of Natural Resources and the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard through a National Ocean Partnership Program grant for the Puget Sound Marine Environmental Modeling (PSMEM) Project. Our first major grant!
April 2002
OIP Cruise #30 is a success, even in 30 knots of wind!
August 2002
OIP offers its first cruise to the general public. Instructors and participants gaze at tall ships while collecting data!
September 2002
OIP presents the Puget Sound ecosystem, and live plankton, to campers at Camano Island State Park in the evening “ranger” talk.
December 2002
OIP presents a poster at the American Geophysical Union Conference in San Francisco.
April 2003
OIP presents a poster at the Georgia Basin/Puget Sound Research Conference, Vancouver B.C.
September 2003
OIP hosts a fieldtrip for the Estuarine Research Foundation (ERF) Conference in Seattle. We also presented a poster at this conference comparing our participants’ data to numerical model output from PSMEM partners.
October 2003
OIP presents results from an educational study produced in collaboration with PSMEM partners at the 2003 Geological Society of America conference.
March 2004
Under a grant from The Russell Family Foundation, OIP conducts a workshop bringing together organizations active in marine science education on Puget Sound. The final report created after the workshop suggests creating a position or system to help teachers find Puget Sound curricula and opportunities for experiences. In November 2009, this recommendation becomes the Washington Sea Grant website “Washington on Water” for K-12 educators.
March 2005
OIP is first signatory on the memorandum of agreement establishing the Northwest Association of Networked Ocean Observing Systems (NANOOS). This will (eventually) help us connect our data to the rest of the region’s ocean observations to help with a new operational observatory.
August 2006 OIP conducts data collection as part of a cruise for Washington legislators about the UW “fast-boat” with Dr. Jan Newton in Hood Canal. This was to highlight the problems of low oxygen water that part of Puget Sound suffers on an annual basis. See HCDOP project for more info.
October 2007 OIP presents a poster comparing our participants’ data to numerical model output from PSMEM partners at the 2007 Puget-Sound / Georgia-Basin  Research Conference in Seattle.
June 2008 OIP conducts first cruise for UW GK-12 OACIS program that combines K-12 teachers (mostly high-school) with UW graduate-student fellows. Collaboration to continue through life of NSF grant to OACIS (5 years).
July 2008 OIP co-hosts a fieldtrip with the Centers for Ocean Sciences Education Excellence – Ocean Learning Communities (COSEE-OLC) for the NW Aquatic and Marine Educators (NAME) conference in Friday Harbor, WA.
August 2008 OIP hosts a fieldtrip aboard the UW’s R/V Thomas G. Thompson – the largest ship we’ve ever operated on!
September 2008 OIP receives a 3-year grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to collaborate with COSEE-OLC.
July/August 2009 OIP operates cruises # 119 & 120 for training teachers in “Curriculum for the Bioregion” run by Prof. Jean MacGregor (The Evergreen State College) and Prof. Jim Gawal (UW Tacoma). First OIP trip up a river.
April – Dec. 2010 Busiest year ever with 24 cruises! Nine for OACIS-GK12 groups, eight for COSEE-OLC groups including one for the COSEE National Network meeting in May, and three with our colleagues at SEA (Service, Education, Adventure) for their NOAA-BWET program.
September 2010 OIP receives its second NSF grant, this time as part of the renewal to continue funding COSEE-OLC for another three years. OIP is now a full member of this Center with Fritz Stahr as a co-PI.
February 2011 OIP celebrates its 10th anniversary, albeit somewhat late. A few slides that Fritz shows to reminisce. How the time flies when you’re having fun!
April 2011 OIP conducts cruise # 155 to train new volunteers as instructors – now a regular feature of each year as part of the COSEE-OLC program.
October 2011 OIP presents a poster at the Salish Sea Conference in Vancouver, BC regarding data coverage and program evaluation.


Thanks to all our volunteers, ship providers and contributors. OIP would not be a success without you!

Organizations providing grants or contributions:

National Ocean Partnership Program • National Science Foundation • American Institute of Marine Studies – Seattle • The Russell Family Foundation • Schneider Foundation • Evergreen Recycling

Contact Information

Ocean Inquiry Project
Seattle, WA 98107


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