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Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Eight-armed Painter to Debut Talent During Octopus Month

In case you missed it last month...

Originally posted at

Evidence for octopus intelligence abounds: the leggy invertebrates can use tools, solve problems, and display remarkable curiosity. But now aquarists at the Hatfield Marine Science Center Visitor Center in Newport have found a way to allow Squirt, their resident octopus, to express his artistic creativity as well.

Just in time for Octopus Month at the Visitor Center, the husbandry team has created a device that allows the octopus to manipulate a series of paint brushes against a canvas outside of the tank. Aquarist Kristen Simmons was the brains behind the mechanism. “I did this to combine animal enrichment and public education.” she said, “The art gives people a different way to experience this animal's behavior.”

“While a painting octopus is very entertaining and captures our imaginations,” explained Dr. Tim Miller-Morgan, aquatic vet for Oregon Sea Grant, “the real purpose behind this activity is to provide behavioral enrichment for these very curious and intelligent animals.”

The Giant Pacific Octopus has been a centerpiece at the HMSC Visitor Center since 1965. Generations of visitors have fond remembrances of seeing the octopus for the first time. “The octopus holds a very special place in the hearts of our visitors” said Becca Schiewe, Volunteer Coordinator for the Visitor Center. “Coming face to face with such an intriguing and intelligent animal opens people up to learning more about the wonder and mystery of the ocean.”

Squirt’s colorful paintings have captured the attention of community artists in Newport, and several have volunteered to collaborate with Squirt on shared works. Alex Krupkin, artist and molecular biologist based at HMSC, was the first to collaborate with Squirt. “The octopus’s artistic style is really bold, yet open to interpretation…the opportunity to participate in this collaboration is pretty exciting,” he said.

The octopus will create one painting a week during the month of October, designated by the Visitor Center as Octopus Month. By making an additional donation to the Visitor Center Octopus fund, visitors will be entered into a weekly drawing for Squirt’s paintings and other prizes each week, including marine themed art from local artisans, and an “up close and personal” octopus encounter at HMSC.

Drawings will occur each Saturday in October. October 20th will be a special day to celebrate all things octopus and will include children’s activities, face painting, special guest speakers, and an octopus feeding at 1 pm.

Fans of Squirt can keep tabs on his activities – artistic and otherwise – by viewing the HMSC live streaming “OctoCam” at

The mission of the HMSC Visitor Center is to interpret ocean science and the latest Oregon State University marine research. The Visitor Center features displays about local marine research and the marine environment, including aquaria, touch tanks, and hands-on activities. A range of special events is scheduled at the Center throughout the year. For more information, go to


Be sure to visit Hatfield MarineScience Center's OctoCam to keep an eye on what Squirt is up to!


Linda said...

The institute is doing a good job to explore the sea life. Octopuses are the beautiful sea creatures and it is good to have such competitions which propagate love for sea creatures among children.

clar said...

Beutiful creatures!