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UCSB, NOAA Break Ground on Ocean Science Education Building

The campus facility will house an outreach center and the Channel Islands Marine Sanctuary office

A 30-year partnership between UCSB and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration was literally cemented Monday when NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco and UCSB Chancellor Henry Yang broke ground on the 15,000-square-foot Ocean Science Education Building on the east side of campus.

The building will house the Channel Islands Marine Sanctuary office and the Outreach Center for Teaching Ocean Science, a state-of-the-art educational facility.

Students from Cesar Chavez Charter School gave visitors a taste of the types of outreach programs made possible through the partnership.

“We learned all about the threatened ocean habitats. We have to try not to throw trash in the sewers, especially when the rain comes,” Alec, a fourth-grader, said as he pointed out a photo of a seal that had eaten plastic, bottle caps and lots of paper. “He ate too much toxins, and it’s going to blow up his stomach.”

A classmate, Carla, said, “We need to work on recycling and throwing your trash in the trash cans. Otherwise, we’ll have red tides and that’s bad. We learned all about toxic algae. That’s bad stuff.”

The program at Cesar Chavez is part of the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary’s MERITO Academy. “It stands for Multicultural Education for Resource Issues Threatening Oceans, and means ‘merit’ in Spanish,” the NOAA’s Laura Francis said.

UCSB Chancellor Henry Yang was on hand for Monday's groundbreaking
UCSB Chancellor Henry Yang was on hand for Monday’s groundbreaking. (Leslie Dinaberg / Noozhawk photo)

She said that in addition to providing educational programs, housing staff and the outreach center, the building will be used for K-12 teacher training.

“The focus will be on science and technology and observing and collecting data,” she said.

Lubchenco, who also serves as President Barack Obama’s undersecretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere, spoke at Monday’s event.

“The president has made it clear through his actions and words that healthy oceans matter for healthy people and healthy communities,” she said. “Channel Islands and NOAA’s other national marine sanctuaries play a key role in educating the public about the importance of protecting and conserving the ocean. ... This new building will help shape the future of how we interact with the ocean.”

The center will serve 40,000 students a year when fully operational and help students understand the interdependence between the ocean and our lives, Lubchenco said.

OCTOS will feature state-of-the-art interactive exhibits to help connect students, educators, community groups and the public with innovative educational programs based on frontier research in ocean science. Activities will include live aquaria, a wet lab and immersive theater exhibits.

“I look forward to joining in on a virtual dive in OCTOS,” Lubchenco said. “That would be great fun!”

Cesar Chavez Charter School students share with visitors what they have learned through the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary’s outreach program
Cesar Chavez Charter School students share with visitors what they have learned through the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary’s outreach program. (Leslie Dinaberg / Noozhawk photo)

Designed by San Francisco-based EHDD Architecture, the Ocean Science Education Building will be built adjacent to the Marine Science Institute — UCSB’s largest research unit. It will conform to the Gold Certification standards of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and meet precise requirements of sustainable design elements and practices.

“We are thrilled that the dream of a new Ocean Science Education Building is becoming closer to a reality today,” Yang said. “Our campus is delighted to provide the location for this building and grateful to NOAA for its grants. We will continue to raise more funds from private donors and foundations for our outreach activities. We deeply appreciate the visionary leadership and support of Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Congresswoman Lois Capps.”

Capps, D-Santa Barbara, who was instrumental in gaining federal funding for the project, was on hand Monday, describing the event as “far more significant than just a groundbreaking … we are breaking ground for a new era and for new ways of thinking.”

“This critical facility will be a gateway to help us learn more about protecting and conserving oceans, and will provide an important venue to help us expand valuable marine education programs for local schoolchildren,” Capps said. “This is another significant step forward in our efforts to make the Santa Barbara Channel a mecca for ocean science, conservation and education.”

Noozhawk contributor Leslie Dinaberg can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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