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Sea Center Upgrades Educational Facility With Funds From County Coastal Resource Enhancement Fund

Shark Cove, an exhibit at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History’s Sea Center, features a touch tank for visitors to get up close and personal with some of the ocean’s top predators.
Shark Cove, an exhibit at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History’s Sea Center, features a touch tank for visitors to get up close and personal with some of the ocean’s top predators. (Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History photo)

The County of Santa Barbara’s Coastal Resource Enhancement Fund program granted the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History $30,000 in 2014, providing the final support needed for the construction and installation of the California Coast Immersion Zone project on the first floor of the Sea Center, located on Stearns Wharf. This project brings three new engaging exhibits to the Sea Center: Shark Cove, Intertidal Wonders and Safe Sanctuaries.

These spaces connect visitors to the richness, vitality and beauty of local coastal marine resources. The enhancements both improve the Sea Center’s educational effectiveness for school children and visitors as well as keep the museum’s marine educational facility in good shape.

Completed in three phases, the first component of the project was the installation of Intertidal Wonders.

This area now features a highly improved, larger, ADA accessible series of four cascading touch pools, where visitors can, with the help of a volunteer, feel the spiny skin of a sea urchin or the smooth body of a sea cucumber, among other intertidal zone animals. Behind the pool is a 16-foot-long mural of a local beach and tide pool.

Amanda Allen, director of the Sea Center, shares, “the feedback from visiting teachers, school groups and families with children has been especially positive, and the improvement is resulting in more smiles, increased stay time and an overall increase in visitation to the Sea Center.”

The second phase was installed with the new components of the Shark Cove exhibit. Shark Cove, an ADA compliant space, is highly interactive and highlights the value of sharks in our marine ecosystem.

It  includes a brand new touch pool, shark nursery display, dive cage interactive, micro-viewer for examining shark teeth and other artifacts, food web interactive for children and a mono-filament recycle station to encourage visitors to recycle old or broken fishing line that might otherwise make its way into the ocean, harming sea animals that become entangled or entrapped.

The final suite of didactics and a smaller Marine Protected Area exhibit space highlighting local MPAs, Safe Sanctuaries, was just completed at the end of May 2016.

Of special importance, the Sea Center’s endangered white abalone received a new habitat and two interactive exhibit elements were unveiled that encourage guests to explore Santa Barbara Channel MPAs.

This project was financed in part by Santa Barbara County’s CREF, a partial mitigation of impacts from the following offshore oil and gas projects: Point Arguello, Point Pedernales and Santa Ynez Unit.

Danielle Moran is a marketing associate at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History.

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