Dignitaries cut through a piece of kelp instead of a traditional ribbon Tuesday as the Ocean Sciences Education Building at UCSB was unveiled with promises to educate the community about the value of marine ecosystems.
After a lengthy construction process, the building is largely completed, and half of it will serve as offices for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary.
Both NOAA and UCSB officials joined Tuesday to celebrate the opening of the 15,000-square-foot building at the corner of Lagoon and UCEN roads on UCSB's campus.
NOAA invested $8.1 million in a grant to the university toward the project's design, development, permits and construction. UCSB contributed the land, managed the construction project and is the owner of the building.
NOAA locates many of its facilities on college campuses to stay on the cutting edge of science and management, said Holly Bamford, NOAA’s assistant administrator for the National Ocean Service, who spoke Tuesday.
Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, was also on hand to offer support, and said that big challenges such as ocean acidification and climate change will make the mission of the building even more important.
Standing in front of a two-story glass window that will eventually be turned into a kelp tank, Capps turned her attention to some of the event’s youngest attendants.
About 20 eighth-grade girls attending the Tech Trek Camp, which encourages girls to pursue careers in math and science, listened in on the ribbon-cutting remarks.
“I’m hoping some of them come back as students and researchers,” Capps said.
Education is at the heart of the building, and one half will house the Outreach Center for Teaching Ocean Science, or OCTOS, a joint project of UCSB’s Marine Science Institute and the sanctuary that will offer marine-science education and ocean-conservation programs.
They’ll be raising money over the next few years to complete the center, said Chris Mobley, the sanctuary’s superintendent.
UCSB's Gevirtz Graduate School of Education will also use OCTOS as a place to enhance training for science teachers — both those getting their certification at the university, as well as regional K-12 teachers.
The new facility will incorporate touch tanks; a mobile one was on site Tuesday, proving to be a big hit with the Tech Trek students.
The learning center will have the potential to serve 50,000 student visitors a year.
Planned for the space is a 30-seat digital theater, a virtual dive area where students can conduct research similar to what scientists are doing on the ocean floor now, as well as a wet lab and other areas.
NOAA officials say that although the building on UCSB’s campus will be their new headquarters, they’ll continue operating their small office at the Santa Barbara harbor where the NOAA research vessels Shearwater and Shark Cat are docked.
The agency also will continue to have a presence in Ventura County, with programs and exhibits at the Cal State Channel Islands Boating Center at Channel Islands harbor.