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Ocean Institute to Begin Major Expansion, Facility to Open to
General Public on Weekdays

Naming Opportunities for Major Donors Available

Dana Point, CA, November 6, 2014 – The Ocean Institute is pleased to announce the commencement of a major expansion of its Dana Point facilities in Spring 2015.  The installation is Phase 2 of the Institute’s Maddie James Seaside Learning Center expansion and will include the addition of a hands-on interpretive center in the current courtyard and lobby area of the Institute; Phase 1 was the opening of the dock portion of the Seaside Learning Center in 2013.  The design phase of the project is currently underway, with installation of the facility anticipated to begin February 2015.
“Since 1977, the Ocean Institute has offered ocean science and maritime history programs to school children on weekdays, and therefore, we were only open to the general public on weekends,” noted Dan Stetson, Ocean Institute president.  “However, with the completion of Phase 2 of our expansion effort in 2015, we’ll be able to welcome and inspire visitors every day and share our work with them.”

The expanded facility will include four educational activity areas: Kelp Forest/Splendid Seas, Dana Point Headlands Reef, Life in the Deep, and Climate Change Station.  These stations will be created in the Institute’s main lobby, courtyard and on a new floating teaching platform with a laboratory, technology center and historic maritime learning stations. 
Hands-on exhibits include:

Kelp Forest/Splendid Seas - Drawn by the imagery created on massive windows, visitors enter the atrium of the Ocean Institute’s main building and become immersed in a simulated world of giant kelp.  In front of them is a stunning underwater image of a kelp forest.  They see towering strands of kelp, realistic models of kelp forest organisms and living fish and other animals displayed in a large aquarium. 

Dana Point Headlands Reef Aquarium - Nestled into the rockwork on which some of the kelp is anchored, a large 500 gallon aquarium will display representative species of the kelp forest community.  In addition to this tank, one smaller adjacent aquarium will hold other kelp-dwelling organisms.

Tidepool Playscape - Oversized, sculpted and stained tidepool animals will be positioned in their corresponding intertidal zone.  The playscape is designed to be climbed on, under and over.  Tunnels, outcroppings and crevices reveal all sorts of animals to those who look. 

Life in the Deep - As a contrast to the kelp forest, visitors will experience what lies deep off Southern California’s coast. This is a region few visitors will ever experience firsthand, yet is beautiful, fascinating and an important frontier for current ocean research.  Here they will learn that the part of the ocean they may never see is just as beautiful, mysterious, interdependent and important as the parts with which they may be more familiar.

Science at Sea - Venturing deep within the ooze that lies at the seafloor, visitors will be struck by the intrinsic beauty of microfossils.  Normally microscopic, several massive sculptures of these fossilized plankton shells will engage our guests in learning ocean chemistry and the growing threat of ocean acidification.

All exhibits and stations will use a broad range of media and educational experiences to describe the local resource and link its ecological health to the global ocean.  They will identify how an ever-increasing human population poses specific threats to our ocean and address how increased atmospheric carbon threatens our local reef.  Visitors will use critical thinking skills to identify solutions, using informed decision-making to make changes in their behavior, leading to eventual advocacy.

Initial funding has been provided by:

  1. California State Parks Nature Education Facilities Program
  2. The Maddie James Foundation will fund the Tide Pool Playscape.  It will include donor recognition for the top supporters of the Maddie James Foundation along the wave mosaic sitting wall that borders the exhibit. 
  3. The Massen Greene Foundation and The Chambers Family, founding members of the Sea of Stars.  On the existing sidewalk starting near the front of campus, prominent donor recognition in the form of a “Sea of Stars” will be sandblasted as a way-finding path with powder-coated donor plaques.  Sea stars in the shape and color of the Ocean Institute’s logo will be marked with the names of donors and inset into the concrete.   

To fund the interpretive center, Stetson noted, additional donors are needed.  While donations of all amounts are welcome, major donors currently have the opportunity to have specific exhibits named in their honor.  To learn more about making a donation or naming opportunities, please contact Kajsa James at (949) 496-2274, ext. 415.

Founded in 1977, the Ocean Institute is a non-profit organization dedicated to ocean preservation through education, setting the standard for educational excellence and serving as a leading resource for universities, museums, teachers and all others seeking to increase their knowledge of the ocean. Unique maritime and ocean-themed items are available in the Chambers Gallery every day, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Institute address: 24200 Dana Point Harbor Dr., Dana Point. Website: www.ocean-institute.org. Phone: (949) 496-2274.

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