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Ocean Explorium comes alive seven days a week

UMass Dartmouth key partner in effort to inspire young people about science

First there was a vision. Then there was The Sphere. Now, after years of hard work and anticipation, the Ocean Explorium in New Bedford has gone "live".

It is open daily to the public with a vibrant and charismatic collection of marine animals from around the world.

"This is a great occasion for the city of New Bedford," said Mayor, Scott Lang, who officially opened the Ocean Explorium today at a ribbon-cutting ceremony with University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Chancellor, Jean MacCormack.

"The opening of the Ocean Explorium's marine exhibits is a positive development not only for this institution but for the entire New Bedford area community. Even in these challenging economic times, we find ways to look toward the future and to value our most important natural resources--such as our world's oceans. This truly is an outstanding project, which celebrates New Bedford's unique relationship with the oceans, and our commitment to preserving them."

The Ocean Explorium is a public center for learning about ocean science, located on the corner of Purchase and Union Streets in downtown New Bedford. The project is the outcome of a significant partnership between the New Bedford Oceanarium and the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth.

University Chancellor Jean MacCormack expressed her continuing support for the project at today's official opening.

"I am so thrilled and excited to be standing here today--to see first-hand the fruits of so many people's labor, and to see what a wonderful opportunity we have to bring ocean science alive to the people of this region," she said.

"It is critical that we continue to provide these kinds of learning opportunities for students of every age so that each generation will act as informed guardians of the oceans' inhabitants and its resources."

Nearly 600 people attended the grand opening of the Ocean Explorium over the Summerfest weekend, with another 800 visiting the marine science outreach WOW Mobile.

The Ocean Explorium is now open daily to the public from 10 to 4, and offers children and adults an entertaining and educational experience on several different levels. In addition to the new marine animal displays, there is also an innovative new activity center, called Discovery Bay, designed for younger children.

"We want to reach people of all ages--from Pre-K to post Graduate," explained Ocean Explorium director Mark Smith. "So we now offer a collection of exhibits, which work together but also appeal to different people in different ways.

"Our mission is education, but we need to get people excited about science by capturing their imaginations, so they are eager to learn."

The Ocean Explorium's focal exhibit, Science on a Sphere® was developed by NOAA, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, and is unique in New England.

The Sphere uses a state-of-the-art global display system to create an image of the earth and the other planets in 3-D; like viewing the planets from outer space! Scientific data sets--both historic and real-time--demonstrate environmental issues on a global scale.

Smith says the Ocean Explorium's new living exhibits will be directly linked to Science on a Sphere® and the center's message for environmental stewardship.

"The marine animals give people an exciting, live, close-up view of what we're talking about on the Sphere, to encourage people to think globally and act locally," he said.

"For example we have a large living coral reef, which will highlight one of those important global issues--coral bleaching that is the result of global climate change. Other smaller exhibits including scallops, New England fishes, jellies, anemone fishes and seahorses, will each have an important story to tell about their role in the ocean environment, and why it's crucial that we do everything we can to protect it."

Today's opening is an important step for the people in and around New Bedford, said Smith, an Australian marine biologist who has worked at several large public aquarium institutions around the world.

"So many people have worked so hard to make this happen--staff, interns, volunteers, and members of the business community who have supported the project from the beginning," he said. "It is heartening for everyone to see such a positive outcome from their unyielding commitment and generosity."

For further information, contact Ellen Carpenter (508 758 8494 or ellenbmcarpenter@yahoo.com.au) or go to the Ocean Explorium website at www.oceanexplorium.org
 

Author:  "John Hoey"
Date:  09-Jul-2009
Department:   Office Of The Chancellor

You can find this article at:
http://www.umassd.edu/communications/articles/showarticles.cfm?a_key=2631