Just like the busy marine life activity that takes place under the sea, the Navarre Beach Marine Science Station is teeming with a myriad of programs aimed to promote the appreciation, conservation, and understanding of the marine eco system of coastal Florida.
Programs like Saturdays-by-the Sea, fishing and sea safari camps, sleepovers, kayaking trips and other hands-on activities allow visitors the chance to really get to know the nearby waters. To accompany the long list of programs available to local residents and visitors, the center sponsors events throughout the year such as Autism OdysSea, Sea Spooktacular and Merry Fishmas. The center is also open Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Visitors will learn about marine debris, the water cycle, sharks and the deep sea. Visitors can also enjoy touch tanks, aquariums, create shark necklaces and more. The center is free to visit, though donations are welcomed.
In addition, funding has recently been approved for an underwater live feed web camera for the Gulf side reefs. The camera will be one of only eight in the world and will allow for a virtual scuba diving experience, viewable online and from the science station.
The center also serves as a classroom for local high school students enrolled in marine biology and oceanography as part of a dual enrollment program with Pensacola State College. An addition to the station, dubbed the Outreach Octobus, allows teaching programs to reach the long list of those who otherwise would not be able to visit.
The Navarre Beach Marine Science Station was created in 2009 after Charlene Mauro’s marine science students held a town hall meeting and presented their idea of converting the empty ranger station into an environmental center to the county commissioners and the school board. Today, the science station hosts more than 4,000 students and community members each year, teaching them about the local marine environments.
Mauro, who is now the Navarre Beach Marine Science Station director, requested grants from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and BP Oil Spill RESTORE funds to pay for an expansion — which will improve both the facility and the programs. The goal is to build a two-story, 6,000-square-foot building that will house classrooms, a wet lab, marine life exhibits, a conference area and an interpretative center. Outdoor classrooms are also in the works to draw even more visitors to the site. The new Gulf Coast Discovery Center is a project visitors and locals will be proud of for years to come. Mauro has diligently worked to garner support from local entities, such as the school board, the Santa Rosa County Commission and the Tourist Development Council (TDC).
“The bottom line for the science station is we definitely want to expand the programs and staff, and the best way to do that is to expand the station,” Mauro said at a recent TDC meeting.
Mauro stated she has received requests from the University of West Florida to collaborate on research projects, but the science station is limited in space and equipment. So, the expansion would serve educational and research programs just as much as it would provide public activities and programs.
The Santa Rosa Board of County Commissioners is also onboard with the expansion, and has approved the addition of the outdoor classroom/pavilion and visitor’s center to the science station. Mauro is currently meeting with a LEAD certified architect to develop the blueprints for the building.
Soon, she hopes those plans will move from paper to reality, and thus offering yet another way that Navarre Beach is proving to be a gem along the Emerald Coast for residents, visitors and the science community.
For more information about the Navarre Beach Marine Science Station, visit www.navarresciencestation.org.