[Currents header

October 28, 1996

Thousands of visitors at the Long Marine Lab's annual open house on October 13 saw one new building under construction--the state Department of Fish and Game's Oiled Wildlife Veterinary Care and Research Center--and learned about the latest plans for the long-awaited $4.4 million Visitor Education Center. Staff and volunteers showed the proposed "footprint" of the center on a parcel of land adjacent to Long Marine Lab. They also answered questions from the public about the need for the project and its relation to other possible expansions at the site. Visitors who asked for detailed information received a flyer with the following text:

The Visitor Education Center at Long Marine Laboratory:

Answers to commonly asked questions

Q: Why does Long Marine Laboratory need a new Visitor Education Center?

A: When UCSC opened Long Marine Lab in 1978, its directors chose to focus on public education as well as groundbreaking research in the ocean sciences. This dual purpose makes Long Marine Lab unique among marine-research facilities in the state. Indeed, about 40,000 people visit the lab each year, many of them students from throughout central California.

However, the popular education program, named "Window to Discovery," has far outgrown the lab's existing facilities. Instructors must decline many requests for on-site classes and tours, and many programs occur in inadequate temporary structures. Further, the shortage of space and resources forces the lab to restrict its times for drop-in visitors to just eighteen hours per week. The Visitor Education Center will solve many of these problems.

Q: What facilities will the Visitor Education Center contain?

A: The 14,000-square-foot building will feature a central exhibit hall with interactive displays and discovery labs; a classroom and an orientation theater; teaching aquariums and numerous "touch tanks"; a modest auditorium; a book and gift shop; and office and support space for the lab's administration, public education staff, and volunteer docents. An adjacent structure will house a teaching laboratory for university classes in marine biology. The lab's popular blue-whale skeleton will occupy part of an outdoor courtyard; an observation deck will overlook the ocean below. Trails for self-guided tours of nearby wetlands and tide pools will begin at the Visitor Education Center. Docents will continue to offer tours of the research areas.

Unlike most modern aquariums, the Visitor Education Center will reflect the character of Long Marine Lab as a "field station" for research in the ocean sciences. The building's exterior and interior will emphasize the beauty of the site and will provide natural extensions of the sights and sounds of the lab itself.

Q: How will the center benefit schoolchildren?

A: The Visitor Education Center will allow Long Marine Lab instructors to work with about 25,000 students in grades K-12 each year--more than double the current number. New exhibits will give hands-on information about marine research, conservation, and careers in the ocean sciences in ways appropriate to each age level. Students will become part of the exhibits in the planned learning labs as they use scientific equipment and study marine life in full view of other visitors. "Window to Discovery" staff will enhance their direct outreach to schools with visiting educational programs and classroom curricula.

Q: How will the center benefit the general public?

A: Long Marine Lab's hours for drop-in visitors will increase to 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., six days per week. Existing small spaces for the lab's aquarium, museum, and bookstore will greatly expand. Exciting multimedia exhibits will guide visitors through different aspects of the lab and Monterey Bay at their own pace. Bilingual signs and displays will improve the lab's educational value for Spanish-speaking visitors. Finally, the auditorium will provide needed space for evening scientific lectures and other group events.

Q: Where will the center be built?

A: UCSC officials are working with representatives of Wells Fargo Bank to obtain a parcel of land near the coastal bluff, adjacent to existing Long Marine Lab buildings. This site offers the most advantages for a public-education facility: ready access to nature trails and the research portions of the lab, as well as dramatic and unobstructed views of the ocean and the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary--a true "Window to Discovery."

Q: How does the center relate to Long Marine Lab's overall expansion plans?

A: The Visitor Education Center has been an integral part of the lab's expansion goals since formal master planning began in 1991. UCSC officials continue to believe that the site and its adjacent properties provide enormous potential to anchor the northern end of an impressive "research crescent" of marine-science institutions around Monterey Bay. The envisioned "Coastal Marine Research Center" includes the Long Marine Lab of UCSC's Institute of Marine Sciences; the Visitor Education Center; the state Department of Fish and Game's Oiled Wildlife Veterinary Care and Research Center, now under construction; and federal agencies such as the National Marine Fisheries Service and perhaps the U.S. Geological Survey. All of these uses complement the interplay between research and education that has been the hallmark of Long Marine Lab.

Q: How much will the center cost, and who is paying for it?

A: The budget for constructing the Visitor Education Center, purchasing equipment, and creating its exhibits is $4.4 million. Of that total, the University of California is providing $500,000 for the university teaching lab. The rest of the funds will come from private donations from foundations, corporations, and individuals. To date, the UC Santa Cruz Foundation and the Friends of Long Marine Lab have raised more than half of the needed funds.

Major donors include the following:

-- Wayne and Gladys Valley Foundation: $300,000

-- A unitrust established by Zoe Ann Orr Marcus: $250,000

-- David and Lucile Packard Foundation: $200,000 challenge grant, matched by other gifts

-- J. M. Long Foundation: $200,000

-- Emmet T. Hooper and Leanore Theriot Hooper: $100,000

-- A unitrust established by Paul and Anne Irwin: $100,000

-- Robert Stephens and Julie Packard: $55,000

-- Dean Witter Foundation: $50,000

-- Moore Family Foundation: $50,000

-- Frances B. McAllister: $26,000

-- Coast Commercial Bank: $25,000

-- Paul and Anne Levin: $25,000

-- Miles and Garland Reiter: $25,000

Other funds come from supporters in the community and from annual events sponsored by the Friends of Long Marine Lab, such as the "Whale of an Auction," a gourmet dinner, and "Cheers! at the Crow's Nest."

Q: Will it cost more to go to Long Marine Lab once the center is open?

A: The cost of a visit to Long Marine Lab will remain low. Visitors will pay nominal entry fees of about $4 for adults and $2 for students and senior citizens. Visits will be free for children age 5 and under, as well as for members of the Friends of Long Marine Lab.

Q: Who is designing the center?

A: SRG Partnership, an architect/design group from Portland, Oregon, is designing the Visitor Education Center with BIOS, an exhibit design group from Seattle. This team collaborated on the Oregon Coast Aquarium, the Oregon Institute of Marine Biology, and the striking Mount St. Helens Visitors Center. The award-winning landscape architectural and planning firm of Royston Hanamoto Alley & Abbey is also part of the design team.

Q: When will the center open?

A: Long Marine Lab planners hope to start building the Visitor Education Center in the summer of 1997. Construction should take about one year.

Q: Where can I get more information?

A: For questions regarding the Visitor Education Center or other aspects of Long Marine Lab's public education program, call (408) 459-4308. To join the Friends of Long Marine Lab, call (408) 459-3694. For general questions, call the lab's main number at (408) 459-2883.

--Robert Irion