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Groundbreaking for new Wetland Education Center at Marine Science Institute

Groundbreaking for new Wetland Education Center at Marine Science Institute
PORT ARANSAS, Texas—Rick Tinnin’s dream to have a center for wetland education on the Marine Science Institute (MSI) campus came closer to reality as gold-painted shovels were dug into the sandy Port Aransas soil during a groundbreaking ceremony on Saturday.

When completed, the 3.5-acre Wetland Education Center will consist of a new salt marsh surrounded by sheltering dunes. Visitors to the center will gain an understanding and appreciation for the role each facet of a wetland plays in supporting and maintaining the productivity of the coastal zone. Salt marshes and shallow water sea grasses dissipate storm surges and prevent erosion, acting as natural buffers between land and sea.

An extensive boardwalk system will let visitors stroll around the wetlands to observe migratory and resident birds and learn about coastal vegetation and ecology.

Tinnin, director of the Marine Education Services Program, said that the center will provide a place for students, particularly elementary school kids, to learn about coastal wetlands and estuaries right on campus as part of MSI education and outreach programs.

“One of the primary purposes is to educate younger elementary school kids,” says Tinnin. “It’s going to be great to have a marsh on site, so we don’t have to trek across the ferry. It will also be a place for students to learn that is not effected by man.”

The center is the educational component of the Mission Aransas National Estuarine Research Reserve, which is scheduled for official designation on May 6, and will also serve a critical role in MSI’s Elderhostel programs and the College of Natural Sciences UTeach teacher-training program.

“Teachers in the UTeach program will use this facility to learn how to teach field experiences to their classes,” said Mary Ann Rankin, dean of the College of Natural Sciences. “It’s the perfect living laboratory.”

“The Wetland Education Center is just the beginning of a series of things that are really going to have an important impact on the Marine Science Institute and on this whole area of Texas,” Rankin said.

The Wetland Education Center will be next to the Visitor’s Center and the Animal Rehabilitation Keep (ARK).
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Saturday, 23 September 2017

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