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Open House Opens Oceans

Open House Opens Oceans
Standing in front of a crowd of about 50 visitors from across the state at The University of Texas Marine Science Institute’s summer Open House, oceanographer and turtle-rescuer Tony Amos' cell phone rang. He answered the call.

After a brief conversation, Amos relayed to the expectant crowd that two green sea turtles had been found on the Padre Island National Seashore that were to be transported to the Animal Rehabilitation Keep—the aptly-named ARK—that very afternoon. The crowd was delighted.

When the call had come in, Amos had been explaining that the ARK finds most of the marine animals they rescue with the help of tips from good citizens. The well-timed call seemed like a part of the show, but in fact, it was simply a part of Amos' daily routine.

This idea that visitors were peering into the lives and work of marine scientists ran central through all of the events and tours at the free Open House. From 8 a.m to 4 p.m. on June 14, more than 1500 visitors scampered about the institute, rubbing elbows with professors, graduate students and volunteers and participating in a boggling array of activities.

Visitors boated into the coastal mangroves and stood in the mucky marsh with marine ecologist Ken Dunton. They boarded ships to explore bay ecology with Rick Tinnin and Hedy Edmonds. They held sea critters in touch tanks, and explored the labs where Peter Thomas studies fish reproduction. They sat on the edge of their bleachers as Amos showed off four of the five sea turtle species that visit the Texas Gulf Coast.

There’s really too much to do in one day, and in fact, many people come multiple years. One visitor from Austin described the Open House from two years ago as a bit "like Disneyworld," with waits of up to 30 minutes for boat rides into the bay.

While the crowds weren’t quite Disney-large this year (this is the first year it hasn’t been held on a major holiday weekend), every event and tour was crammed with children and adults excited to learn more about all things marine science.

"The goal of the open house is twofold," says institute director Lee Fuiman, "to educate the public about marine science and increase the visibility of how we serve the public."

The Open House only happens once every two years, which might be why it feels like one of the better-kept secrets in Texas. But if people catch on, it won’t remain that way.

Mark your calendars for 2010. It’s an event that’s not to be missed.
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Tuesday, 21 November 2017

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