Seacoast Science Center’s new exhibits show beauty of oceans, threats to them

Karen Dandurant | [email protected]
View on seacoastonline.com
Published January 25, 2020 at 5:31 PM

RYE -Seacoast Science Center opened two new, interactive exhibitions, Restoring Reefs and NH Beaches, on Saturday and visitors were delighted.

Randy Philbrook of Portsmouth said his family are SSC members and they came Saturday to check out the new additions to one of their favorite places.

“I think they are both really cool,” Philbrook said. “We come here all the time anyway but these are great additions.”

Amelia, 7, and her brother Connor, 4, agreed. They happily played in the sand at one of the NH Beaches exhibits.

“The exhibits are intended to help people understand the ecological importance of these habitats through interactive activity stations, live animal tanks and interpretive programming,” said SSC Director of Marketing Karen Provassa.

One-year-old Isaac Eppler of Portsmouth brought his grandmother to play at SSC. “His mom is a marine biologist,” said Lynn Fields of Vermont. “I am visiting and this seemed like a good activity for us today. I am impressed with the exhibits.”

Restoring Reefs teaches about the variety of natural reef systems in ocean and coastal waters. The exhibit features two 400-gallon living coral reef habitat tanks; one showcasing a healthy system with brilliantly colored fish and coral, and the other showcasing a stressed reef environment, demonstrating the effects of compromised ocean conditions. It includes an interactive video library and an imaginative play station where visitors can explore the meaning of color at the reef and in their own lives.

In one of the large tanks, a black and white moray eel swam lazily, watched closely by Xavier Haynes, 9, of Brunswick, Maine.

“We came to see the new exhibits but we come here frequently anyway,” said Natalie Haynes, Xavier’s mom. “He just loves all things marine life, so we both love coming here.”

“Coral reefs are one of the most biodiverse and productive ecosystems on Earth, home to more than a quarter of all marine species, including fish, mollusks, sea turtles, whales, dolphins, birds and more,” Provassa said. “Yet, coral reefs are disappearing at an unprecedented rate. Scientists warn reef habitats are dying off due to warming water, ocean acidification caused by a rise in carbon dioxide, and other human impacts. Restoring Reefs motivates visitors to consider how their lifestyle impacts ocean health and offers tangible actions that will make a difference.”

Closer to home, the “Oyster Reefs in Great Bay” tells the story of the keystone species, oysters, essential for keeping the estuarine ecosystem in balance, and explores the work being done to restore oyster reefs in New Hampshire.

NH Beaches helps visitors gain a deeper appreciation and understanding of the coast; a place not only enjoyed by humans, but habitat to any array of wildlife whose well-being depends upon it being a healthy, balanced ecosystem. Entering the gallery, visitors experience the sights and sounds of the beach and are invited to sit on a small-scale lifeguard chair.

“A sand table, where imaginative play is encouraged, includes model animals and plants with codes, that when scanned, launch videos that dive deeper about the species and related conservation topics,” Provassa said. “Everyone can contribute to the My Happy Place mural to share their thoughts of what the beach means to them.”

A 12-foot wave action tank puts visitors in control of the surf as they learn about coastal resiliency and the influence of different shoreline features. Naturalists can change substrates to demonstrate wave impact variations related to natural and man-made features. This exhibit station will help teach about the importance of planning to protect the coast, and the people and wildlife who live there, from the threats of climate change.

The Pollution Tank, which contains an array of litter and marine debris collected along the shore of Odiorne Point State Park over the course of a year, depicts human activity and ocean health. After viewing this display, visitors can engage in the Trash Travels activity and try their hand at directing landfill, recyclable and compostable items to their appropriate collection bin and learn more about the importance of the five R’s: refusing, reducing, reusing, recycling and rotting.

“These exhibits were designed to immerse our visitors in a beautiful, compelling space that evokes a strong appreciation for the importance of our coastal and ocean environment,” said SSC Director of Mission Kate Leavitt. “Here on the Seacoast, we are fortunate to have extraordinary natural treasures nearby. Our goal is to connect people to the wonder of the ocean, encourage them to enjoy our marine resources, and inspire them to protect our natural environment for future generations.”

 

 

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