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By Wendy Marshall

Ocean Institute is pleased to welcome back the public to the grand opening of our campus and learning spaces on April 10. After a year of virtual and outdoor activities, we could not be more excited to open fully, including two brand-new exhibits that enable visitors to explore our local marine life in a hands-on and interactive way.

The Sahm Family Foundation Marine Education Center featuring shark encounters was slated to celebrate its grand opening on March 18, 2020. Over a year later, we are thrilled to open our doors to this engaging exhibit. Visitors will learn about shark anatomy, life cycles, research, and conservation, through artifacts, interactive demonstrations, and our beautiful horn shark touch tank. These gentle and beautiful creatures are fascinating educators and ambassadors, as they innocently showcase the beautiful features of sharks.

The new offerings continue with our Marine Mammal exhibit in the Chambers Gallery. Explore the conservation of marine mammals in an all new exhibit featuring the ecological history of whales and dolphins and their place in our modern-day environment. This exhibit will hallmark never-before-seen artifacts, information about all the different marine mammals, and highlights of brand-new partnerships Ocean Institute has developed to bring you directly into the thralls of taking action to protect marine mammals. Those who join our Marine Mammal cruises will get exclusive access to the exhibit prior to the departure of their cruise.

In addition to our new exhibits, our talented staff and volunteers stand ready to guide visitors through a wide range of experiences. From squid dissections to panning for gold, archeology and artifact explorations to “getting granular” with sand, sounds of the sea to sea star feeding behaviors, raising sails to lowering the mud grab, the knowledgeable Ocean Institute staff is ready to guide and explore with you!

Opening our doors again does not mean that we will close down the many outdoor activities that we have created to meet the public’s need for enrichment during the pandemic. Our tide pool hikes, geology walks, and kayak tours continue to bring visitors to some of the most interesting and captivating spaces in our harbor, and visitors can experience the wonders of native plants in the recently restored native plant garden with our naturalist team.

While our land-based offerings offer phenomenal learning experiences, our on-the-water programs connect visitors to the ocean in unforgettable ways. Whether you choose to join the crew while sailing on the Spirit of Dana Point or become an oceanographer for the day on the R/V Sea Explorer, nature puts on a show each day, and it is our pleasure to give you a front-row seat. Once back on land, our gift shop, now located in the main lobby, offers souvenirs to commemorate your visit.

Ocean Institute is open to the public on weekends and non-school days from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. We are thankful to our community for supporting us through the most difficult days, and look forward to opening our doors again, better than ever!

Wendy Marshall serves as CEO and President of the Ocean Institute. Marshall joined the nonprofit organization in 2017 as Vice President of Education and brings leadership experience in education organizations in for-profit and nonprofit sectors.

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