By Paul Burdziakowski
For Hometown News
The Marine Science Center is gearing up for its biggest event of the season -- the 11th annual Turtle Day.
"We normally average 2,500 visitors for this event," said center director Mike Brothers. "It's a great opportunity for visitors who are not familiar with the Marine Science Center to come out and see the work that we do."
The free event originally was an opportunity to showcase the new science center and allow people to become more acquainted with the programs and activities that occur there. Turtle Day will be from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, April 27.
Visitors will be able to see the sea turtle rehabilitation center, the bird rehabilitation center, the sting ray touch pool, and all the exhibits and aquariums, which hold various species of fish. There also will be a special program on birds of prey, which will feature trainers working with glove-trained birds.
The Marine Science Center will host exhibitors from environmental organizations, such as the Sea Turtle Conservancy, Merritt Island Wildlife National Refuge, Halifax River Audubon Society and Canaveral National Seashore. There will be plenty of crafts, face painting, food and music.
"There will even be a chance for visitors to work our triage tent," Mr. Brothers said. "This is a special opportunity for children to take a stuffed sea turtle and walk it through the same processes of rehabilitation that we actually use at the Marine Science Center."
"We are hoping to be able to release a sea turtle and some birds from our bird hospital to end our event," Mr. Brothers said. "The release will take place at the Beach Street approach at 3 p.m., which is just a short walk from the science center."
Turtle Day will occur on the tail end of another big milestone, which was recently set. On Tuesday March 26, the center had a total of 1,082 visitors, the center's largest one day attendance. The center also set its largest one week attendance record of just over 3,000 total visitors.
Mr. Brothers credits the record attendance to a confluence of factors. The particular week in which the record attendance occurred happened to be Easter week as well as spring break for many schools in the area. It was also really cold outside, which steered many people in the area away from the beaches and towards indoor activities, such as what the Marine Science Center has to offer.
"We do a lot of different educational programs with colleges, universities and local schools," Mr. Brothers said.
On April 2, the center hosted a team of Volusia County teachers who were working on understanding more about Florida's sea turtles. The teachers came to the center to study radio tagged sea turtles through a web-based portal that allowed them to track the movements of the turtles. The teachers will use the data they obtain to implement classroom exercises that will allow students to learn more about Florida sea turtles.
On April 6, the center's staff led a seminar at the Beach Safety headquarters about Volusia County's artificial reef program. Through a series of lectures, participants learned how artificial reefs are designed and monitored. The participants also learned how to locate a reef, anchor to it and properly scuba dive on the reef. An overview was given on the types of organisms that live on the reef and how people can effectively fish the reef.
The next major event at the center will be a 10-week summer camp, which will start June 13. The camp will consist of a variety of exploration and adventure for children ages 6-16. There will be a lot of hands on activities, such as seine netting, eco walks, estuary exploration, reptile and raptor encounters, squid dissections, fishing and canoeing.
"Summer camp at the Marine Science Center is fun. I like canoeing and learning about the different kinds of fish," said Hunter Ranly, 8, of Port Orange, who attended last year's camp.
"My favorite part of the Marine Science Center is the sting ray touch pool because I can actually pet the rays," Hunter said.
The Marine Science Center opened in June 2002 with the bird hospital opening in July 2004. There have been a total of 560,000 visitors to the centers. The center is in Ponce Inlet, next to the historic Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse. The lighthouse and the Marine Science Center continue to be a popular destination for residents of Volusia County to visit.