The National Marine Sanctuary Foundation has launched a $3 million private fundraising campaign to fund the exhibits for the MBNMS Exploration Center.|
Exhibits are the heart of any interpretive facility. Sanctuary staff have worked with numerous experts from the Monterey Bay area and beyond to identify the most appropriate exhibit topics and interpretive methods to convey this wonderfully complex portion of California’s coast.
Enjoy this preview of the exhibit plan.
Exploration Center Exhibits Walkthrough
Welcome to the Sanctuary
Visitors enter the center through the Lobby doors. Here they face an attractive stairway and elevator leading to the upper floor exhibits. Signage clearly indicates the offices, classroom and restrooms.
Led up the stairs by the sound of wind, waves and gulls, visitors climb a stairway lined with beautiful images of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary (MBNMS). A window on the Landing allows visitors to see into a water-filled tank re-creating a part
of the Monterey Submarine Canyon. They can also reach this mid-level by taking the elevator from the first floor.
At the top of the stairs, visitors may go onto the deck or interact with an enticing video kiosk that describes the 14-site National Marine Sanctuary program. Nearby, graphic panels introduce the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, including a site relief map, a brief explanation of what they will see in the galleries and highlights of some of the activities going on at the sanctuary.
On the Deck, visitors see an incredible view of Monterey Bay! Place names and arrows on the railing identify the sights. A mounted telescope/Viewmaster shows historical photos of this area when it was a busy fishing port and other images of what the bay might look like if not for its protected status. An interactive weather station shows visitors real-time weather, surf and buoy reports. A wall panel explains the design features and materials that qualify the building for a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) rating.
Where does your water go?
Back inside, visitors find a cutaway of a classic station wagon above a storm drain big enough for kids to climb into. A video of motor oil and other pollutants washing down the drain help visitors make the connection between what people do on land and what happens in the water. Graphic panels nearby define and describe this watershed and explain why clean water is so vital to life. The panels discuss the sanctuary's water quality monitoring program and talk frankly without preaching about different ways that humans affect the creatures within the sanctuary, including indirect effects, such as agricultural runoff and marine debris. The panels also suggest ways in which visitors can make a difference in their watersheds.
In the Geology Gallery, a rear projected computer-generated model of the MBNMS starts at the shoreline and progresses down into the depths of the submarine canyon to the Davidson Seamount. Visitors use a trackball to scroll across the screen which describes the sanctuary's features as they go. A wall mural follows the elevation of the sanctuary with captions relating the underwater geologic features to familiar, graspable landmarks. On a nearby counter, vertical core samples sit alongside touchable objects from sanctuary habitats from a tide pool to the canyon floor. These relate to exhibits in the Biodiversity Gallery. A boat hull atop the gallery wall "tows" a multi-beam sonar device which projects realtime sonar images of visitors on a video monitor. Graphics describe how researchers use this technology to map the features of the sanctuary floor. Touchable deep-sea exploration equipment surrounds an interactive video kiosk that highlights research in the Sanctuary.
In the theater, actual footage from a remotely operated vehicle voyage and computer-generated animation shows visitors the canyon from Elkhorn Slough to Davidson Seamount, featuring rocks, marine snow, amazing deep sea animals and more. The theater is a multi-purpose room with flexible seating. It will be capable of projecting real-time video, slides, DVDs and computer-based presentations and will have audio equipment for guest speakers.
Biodiversity - Intertidal Touchpool
Exiting the theater, visitors are drawn to a beautifully re-created Rocky Tide Pool surrounded by wall murals that continue the view out across the sanctuary. One section is specially designed as a discovery area for small children featuring tidepool animals and algae. The central pool is filled with detailed models of tidepool animals. An overhead monitor shows a naturalist discussing this habitat's fragility until someone discovers the video station at the pool's edge. Then the monitor shows close-up images of and information about small, rarely seen tidepool animals. A third area challenges visitors with an interactive grid survey of tidepool life.
Biodiversity - Kelp Forest
Across from the touch pool, visitors are immersed in a lush, rocky-bottom-to-ceiling Kelp Forest populated by models of top snails, kelp forest fishes, marine mammals, a cormorant and a kayak or diver. Touchable model holdfasts, sea stars, urchins, snails and cucumbers are on the bottom as well as marine debris. Visitors hear waves, whales, sea lions, snapping shrimp and divers' bubbles. A concise graphic panel explains biodiversity and how MBNMS is home to an incredible diversity of species which then move out to populate other areas. Captions on the objects identify them and explain their significance. For example, rockfish illustrate the study of what happens to species and habitats over time. This is a major focus of monitoring efforts in the sanctuary. Visitors can explore the zones in a kelp forest on a large, rear-projection screen controlled with interactive controls. Another video monitor identifies life in the kelp forest canopy.
Biodiversity - Submarine Canyon
Across from the kelp, visitors can look over or through a glass railing and into the Submarine Canyon they saw from the landing. From here, the visitors can use an interactive video to identify lanternfish and other deepsea animals barely visible in the dim light. They can also learn more about the newly discovered diversity of the deep sea and the techniques and technology researchers use to explore this ecosystem. Overhead, a pair of monitors displays images of deepsea rocks and animals in the exhibit, transmitted by VideoRay cameras controlled by visitors in a cleft in the rocks. As the rocks give way to a Sandy Seafloor, an overhead fishing boat trails a purse seine full of squid. Graphics explain the history of sustainability in this area and the role Marine Protected Areas play in maintaining that sustainability. The interactive video here compares historical and contemporary fishing techniques and equipment, follows the decline and recovery of whales and sea otters, and may include role playing interactives.
Seabird sounds draw visitors into the Open-Ocean Mini-Theater where they view stunningly beautiful footage that uses migratory species such as fulmars, sea turtles, dolphins, krill and whales to tell the story of the three seasons of the sanctuary and how they affect the weather, water surface conditions and kelp forest growth.
This is your Sanctuary
In conclusion, visitors pass between two banks of monitors. The first features images of the sanctuary's animals, reinforcing the message "This is your sanctuary, treat it gently." The second shows human activities and models positive behaviors to support the message "This is your sanctuary, do your part to protect it." Visitors see themselves on one of the monitors to emphasize that they are part of the sanctuary, too. Key words from the exhibits such as sanctuary, biodiversity and watershed also appear on the screens. The images and words change at a relaxed pace so visitors won't feel bombarded with information at the end of their visit. As visitors proceed to the elevator and stairs to return to the Lobby, they see a collage of action photos on the far wall including surfing, kayaking, whale watching, fishing, SCUBA diving, beachcombing, tide pooling and bird watching. Who knew there was so much to do in the MBNMS? Once back in the lobby, visitors may purchase marine-related merchandise from the Gift Shop or pick up maps to the MBNMS and other National Marine Sanctuaries. At designated times, they may go into the Classroom for a facilitated public program involving real-time video from the sanctuary or video feeds from other sanctuaries in the system. During the school year, the Classroom will offer standards-based educational programs to K-12 school groups enhanced by live organisms in seawater tanks.