On January 11, the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary (CINMS) broke ground on the new Ocean Science Education Building on the UCSB campus. The 15,000-square-foot structure will be divided into two wings: The first will bring UCSB researchers and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) staff members into close proximity and collaboration by providing administrative offices for the Channel Islands sanctuary. The second wing will house an ocean outreach center designed to educate students of all ages — from kindergarteners to postgraduates — on current ocean research, and will utilize the latest technology to connect students throughout the country to ocean research and conservation efforts.
After statements by Bren School of Environmental Science and Management Dean Steve Gaines, Vice Chancellor of Research at UCSB Dr. Michael Witherell, Chancellor Henry T. Yang, NOAA Administrator Dr. Jane Lubchenco, and Congressmember Lois Capps, Roberta Cordero led a Chumash blessing on the site, and officials broke ground on a project that represents 30 years of partnership and joint commitment to ocean research, learning, and conservation.
Construction will be conducted in two phases: The first phase, which will house CINMS administrative offices, is expected to be completed in 2011. The second phase, the Outreach Center for Teaching Ocean Science (OCTOS), will be completed at a later date. The project will cost an estimated $20 million dollars, $8 million of which has already been provided by the federal government. The remaining $12 million will reportedly be made available through private funds raised by the university.
Also in attendance was Leanne Patterson’s fourth grade class from Cesar Chavez Charter School. As part of the REEF program — a program CINMS conducts to help youth learn about the ocean in a hands-on manner — Ms. Patterson’s students displayed posters and poems about their ocean learning experiences both inside and outside of the classroom. Many officials see the Outreach Center as a way to continue to provide these sorts of opportunities to the Santa Barbara community and beyond. “The OCTOS is an evolution of the REEF program and a lot of the other education programs we’ve been doing with the university,” said Chris Mobley, superintendent of the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary.
The Outreach Center is expected be a hub within the Santa Barbara community for researchers, educators, and youth, bringing together the Channel Islands sanctuary and UCSB in a very concrete way. On a national level, NOAA sees the Outreach Center as a way to further aquatic education and conservation through technology. While students at the center conduct hands-on experiments in the wet lab, for example, students across the country will be able to observe and communicate live from their classrooms. “We’re about the large problem here,” said Daniel Basta, director of the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries. “You can’t fix oceans if you just fix Channel Islands.”
Rep. Lois Capps summed up the key role these many organizations hope the Outreach Center will play in ocean research, education, and conservation. “This is the next generation’s appreciation for this resource and it’ll only be enhanced,” said Capps, Or, more concisely, Capps summarized, “It’s a win.”