"To protect and restore the Florida coastal and Indian River Lagoon ecosystems
through education, research and community stewardship."

Marine Discovery Center Celebrates It’s New Facility

Jun 2nd, 2013 | Category: Coastal Corner

Marine Discovery Center Celebrates It’s New Facility

By Lisa D. Mickey

We have launched a new column on marinediscoverycenter.org this week that is designed to answer questions about the coastal environment by our residents and guests. This column, called “Coastal Corner,” will also address numerous issues affecting our coastal community.

Q: In a nutshell, what is the mission of the Marine Discovery Center?

A: Our mission is to protect and restore Florida’s coastal ecosystems through education, research and community stewardship. Our focus is to offer hands-on, feet-wet programs that get people, young and old, on the water and to experience and have direct interaction with marine life.

Q: How has the MDC implemented its mission?

A: When we started offering camps for children and eco-tours 13 years ago, we could see from the beginning the positive impact we had on kids and adults through their smiles and constant questions – and of course, questions invite more questions. We knew we were on the right track and that our focus was going to be, and still is, on programs that interact with the water. Today, we have a facility that provides space for interactive exhibits and labs that foster our hands-on, feet-wet philosophy. We know our uniqueness relies on getting people on the water and our new site offers people more opportunities to do that.

Q: How has the new MDC building enabled the center to ramp up its visibility?

A: With the new facility, we now have a permanent home with which people can identify. We are becoming a go-to facility that guests want to visit. Our new, expanded space enables us to offer open houses, a monthly lecture series and it has given us a greater community identity. Now when guests walk in, there’s a “wow-factor.” We now have fish tanks and touch tanks, as well as a gift shop. More people know about us now and this is evident through increased phone calls, site visits and program participation. Our new space has better allowed us to serve our mission and the community.

Q: Talk about some of the future plans for the Marine Discovery Center.

A: We plan to have a nature trail and kayak launch on our campus here at the center. We will landscape and create an outdoor recreation area that can be used during our educational programs. We are constantly trying to find ways to get kids outdoors. This year, we added archery, which was a big hit!

Q: What do you want the public to know about getting involved with the center?

A: One thing is that we are a membership-driven organization. Not only do members receive great discounts on our programs, tours and gift shop, but they also serve as volunteers, board members, donors and overall ambassadors of our mission. Our membership has increased to almost 400 members this year.

Q: What are the Marine Discovery Center’s biggest challenges?

A: We’re a small non-profit organization. We have 15 staff members and the majority of them are part-time. The challenge is always funding and staying on a path that leads to sustainability while still serving the mission to protect Florida’s coastal ecosystems.

Q: Is there a final thought you want to leave with readers about the Marine Discovery Center as it moves forward in its second year in the new facility?

A: We believe strongly in our mission and we believe we’re moving in an exciting new direction. It’s been almost 15 years since our grass roots organization began. Since then, we’ve expanded our educational opportunities well beyond our expectations. Each year, we’re seeing growth, and when you see growth in a down economy with tour-based programs and activities, that’s good news.