Ocean EcoCenter

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A Journey into Florida's Coastal Ecosystems

Inside the Ocean EcoCenter, guests can immerse themselves in a world of marine life, featuring aquariums brimming with local fish and invertebrates, interactive educational displays, and more. Explore the remarkable biodiversity of our coastal treasures and learn how these specialized plant and animal species adapt to their unique environment.

Florida's Water Story Gallery
Florida's Water Story

In response to devastating hurricanes in the 1920s, the Herbert Hoover Dike was constructed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, altering the natural flow of fresh water from Lake Okeechobee and redirecting it towards Florida's coasts. Through dynamic floor projections and engaging narration, visitors gain insight into this critical issue. This immersive experience underscores the exhibition's central theme: addressing this complex problem requires collective action rather than individual effort alone.

Estuaries Gallery

This immersive aquarium offers a glimpse into the vibrant life within brackish estuary waters, complete with lush vegetation and the soothing sounds of nature. Interactive displays along the walls highlight the impact of freshwater runoff and discharges from Lake Okeechobee. Experience the effects firsthand with a turbidity wheel, demonstrating how canal muck obstructs sunlight crucial for seagrass growth—a vital food source for manatees and a habitat for numerous aquatic species. Engage in interactive activities, such as assisting oyster larvae in finding suitable surfaces for survival amidst challenging runoff conditions.

Life Along the Shore Gallery
Life Along the Shore

Visitors can explore a replica of the Sabellariid worm reefs of nearby Bathtub Beach. Found along the eastern coast of south Hutchinson Island, this community of thousands of tightly-packed worms resembles a pock-marked stone, protecting the beach against erosion, where local marine life like stingrays, eels and pork fish, swim freely — many of which can be viewed in the display’s aquarium. Though seemingly indestructible, these reefs are vulnerable to human impact—walking atop them can crush the worms, leading to erosion and habitat loss for local marine species. This serves as a poignant reminder of the profound impact our actions have on the delicate coastal ecosystem.

Ocean Connections Gallery
Ocean Connections

Guests can discover the the profound impact of our coastal reef systems using underwater view goggles and interactive turn-and-reveal displays unveiling intriguing facts about coral life and its vital role. Illustrated fish glide along a shimmering current on the walls, guiding visitors towards the Gulf Stream, a formidable hydrological force. This mighty current, along with the expansive North Atlantic gyre and other ocean gyres, have unwittingly become havens for plastic islands, posing a threat to marine life. Comprising everyday items like sunglasses and lotion bottles, these discarded plastics serve as poignant reminders of the urgent need for environmental stewardship.

As guests depart the Ocean EcoCenter, they're asked to consider how they can make a difference in preserving our coastal ecosystems. Whether pledging to volunteer for a coastal cleanup or reducing their use of single-use plastics, every action counts. Plan your visit today and join us in protecting Florida's coastal treasures.

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