NAPLES, Fla. – Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve has unveiled a new, 180-gallon marine life exhibit at the Rookery Bay Environmental Learning Center. The new "Estuary Encounter" exhibit houses more than a dozen species of marine animals for guests of all ages to discover during regular visiting hours.
“The opportunity to observe and interact with a pygmy sea cucumber, horseshoe crab or lightning whelk provides guests with an intimate connection to our natural environment,” said Keith Laakkonen, Reserve director. “This hands-on, interpretive tank will provide an immersive experience for thousands of students and visitors.”
The new exhibit features a partitioned, state-of-the-art flow-through system, which improves water quality and enables visitors to interact with animals throughout the day. The imaginative, Florida west coast-themed tank includes live sand on the bottom and view-through windows along the side, adding opportunities for guests to observe the diversity of species in the exhibit from different angles.
The 180-gallon display is designed to look and feel like Rookery Bay Reserve’s natural environment with detailed rock formations and a mangrove-themed overflow box. In addition to self-guided engagement with these animals, docent-led programs will also be scheduled throughout the day.
“As we celebrate 40 years of coastal conservation we remain committed to bringing new and improved opportunities to build local knowledge and respect for our beaches, mangrove forests and estuarine waters. The more engaged our community members and visitors are, the more likely we are to appreciate, enjoy and protect this remarkable ecosystem for future generations,” said Laakkonen.
The Rookery Bay Environmental Learning Center is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and is also open on Saturdays through the end of April. Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for youth 6 to 12 and free for Friends of Rookery Bay members and children under 6.