Miami Science Museum visitors are encouraged to get wet! The Museum recently opened its new exhibit, Sea Lab, an indoor/outdoor attraction that gives visitors a taste of some of the exciting aquarium components being planned for the new Museum, scheduled to open in Museum Park in 2014 (Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science). Sea Lab tells the story of the carbon cycle through a marine community, from photosynthesis and primary production in algae, to the small creatures of seagrass beds, to the top predators of the seagrass food chain: stingrays.
The exhibit will serve as a prototype for our approach to reducing energy consumption in the new Museum and aims to educate and encourage visitor interest in the subject of sustainable energy. The new Museum will be an exhibit in and of itself, an exemplar of best practices in energy management and green design, and a showcase for new technologies. The 250,000 square-foot building is intended to act as a demonstration of ecological and sustainability principles, harnessing energy from water, sun, wind and Museum visitor energy to power exhibits and conserve resources. In this exhibit, all the piping and back of house services are visible and interpreted.
At the Sea Lab, live rays swim and splash in a 3,000-gallon saltwater Touch Tank that visitors can reach into to touch cow nose, southern, Atlantic and yellow stingrays. The 200 square foot touch tank is 3 feet deep and features approximately 30 feet of viewing window space, allowing guests of all ages to touch the stingrays and view the hermit and horseshoe crabs crawling along the bottom.
The adjacent Algae Refugium tank provides the filtration for the main tank and removes nutrients. It is illuminated by an LED fixture on one side and an EnergyStar certified SolaTube (light tube) on the other and serves as a living exhibit of photosynthesis and also as an alternative filtration system for the rest of the tanks in the space. It’s also a demonstration and prototype of efficient and passive lighting fixtures. Visitors will have the opportunity to learn about how solar tubes work and why LEDs are a more efficient alternative to metal halide and other traditional aquatic light sources.
The exhibit also features a Seagrass Tank, which is modeled after the photosynthesis tank planned for the Living Core of the new Museum. The cylindrical seagrass tank is home to small creatures such as seahorses, pipefish, grass shrimp and hermit crabs, which thrive on the grasses native to South Florida. Visitors have the opportunity to learn about the complexity of sea grass food webs, human impacts on these marine nurseries and technological innovations being used to restore damaged sea grass beds. A raised platform allows visitors of all sizes to easily peer into the tank and a nearby touch screen kiosk allows for interactive exploration of the tank’s inhabitants.
The Invertebrate Touch Tank features small invertebrates native to South Florida, including sea stars, sea urchins, hermit crabs and corals. With the assistance of Museum staffers, visitors will be able to touch the live invertebrates and learn more about them.
Curious visitors are invited to get a more hands-on, up close and personal look at marine life in the Wet Lab. The Wet Lab has four tables for small group or class activities, as well as an electronics cart with a digital microscope, document camera and probeware set all with output to a large screen in the space.
Learn more about our new Museum from this prototype and give us your feedback. For more information about this and other exhibits at the Museum, visit: http://MiamiSci.org