The chancellor, the vice chancellor for research, the director of the Marine Science Institute, two previous directors, both biology department chairs, one of the UC’s leading architects and the heads of nearly all UCSB’s wildlife reserves gathered yesterday on a grease -stained, tire-scarred parking lot on the south side of campus for a celebration.

The convocation, attended by these figures and many others, was a groundbreaking ceremony for UCSB’s new Marine Science Building, which will serve as a hub for all 14 departments and additional research units involved in marine science research. Chancellor Henry Yang, Vice Chancellor for Research France Cordova and Marine Science Institute Director Steven Gaines plowed their shovels into a section of the parking lot that had apparently been softened earlier with a jackhammer – unwilling to let such small technicalities spoil the occasion.

The programming and design for the new $25 million Marine Science Building began in 1992 and has taken 10 years to complete. The ground-breaking yesterday amounted to a great victory, Chancellor Yang said.

“I still remember all the meetings – and not all of them were exciting,” he said.

The building, which fills the last ocean-facing gap on UCSB’s main campus, is situated in the midst of the Bren Environmental Sciences Building, Biological Sciences II, Noble Hall and the Biological Sciences Instructional Facility. Currently, the many researchers involved with the Marine Science Institute are loosely confederated. The Marine Science Building will serve as a meeting place and a focal point for the many UCSB departments involved in marine science.

“Walking across campus, there is a one in four chance that any researcher you meet is an MSI researcher,” Cordova said.

The building will house the Love Lab, the Crab Lab and all of the other marine science labs scattered in bungalows across the campus and around the lagoon. It will also house major research centers for ocean and coastal conservation and marine policy as well as biotechnology and ecotechnology researchers working with the California NanoSystems Institute.

The Marine Science Building will also house UCSB’s wildlife reserves as well as MSI’s outreach program, OCTOS, the Outreach Center for Teaching Ocean Science .

“Woods Hole and Scripps move over,” Cordova said, referring to the nation’s two leading marine science institutes.

The building, which is designed to complement the Bren building, will put MSI on a par with these other institutes, architect Doss Mabe said.

The Marine Science Institute has the advantage of being one of the few university marine institutes to be located directly on the ocean.

“We’ll be focusing on the ocean,” Gaines said, “and not just by staring out of our office windows with gorgeous ocean views.”