UCSB will set sail on a state-of-the-art marine education facility this August.

The Ocean Science Education Building – a two-story, 15,000 square foot structure equipped with interactive exhibits and an immersive theater – will eventually occupy the ocean bluffs near the Marine Science Institute. The building will be home to the Outreach Center for Teaching Ocean Science and the administrative offices for the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary. Financing for the OSEB was drawn from federal and university funding, as well as outside contributions.

According to MSI Acting Director Mark Brzezinski, the immersive theater will allow up to 30 students to explore the ocean via remote control underwater vehicles. Additionally, students will have the opportunity to communicate with marine scientists out at sea.

“The theater is interactive with researchers in the field,” Brzezinski said. “The students can ask the researchers questions and have a two-way conversation.”

The pre-existing Research Experience and Education Facility, a marine tour and touch tank program currently operating on campus, will be incorporated into OCTOS. While REEF served about 20,000 students and visitors per year, the new facilities are designed to support up to 40,000, Brzezinski said.

Brzezinski said the live specimens featured in OCTOS aquariums will primarily consist of organisms local to Santa Barbara.

“The living organisms will be representative of the Santa Barbara area,” Brzezinski said. “[OCTOS will] be exhibiting local organisms to local folks.”

However, he said OCTOS will also feature some tropical fish to accommodate current marine research being conducted at the MSI.

“We try to take some aspects of the current research going on at the university,” Brzezinski said. “We will have some tropical fish because we have research in coral reef ecology.”

While the exhibits at OCTOS will be catered toward K-12 students, Brzezinski said, UCSB students are welcome to utilize the facility.

“It is by no means exclusive,” Brzezinski said. “However, K-12 will be the majority of visitation.”

The OSEB will also provide undergraduates and graduate students at UCSB with an opportunity to participate in ocean science education programs. Gay Larsen, Development Director at MSI, said the Gevirtz Graduate School of Education will be working alongside OCTOS in order to provide science education training to graduate students.

According to Brzezinski, the expansion of science education training is critical.

“Science and education have not been well-supported by the state in recent years,” Brzezinski said in a press release. “K through 12 schools struggle to provide a quality experience for their students, and we’re very proud that we can help them fill the gap in the sciences – marine science in particular.”

The university will work collectively with the CINMS to provide these necessary marine education resources to the local community, he said.

“OCTOS is a partnership between the university and the [CINMS],” Brzezinski said. “…The whole building is a partnership.”