“Ecosystems Experience” opened Thursday at the California Science Center in Exposition Park. The Science Center is a popular field trip destination for Santa Monica area schools. The new $140 million permanent exhibit is anchored by a 188,000 gallon aquarium which houses a living kelp forest with over 1,000 marine creatures including sharks, eels and rays. The new exhibit illustrates the incredible diversity of California’s coastal kelp beds, sometimes referred to as the “rain forests of the sea.”
It is quite a sight. Go to the upper story and a huge wave generator pumps up and down 24/7 simulating the coastal wave action essential to kelp forest ecology. Go downstairs and you can stroll through a 24 foot long glass tunnel surrounded by sea life.
The kelp forest is one of eleven ecosystems featured in the Museum’s new wing, which also examines, among others, the environments of the deserts, rivers, islands, and the arctic/Antarctic. The arctic room features a frozen wall of ice so visitors can test the effectiveness of different insulating materials. “Ecosystems” also contains the L.A. Zone, a special exhibit dedicated to the urban ecology of Los Angeles and adjacent communities including Santa Monica.
Long time Santa Monica resident Diane Perlov, is Senior Vice President of Exhibits at the California Science Center. She notes, “We believe that our new wing will help guests better appreciate the amazing ways in which the living and physical worlds are interconnected, and are shaped by the same fundamental principles of ecology.”
The California Science Center is a model for successful public/private partnerships and a $165 million campaign is still underway to help support the construction of ecosystems. The Annenberg Foundation provided the largest single private grant, $25 million. (Annenberg provided a similar grant of $27 million for its namesake Beach House on PCH in Santa Monica.)
Admission to “Ecosystems” is free. Early on at least, entry will be regulated with a timed ticket that can be acquired online and a service fee will apply. Visit www.CaliforniaScienceCenter.org or call 213.744.2019 for details. Ample parking off Figueroa is available for $8 per vehicle.
Divers wanted! The museum is looking for volunteer certified scuba divers to do educational demonstrations and other underwater chores in the new aquarium.
Mirror Contributing Writeropinion@smmirror.com