I like interactive places with hands on exhibits and cool videos. That’s why the Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center is awesome. It has it all, plus much much more. The Center offers an informative way to educate kids of all ages about the Florida Keys and how, all of us, can help preserve them.
Imagine your are 60 feet under the water’s surface. You are exploring the ocean in the Aquarius. In this exhibit you sit in a mock-up the world’s only underwater ocean laboratory. At the real Aquarius, scientists are at the cutting edge of research on coral reefs, ocean acidification, climate change, fisheries and the overall health of the oceans using the Aquarius as their laboratory.
Deployed in 1983, the Aquarius has seen more than 120 missions. Because of these missions more than 600 scientific research papers have been published. Wow! The actual Aquarius can be found up the Keys in Key Largo. The Aquarius uses a technique called saturation diving which allows the scientists to spend days, even weeks, underwater conducting research.
Since most of us are not lucky enough to be part of the Aquarius crew, this mock-up lets you feel the experience of being underwater. Look out the portals and you can even see fish swimming by!
Mote Marine Laboratory
In this section of the Center, you can see the “living reef”. It’s a 2400 gallon aquarium filled with tropical fish and coral found in the Florida Keys. Plus, you can see live video feed from the reef. The Mote Marine Laboratory Keys campus is located in Summerland Key, but you can learn all about their research at the Eco-Discovery Center. Should you be in Sarasota, you can visit their aquarium there too.
As you enter the Eco-Discovery Center, one of the first exhibit’s focus is not on life underwater, rather life land-based. Learn about the eco-system of the Florida Keys above the water. Very interactive and fun.
I hesitate calling this an exhibit, but this gift shop offers high quality and unique gifts. Choose from the typical tourist stuff, but also explore the books and art. So much to see here, you will find yourself wandering through here longer than you planned.
The 3 most magical phrases
First off, there are three magical phrases to anyone in Key West … air conditioned, free admission and parking. Guess what? The Eco-Discovery Center has all three. Jackpot. Need a place to cool off, away from Duval Street? The Center offers air conditioning, free parking and yep… free admission. So, take an afternoon and head out to Truman Annex and tour the Eco-Discovery Center. Duval will be waiting upon your return.