STUART, Fla. — One of the area's leading environmental centers is about to unveil a major expansion.
The Florida Oceanographic Society will open its new EcoCenter on Friday to the public.
The project has been under construction since October 2019.
The $6.8 million building has 30 new exhibits and 300 creatures on display.
"It’s a wonderful place to come. It opens up a whole new chapter for us," said Executive Director Mark Perry. "It's our mission to inspire environmental stewardship of Florida's coastal ecosystem through research, education and advocacy."
For the first time, there's a dedicated classroom for summer camps and lectures.
New showcases of the center highlight the biodiversity of the region.
"We're in that kind of subtropical zone that allows us to have the really warm water fish that you think of, but also those northern fish too," said Brittany Biber, the director of animal care at the Florida Oceanographic Society.
A hurricane-hardened building means these sea creatures are safer during storm season.
Zack Jud, Ph.D, the director of education, said the new Ocean EcoCenter provides a unique opportunity to see what makes our part of Florida so special and why they work so hard to protect this area.
He adds it's important for visitors to learn not just the successes, but the stressors impacting our environment.
"Guests are going to learn positive stories, like the rehabilitation of our sea turtles. They’ll also learn the not-so-positive, like the stories of red tide and our cyanobacteria blooms," Jud said.
This isn't the end of the expansion. An expanded visitor center, a splash zone for kids and new lagoon bridges will be built over the next year or so.