STUART, Fla. – The Florida Oceanographic Coastal Center is celebrating its progress of the new Ocean EcoCenter.
Construction to the new facility began last fall and will help the public understand and protect Florida's coastal ecosystems.
The 57-acre nature center located on Hutchinson Island is undergoing a major transformation.
According to the Florida Oceanographic Society, the new Ocean EcoCenter will include a dedicated indoor classroom space and an Ocean Deck that can be used for lectures and special events.
Since 1964, the non-profit organization has been dedicated to its mission to inspire environmental stewardship of Florida's coastal ecosystems through education, research, and advocacy.
“Our fight is to try to help clean water and restore those habitats. We’ve got to get it right before climate change happens and really causes major eco-system changes,” said Mark Perry, executive director of Florida Oceanographic Society.
One large component includes its efforts to restore seagrass populations into the estuary impacted by fresh-water discharges and algal blooms.
“The Indian River Lagoon, our local estuary, has lost more than 50,000 acres of seagrass in the last decade or so,” said Dr. Zack Jud, the education director.
Dr. Jud says seagrass is vital to the health of Florida's waterways as it provides habitat, nurseries, and food for a variety of estuarine species.
Seagrass is also economically valuable for its role in supporting tourism and fisheries.