Explore New Hampshire’s Coastal Wonders
The Seacoast Science Center's two newest exhibits are ready for visitors when they reopen to the public
The Seacoast Science Center may be temporarily closed, but that doesn’t mean that you need to miss out on the ocean-related fun. The center is still committed to connecting you to the inspirational powers of nature through various learning opportunities. Each week, they are adding new lessons, activities and resources to support at-home learning and help you and your family find moments of rest from today’s challenges. Recently, the SSC Education Team pivoted from preparing for thousands of students on spring field trips to creating “Your Learning Connection,” a weekly catalogue of online education resources for teachers, students and parents-turned-tutors. While they have a variety of options like “Your Learning Connection” available to keep you busy during this time, they also have a few exciting things to look forward to when they reopen — two new exhibits that are ready for when the public can once again come inside.
The heart of the Seacoast Science Center beats to spark curiosity, enhance understanding and inspire the conservation of our Blue Planet, all of which were infused into the creation of their two newest exhibits, Restoring Reefs in the Eversource Gallery and NH Beaches. The two exhibits help people understand the ecological importance of these habitats through engaging activity stations, live animal tanks and interpretive programming.
“Most people don’t go to museums alone. We understand that sharing the experience is fundamental to learning and enjoyment,” says President Jim Chase. “Our aim is to support social learning experiences in our exhibits. However, they were also created to provide a backdrop for the talented naturalists on our Education Team. The naturalists who interact with the public are trained to use an inquiry-based education approach. They draw on our visitor’s experience to elicit and answer questions. Our naturalists work hard to connect the dots in ways that are relevant to the visitors. We believe that this approach leaves people with lessons stay with them long after they leave the center.”
Restoring Reefs in the Eversource Gallery teaches about the variety of natural reef systems that exist in our ocean and coastal waters. The exhibit features two 400-gallon living coral reef tanks; one showcasing a healthy system with beautifully colored fish and coral, and the other featuring a stressed reef environment, demonstrating the effects of compromised ocean conditions. “The rich visuals of the tropical corals draw people in,” says Chase. “But our message goes beyond the visuals to the fact that reef communities are under a great deal of pressure from climate change, human use impact, and pollution. However, new reef restoration techniques add some hope to the situation,” he adds.
Reefs around the world are currently being restored, and the team at the Seacoast Science Center used the same reef restoration techniques to grow their own coral for their exhibit onsite. Not only can visitors see this locally grown coral for themselves, but they can also check out the captivating clown fish tank, interactive video library, and an imaginative station where everyone in the family can explore the meaning of color at the reef and in their own lives.
The last station in the Restoring Reefs in the Eversource Gallery exhibit is Oyster Reefs in Great Bay. It tells the story New Hampshire’s own reefs in the Great Bay. Oysters are a keystone species in New Hampshire’s estuaries, and they are essential for keeping the estuarine ecosystem in balance. The exhibit highlights the work being done to restore oyster reefs in New Hampshire to benefit water quality and enhance Great Bay. “Our oyster reefs have a profound impact on shaping and improving the water quality,” says Chase. “There has been a decline in oyster populations over the years, but if we limit nitrogen pollution and work to re-establish declining oyster populations, there is hope that oyster reefs will expand and in turn will help to further improve water quality and improve the ecological integrity of Great Bay as a whole.”
NH Beaches helps visitors gain a deeper appreciation and understanding of the New Hampshire coast, a place not only enjoyed by humans, but a critical habitat that is home to an array of wildlife. New Hampshire’s beaches are a prime example of a healthy, balanced ecosystem including the interests of wildlife and people. “This exhibit is intended to highlight the interrelated layers of the beach story,” notes Chase. “It includes natural science of sand, waves and animals, as well as the impact, and recreational benefits to beach-goers. We wanted people to explore how we need to continue to share our beaches, not only with the family on the next blanket or the surfer pulling on their wetsuit, but with the birds, crabs and other animals that call the shifting sands of New Hampshire’s beaches home.”
When visitors walk into the gallery, they experience the sights and sounds of the beach and are even invited to sit on a small-scale lifeguard chair. The exhibit features a sandtable complete with model animals and plants that when scanned, launch videos that dive deeper into the species and related conservation topics. Visitors can experiment with a 12-foot wave action tank that puts them in control of the surf as they learn about coastal resiliency and the influence of different shoreline features. The station also helps teach about the importance of planning to protect our coast from the threats of climate change.
A marine debris display makes an impactful statement about human activity and ocean health. After studying the collection of marine debris, visitors move on to learn about the importance of the five R’s: refusing, reducing, reusing, recycling and rotting. Through the hands-on interactive display, they may try their hand at directing items to recycling, compost or the landfill before they end up in the ocean contributing to the marine debris problem.
Even though they are still closed, the team remains hard at work. SSC aquarists are behind the scenes every day feeding the animals, caring for the corals and cleaning the tanks. They are redesigning smaller exhibits and getting ready for their visitors return. The center’s goal remains to connect people to the wonders of the ocean while inspiring them to explore and protect our nearby natural treasures, and they can’t wait for you to experience their marine magic when they open their doors again one day soon. For now, you can check out their weekly educational videos on Facebook and donate to their emergency Go Fund Me page. You can also check out this fun video of aquarist team member, Becky Heidt taking their resident three-toed box turtle, Raspberry around the center and see their animals and exhibits through his eyes.
Restoring Reefs in the Eversource Gallery and NH Beaches were custom-designed and built by the Seacoast Science Center’s education and exhibit staff and generously sponsored by NextEra Energy, Meredith Village Savings Bank, Partner’s Bank, Ambit Engineering, Derry Medical Center, Lowery’s Lawn and Patio, Riverworks Printing, Allen & Major Associates, Mark and Holly Adamy, and Mitchell and Kathryn Drew.