The Discovery Center features several aquatic exhibits containing live species. The largest is our 1,800-gallon Estuary Habitat, which holds a variety of species, including tarpon, red fish, snook, hogfish, trunkfish and other marine life found in Tampa Bay. A separate Lionfish Tank explains the impact of this invasive species. Another tank includes seahorses and pipefish. Our Touch Tank allows you to touch or hold sea stars, anemones, and other small Tampa Bay critters.
One Planet One Ocean
Where the earth’s continents meet the oceans, there are hundreds of thousands of miles of shoreline. Many of these unique environments are called estuaries. Throughout history, people have been drawn to these areas for food and transportation. “One Planet One Ocean” shows how our concentrated presence in these estuary environments has come with unwelcome consequences.
A One Second Wave of Plastic
This exhibit dramatically details why plastic accounts for a majority of marine debris. The sculpture, made entirely of 1,500 recycled water bottles formed into a soaring 10 foot high wave, vividly demonstrates how many plastic water bottles are used every second in the U.S. alone.
Suggestions are provided on how we can, individually and collectively, reduce, re-use, and recycle plastic items such as food wrappers, bottles, plastic/foam carryout containers, drinking straws, and grocery bags — preventing them from getting into our waters, where they remain indefinitely.
World in a Water Drop
Did you know that a wide array of marine animals and plants in Tampa Bay begin life as plankton? These include crabs, sea stars, snails, barnacles, sea urchins, certain fish, and sea cucumbers. Plankton, the foundation of the marine food web, are responsible for the oxygen that we breathe. The importance of these amazing microscopic organisms is showcased in our interactive “World in a Water Drop” exhibit. Two Wentzscopes display live plankton samples, which are projected on a large screen for everyone to view. In a fun and engaging way, guests learn the importance of the vibrant variety of plants and animals that count on the bay to remain healthy.
Interactive Sandbox: Life in the Bay
Relive the fun of playing in a sandbox while exploring our “Life in the Bay” interactive exhibit! Using video mapping, the sandbox becomes a representation of the seafloor and surrounding coastline of Tampa Bay. Move your hands through the sand and animated marine animals are revealed or disappear as you dig! This exhibit is great fun for people of all ages, but it’s also a reminder that estuaries are nurseries brimming with marine life.
There are alternatives to seawalls — options that protect property while creating new habitats for fish and wildlife. One such alternative, a living shoreline, can be an ideal solution. Plants or other natural materials — like small rocks or shells — provide a more natural method to absorb wave energy, help control erosion, and create a better home for fish, shorebirds, and other marine animals. Tampa Bay Watch’s oyster reef installations and native plantings create living shorelines that return the areas to their natural states. Our interactive “Wave Tank” demonstrates how a wave that dissipates over a natural shoreline has a less damaging effect than when hitting a seawall.