In 2014 a small group of undergraduates at MSUM wrote a small grant proposal to the Dille Fund for Excellence to build a small tide pool system. It was fun, educational, and had a powerful effect no one foresaw, Students were drawn to it to help run it, feed it, and ultimately expand it. We added new displays. A student club was created and the "Marine Ecology Lab" came into being. Several students working in the Oceanarium started to translate their experience at the Oceanarium into careers in marine biology in Florida.
MSUM students were not the only ones to find the facility engaging. The YMCA, K12 and Home School groups heard about it by word of mouth and began requesting tours. Without any advertising whatsoever, we had 2400 students tour the facility in the year before covid. We started charging for tours as a means of recovering some of our costs. Students came from FM and surrounding areas up to an hour away. Interest in a live marine facility is without peer in the Red River Valley.
Covid was a major reset. We were reduced to a skeleton crew to maintain the animal life, and we lost all revenues generated by tours. However, by then we were aware of the enormous potential of the facility to serve the community and educate the public about marine ecosystem diversity and conservation. We rebranded as the "Oceanarium", applied for and received a one-time grant from the MN University system for $25,000 and position ourselves to launch publicly. There is a ribbon-cutting ceremony schedule for World Ocean Day, June 8, 2023. We are partnering with the Red River Zoo for that event.
We are poised to become a major outreach resource in the Moorhead area. For people living in the Red River Valley far from any ocean, the opportunity to learn about ocean life is very important. Ocean literacy is a component of environmental literacy (https://www.marine-ed.org/ocean-literacy/overview) and a national movement that we can champion at the MSUM Oceanarium.
Financiado pelo capítulo Cass Clay (June 2023)