Florida Keys opens Eco-Discovery Center in Key West

The Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center, a project sponsored by three government agencies with private sector support, opened on the Key West waterfront in an effort to help promote understanding of how the ecosystem functions, and the value of preserving it.

Based in the Truman Annex, the 6,400-square-foot center enables visitors to view the underwater ecosystems around the Keys, with a spotlight on what it calls North Americas only living contiguous barrier coral reef that parallels the island chain.

Speaking at the opening event, James Connaughton, chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, said that educating the public before they access the marine resource will help them to appreciate the resource and ensure its continued conservation.

The exhibit features interactive and touch-screen portions as well as text and audio-visual presentations about the indigenous hardwood hammock, mangrove, patch reef, sea grass, deep shelf and Dry Tortugas environments.

Visitors can walk through a replica of the Aquarius Undersea Lab, a manned underwater research habitat near Key Largo, and listen to actual recordings from the lab. Interactive video tours of the underwater environment also are available.

The center is operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, the Dept. of Interior's National Park Service and the DOI's U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, with contributions from the Florida Keys tourism council and Royal Caribbean Cruises.

Todd Firm, chairman of the Florida Keys tourism council, said the center will "educate, entertain and continue to foster the need to preserve the unique marine environment of the Keys."

To contact the reporter who wrote this article, send e-mail to David Cogswell at [email protected].

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