Wednesday, March 11, 2015


One aspect of the University of Texas Marine Science Institute is to be the state agency that serves as the liaison between the state of Texas and the National Estuarine Research Reserve (NERR), which is a federal agency under the auspices of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration ( ).  There are 28 such reserves on the coasts of the United States, and the one I visited recently is called the Mission-Aransas Reserve.  It is named after the two river systems that flow into it, on the Texas Coastal Bend area.  The area is about 30 minutes northeast of Corpus Christi, Texas.  (Notice how the symbol of the NOAA demonstrates the relationship between life forms, with the sky above, and the sea below!)

I was visiting as a part of a Road Scholar program ( ) program emphasizing marine science.  Our group assembled in one of the newer buildings of the campus, to learn about the research being done there on various topics related to marine biology.  This photo demonstrates how translucent window walls can reduce the need for electric power to operate light bulbs. 

Since one of the goals of the Estuarine Research Reserve is to demonstrate coastal development practices that minimize environmental damage, it is not surprising that the new building was designed so that it could earn the prestigious "LEED" certification.  The abbreviation stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.  As indicated by a large gold medallion on the wall, they were successful!

Our Road Scholar group of about 14 adults, had the opportunity to experience one of the technologically advanced classrooms in the building.  The room was designed to be a demonstration model for a learning environment where everyone could see a video screen, no matter how far back in the room you were sitting.

We saw a presentation by one of the marine scientists who shared the results of on-going research about the environmental consequences of the disastrous B-P Oil Company's underwater drilling explosion that sent countless amounts of oil surging into the Gulf of Mexico.  Her illustrations demonstrated how devastating human activities can be, when man-made systems fail.

The Visitor Center for the Marine Science Institute is in a building adjacent to the NERR building.  There are numerous aquariums that allow one to see living examples of the ever-changing marine environment that surrounds the institute, and demonstrate what the actual living fish looks like, as opposed to fish photographs, posted above the aquarium.

I am always  fascinated by sea horses, and cannot pass up an opportunity to try to photograph one.  Even though this image is fuzzy, it is a reminder of how their curious design never ceases to amaze!  The sea horse life span demonstrates one of the most unique reproductive systems of the ocean realm!

From tiny sea horses to this massive whale's skull, there are items on display in the Visitor Center to demonstrate that both gigantic creatures and tiny creatures are part of the environment that make up a marine ecology system. 

This exhibit demonstrates to the visitor the interactions between all the curious creatures that live between the river and the sea---including us humans!

One area of the Visitor Center at the Marine Science Institute is specifically designed to engage youngsters.  In this area, they can try their luck at fishing, and they can demonstrate their skill at stepping into and out of a boat!  Likewise, they can compare the "fish" that they catch with the wall chart, to determine its length. 

These children can interact with this wall-sized magnet puzzle to see the name of various local marine life, then place it somewhere on the puzzle, where it might be found.  It is a demonstration that will teach them to identify a particular species, as well as learn about its habitat.

The young man under the dome is getting a demonstration of how life looks from the eye of a crab!

This display interested me because it was a collection of Petri dishes containing different kinds of sand, from all over the world.  The exhibit demonstrated the variety of colors and textures that a traveler would see on different parts of the planet. 

mural on the wall of the lecture hall demonstrates how elementary students can engage their "craftiness" to create a work of art, while learning about their area's significance as a habitat for the endangered Whooping Crane species.  Each bird in the mural had been individually colored and cut out by a student, then placed in an appropriate spot on the mural.  It made the students want to bring their parents to the Visitor Center to show off their "masterpiece" work of art!

The Visitor Center has a gift shop with a large selection of appropriate books and gifts available, related to environmental stewardship.  Each item for sale demonstrated in some way or another, the connection between us humans and the planet on which we live.

The Wetlands Education area is adjacent to the Visitor Center, and demonstrates the many ways we can work to preserve our nation's estuaries.  Notice the two floating education platforms that can be used for student field trips that allow the students to actually dip their specimen nets into the water.

The visitor can hike around the wetlands area on their own, or take one of the regularly offered guided tours.  Fortunately, there are educational placards throughout the wetlands that serve as demonstration boards of what you are seeing. 

This photo demonstrates how close the marsh is to the commercial shipping channel, Aransas Pass, that is just beyond the small hill.  When we were there, we saw a GIGANTIC freighter plowing through the water, on its way to overseas destinations. 

The commercial traffic on our waterways is usually the reason that an oil-spill occurs.  This area of the Marine Science Institute demonstrates the effects that such an oil spill can have on wildlife.  We saw waterfowl inside the fence that had lost their ability to fly because of such environmental accidents.

Reptiles, such as the turtles being cared for in these tanks, can also be injured as a result of bad stewardship on the part of us humans.  There was a demonstration of how the marine life can become entangled in plastic six-pack beverage holders, or fishing line. 

Each aspect of the Marine Science Institute campus is designed to demonstrate the interconnectedness between humans, the ocean, the wildlife, the marine life,  and the land.  This sculpture, titled "Interdependency" at the entrance of MSI,  looks like a fish from a distance.  But a closer view shows that it is made up of dozens of creatures, molded together to form something beautiful.  If you have read through this blog to the end, you have surely noticed how often I used the word "demonstrates"  all through the text.  That is because I am using my experience of all the DEMONSTRATIONS I saw at the Marine Science Institute, as the visual aid for one of my First Place 4 Health ( ) memory verses from Romans 5:8 that says, "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this:  While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."   WOW!!   That is the ultimate and DIVINE DEMONSTRATION, and gives me a heart full of gratitude, and "Miles of Smiles"!  Tricia