OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - Staff of USM's Gulf Coast Research Lab were busy on Thursday moving into the new Marine Education Center.
Following two years of construction, the center is almost ready to welcome students into a first hand learning experience.
"We are surrounded by beautiful habitat that's fully alive with live animals in their natural setting," said Marine Education Center Director Chris Snyder.
The facility will replace the destroyed J.L. Scott Marine Education Center on the Biloxi Point that was wiped out during Hurricane Katrina.
"When we lost that we lost a connection between the Gulf Coast research lab and the community that we desperately wanted to get back," Snyder said.
The connection is back now with an active learning center, space for public exhibits and a conference center. It's all centered on being in the outdoors.
"We built this public part around this open courtyard in the middle so that we would have a large outdoor facility that we could use for the public and students," Snyder said.
Amazing scenery is all around. One of the best views can be found on a water front pavilion overlooking Davis Bayou.
Erin Douglas will be teaching students and she has a spot picked out to help learning come alive.
"I think they're really going to enjoy this brand new suspension bridge we have and they're really going to like getting to run across that," Douglas said. "We're going to have a lot of fun out here and they're really going to enjoy being submerged in the atmosphere that we've created here."
Anyone will be able to enjoy the center on the Cedar Point property in Ocean Springs, but the focus will be on exposing young people to nature.
"We're going to have 75 to 150 young people here at a time learning about Coastal processes and the science behind them," Snyder said.
The first school group is scheduled to visit the Marine Education Center later this month.