OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - Eleven-year-old Leslie Impey is a budding marine biologist.
"Cause I love dolphins, and sea lions and stuff, because they're so cute and fun to teach tricks and all that," said Leslie Impey.
She was in the perfect spot on Saturday. She came out with her family to visit the new Marine Education Center in Ocean Springs during its community day.
Education, technology, and nature fused together in this $16 million facility for USM's Gulf Coast Research Lab.
"It's really cool to learn stuff because I learn a little bit about it in school but not this detailed and all that," said Impey.
Dad Mike Impey said he's glad to see the center serve as a replacement for J.L. Scott Marine Education Center that was wiped out during Hurricane Katrina.
"The Gulf Coast Research Lab is a premier research facility, and we're proud to have it in Ocean Springs, and I think it'll be a great resource for our school kids, and it's great to have it available
Eight-year-old Thaison is a fan of sharks, and the center is a place where he can ask questions, and maybe even answer a few, too.
"What's so unique about a dunkleosteus?" Thaison's grandfather asked.
"Instead of having teeth, it has plates, and its literally as hard as a nail, literally," Thaison answered.
The community day was an opportunity to bridge the gap, showing the community what this new facility has to offer.
"We want them to see that this is part of their community, and they can be extremely proud of it. Most of our visitors today are taxpayers in our state, and we want them to see and be proud of where their tax dollars are going," said Monty Graham, Director of USM's School of Ocean Science and Technology Director.
USM officials hope the community will take advantage of what's in their own backyard.
The center is open to the public during the week from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.