Held in conjunction with the third annual St. Petersburg Science Festival, MarineQuest offered more than 60 exhibits from FWRI and other government agencies and conservation groups.
“We had approximately 7,500 visitors on Saturday, with another 2,000 students and chaperones visiting the School Daze portion of the event on Thursday and Friday, for a total of about 9,500 visitors over three days,” said Kevin Baxter, FWC spokesman.
School Daze is a special version of MarineQuest available by registration only for students in grades 4 through 8. Students get a guided tour through a sampling of MarineQuest exhibits.
This fun, free event introduced visitors of all ages to the state’s fish and wildlife and their habitats at the FWRI headquarters in downtown St. Petersburg. The FWC also hosted thirty visiting organizations from throughout the area.
“Attending MarineQuest provides an opportunity to share knowledge about Mote’s Research Programs as well as show and share knowledge about specific marine life species,” said Ray Wilborn, a volunteer with Mote Marine Laboratory.
Visitors saw live animals including sharks, rays, alligators and snakes. Touch tanks featured critters from Tampa Bay and the Florida Keys.
“It is especially great to see the looks on the faces of children and adults who are encountering something for the first time” added Baxter.
Some of the state’s top researchers demonstrated how they rescue distressed manatees, tag fish and monitor red tide. They also provided tips on identifying Florida panther tracks.
Experts on sea turtles, scallops, sharks and rays entertained audiences with presentations about their research.
The Choctaw bass, a freshwater fish species newly discovered by FWRI scientists and rarely seen by the public, was on display.
Children got creative, learning to make wildlife origami, marine magnets and the Japanese art of “gyotaku” – fish printing. Wearable art offerings included face painting and marine tattoos.
Sponsors included the Tampa Bay Times, the city of St. Petersburg and the University of South Florida St. Petersburg.