The J.L Scott Marine Education Centre and Aquarium is located on E. Beach Drive, Ocean Springs, Mississippi. The centre hopes to provide information and knowledge to visitors of the coastal ecosystems. A career based working environment, higher education strategies and free-choice learning that focuses on the coastal ecosystems of Gulf of Mexico is supported to promote careers in marine science.
The facility opened in 1983 costing $3.5 million and is over 30,000 square foot of education and research activities. There are 61 tanks containing native fish and other marine creatures from the Gulf of Mexico, the Mississippi Sound, streams, lakes and rivers that surround the area. Sharks, drums and eels are on exhibit in the 42,000 gallon Gulf of Mexico tank and displays of shells, art exhibits, hands on exhibits and a gift shop are also in the aquarium. An auditorium that seats up to 300 people is available for meetings, presentations and programs.
In 2005 the centre and aquarium was terribly damaged due to Hurricane Katrina. The centre was temporarily relocated to the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory, (GCRL), in Ocean Springs while repairs and renovations were carried out.
Each year the centre holds Sea Camps which are held in September, October and March through May. Day camps are held for children aged 6-13, where they can discovery live animals through hands on activities and field trips to the beach and saltmarsh habitats. All children are invited to visit Deer Island on the R/V Sea Explorer. Children aged 8-13 have the opportunity to spend the day on Ship Island. For older children aged 12-13 they have the opportunity to go kayaking through the Bayou Heron to explore Indian middens and salt panes.
Coastal Science Camps are held for students in grades 4 to 12 where they are able to experience the coastal ecosystems of Mississippi. Students are placed in field and lab activities to enlighten, inform and gain an appreciation of precious marine resources. Students are housed in a renovated dormitory and served three meals a day from the cafeteria. These camps hold from 20 to 75 students over two to five day experiences. Students will experience beach and barrier island ecology, marine organism identification and classification, salt marsh ecology, botany and coastal geology.
Students who participate in the summer programs are able to earn up to 18 semester hours of credit and students are only permitted to enroll in one course per term.
The centre also runs research study programs which will give students four semester hour's credit. Students are able to experience research programs run in a lab facility and undertake tasks such as sampling, analyzing data and presenting research findings. Students who take part in the research programs will meet as a group once a week to discuss their research and any problems they may be experiencing with their research.
Students who participate in field trips will do so aboard the oceanographic and fisheries research vessels including the 97 foot R/V Tommy Munro. The dormitory houses sleep two students per room and are air conditioned. Each suite contains four rooms and a common bathroom.