The Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center is located in Key West. Rain or shine, this 6,000 square foot facility is open to the public free of charge. Through it’s numerous interactive exhibits, learn about the complex ecosystem that is the Florida Keys.
The Terrestrial exhibits highlight the above-water eco-systems, including hardwood hammocks, mangroves, and beaches. Here you can explore how our plant life contributes to the undersea life. The Marine exhibits provide a glimpse of the undersea environment that the Keys are famous for.
Be sure to check out the Mote Marine Laboratory Living Reef exhibit, which includes a 2,500-gallon reef tank with living corals and tropical fish, a live Reef Cam, and other displays that highlight the coral reef environment.
A mock-up of the Aquarius – the only undersea laboratory dedicated to marine science. Aquarius is an underwater laboratory and home to scientists for missions up to 10 days long, but to call Aquarius a home is like calling the space shuttle Discovery a mode of transportation. Aquarius is made to withstand the pressure of ocean depths to 120 feet deep. Presently, Aquarius is located in a sand patch adjacent to deep coral reefs in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, at a depth of 63 feet. The laboratory is attached to a baseplate that positions the underwater habitat (underwater laboratories are also called habitats) about 13 feet off the bottom. This means that the working depth of those inside the laboratory is about 50 feet deep. Located inside the 81–ton, 43 x 20 x 16.5–foot
underwater laboratory are all the comforts of home: six bunks, a shower and toilet, instant hot water, a microwave, trash compactor, and a refrigerator even air conditioning and computers linked back to shore by wireless telemetry! Using Aquarius as a base for research diving expeditions definitely has its advantages.
The high-definition Theater features a 17 minute video on the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary by world-renowned filmmaker Bob Talbot.
If you plan to be in Key West, you can visit the Center Tuesday – Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Parking and admission are free. It is located at 35 East Quay Road, Key West, FL 33040.
The Center is sponsored and operated by Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, NOAA, the South Florida Water Management District, Everglades and Dry Tortugas National Parks, the National Wildlife Refuges of the Florida Keys, and Eastern National.