Marine Science Center in Ponce Inlet

Marine Science Center in Ponce Inlet
If you are visiting Florida’s Space Coast, the Volusia County Marine Science Center (MSC) in Ponce de Leon Inlet is a worthy place to spend a few hours. Located about ten miles south of Daytona Beach, the center is a marine science and natural history museum. For a modest admission fee, you can attend programs about animals that live in the sea, birds, and reptiles—programs that will interest both children and adults.

A big part of MSC’s mission is the rehabilitation of sick and injured birds and sea turtles. If successfully rehabilitated, these animals are released in their wild habitats. Otherwise, they are retained for education and research purposes. According to the MSC website, since the center opened in 2002, it “has cared for nearly 900 juvenile and adult sea turtles; more than 15,000 hatchlings and washbacks; and nearly 1,000 gopher tortoises, freshwater turtles and snakes.” (Washbacks are hatchlings that are “washed back to shore by rough seas.”) The Mary Keller Seabird Rehabilitation Sanctuary, opened in 2004, “has treated more than 13,000 birds from more than 190 different species.” In addition to seabirds, the center receives injured raptors including eagles, hawks, and owls, wading birds such as wood storks and egrets, and other native and migratory birds.

The bird sanctuary and turtle hospital are located outside the main building. You can visit these areas and observe their residents, but there is no hands-on interaction. Also outside are a nature trail and boardwalk leading to a bird observation tower that overlooks a beach. Going through the main entrance, you will first encounter an admission fee collection station where you will be given a wristband after paying. To the left of and behind this station is a classroom where educational programs are presented. During my visit, I attended one on the pine snake and another about the Cooper’s hawk. The volunteers who conducted these programs were knowledgeable and did an excellent job. The children in the audience, especially, were enthusiastic to see and learn about these animals.

Coming out of the classroom, you walk through the gift shop. Here you can buy educational materials, jewelry, stuffed animals, tee shirts, hats, and other souvenirs. Moving past the gift shop, you enter a large room where several touch pools are located. This is an interactive area monitored by volunteers who encourage visitors to touch the pool denizens and provide identification and information about them. If you are present during feeding times, you may get a chance to feed these sea critters yourself.

The Marine Science Center is open during the following times:
• Tuesday - Saturday 10 am-5 pm; Sunday 12 noon to 5 pm (Memorial Day to Labor Day)
• Tuesday - Saturday 10 am-4 pm; Sunday 12 noon to 4 pm (Labor Day to Memorial Day)
It is closed on Mondays, New Year's Day, Martin Luther King Day, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas.

MSC is located at:
100 Lighthouse Drive
Ponce Inlet, FL 32127
Phone: (386) 304-5545

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