Estuarium announces major new exhibit

Published 2:46 pm Friday, April 19, 2024

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From North Carolina Estuarium

The North Carolina Estuarium announces a major new initiative that will rejuvenate the 26-year-old Washington landmark and create one of the most innovative science education museums in the state.

Upon receipt of a planning grant from Nutrien, Estuarium staff and consultant Harbor Peoples developed the concept of a “Seafood School” focused on essential fisheries of North Carolina’s estuarine ecosystems. This “school” will combine new exhibits highlighting the estuary’s role as a cradle for marine life with an educational kitchen where programs on the cooking and preparation of key species can be held for the public.

“Our goal is to use seafood – or “soundfood” – to create a full circle of appreciation for healthy estuaries,” said Estuarium Director Tom Stroud. “For many people the closest connection they have with estuaries is eating things that come from them – oysters, blue crabs, shrimp, fish. That’s great, but there is a through-line between enjoying a fried oyster and the condition of the ecosystem it came from. The Seafood School will link the health of the estuary, the effort it takes for harvest, and the process of creating a great seafood meal in a single space.”

Stroud said the project’s concept grew from the State of North Carolina’s ongoing efforts to restore oyster habitats due to their ecosystem benefits and the economic boost they bring to coastal communities. The Seafood School folds in other key fisheries to expand the view of why estuaries need to be sustained and protected.
“The Estuarium evolved from the Albemarle-Pamlico Estuarine Study in the early 1990s,” said Stroud. “From the beginning our goal has been to promote awareness and stewardship of the A-P system, and that won’t change. But it’s time to engage new generations in new ways. We feel like the Seafood School is an approach that will elevate our message and make us uniquely identifiable among science education facilities.”

The project received a substantial boost when the Estuarium was awarded a $250,000 grant from the State of North Carolina in this year’s budget. As that covers about half of the estimated cost, the Estuarium will be launching a major campaign to raise the remaining funds.

“We’re very grateful to Nutrien for their support on the planning grant and to Rep. Keith Kidwell for helping us with the State grant, but we’lll need additional funding to fully achieve our goals,” said Stroud. “We look forward to sharing our vision with donors so they can have an opportunity to be part of the Estuarium’s programming evolution and show their support for keeping the Albemarle-Pamlico estuary healthy.”

Preliminary work on the buildout will begin by June. Stroud said he hopes the Seafood School will be operational by early 2025.
The North Carolina Estuarium is a facility of the Partnership for the Sounds, a nonprofit organization promoting environmental education and sustainable development on the Albemarle-Pamlico peninsula.