On August 16, NOAA and University of Texas officials dedicated a new Wetlands Education Center at the Mission-Aransas National Estuarine Research Reserve in Port Aransas, Texas. Unique in the reserve system and among other environmental centers, the Mission-Aransas 3.6-acre constructed wetland will be used for school tours, teacher training, and adult educational programs and will be open to the general public.
The Windows to the Sea education center allows visitors to learn about coastal wetlands and estuaries, which are crucial spawning areas for many commercial and recreational fish and shellfish and buffer upland areas from flooding and shoreline erosion.
The facility includes a shallow tidal pond with floating docks for students and researchers to study marsh grasses, oyster beds, and water quality and a peripheral trail with shaded overlooks and interpretive signage. There is also a small shaded amphitheatre for group orientations.
Visitors to the Wetlands Education Center - known as Windows to the Sea - will gain an understanding and appreciation for the role each facet of a wetland plays in supporting and maintaining the productivity of the coastal zone. Preservation of coastal wetlands and estuaries is vital to the health of area bays and the Gulf of Mexico.
The National Estuarine Research Reserve System is a network of 28 estuarine areas — places where freshwater from land mixes with saltwater from the sea — established across the nation for long-term stewardship, research, and education. The sites within the estuarine reserve system protect more than 1.3 million acres of land and water in 23 states and Puerto Rico.