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December marks the final splash for big MSC remodel

POULSBO — The end of 2003 will bring a new year and a new beginning for Poulsbo’s Marine Science Center.

In December, MSC staff hope to unveil the last piece of the center’s $168,000 remodel, the first since its 1990 opening. Staff say the excitement is growing for both the cosmetic updates to the marine education center and also for an increased ability to show its expertise.

“We want to boost our own level of professionalism and we want to show that quality,” said MSC Director Michelle Benedict. “We want to be more of a destination. If we do, we do better, the shops do better, the city does better. It’s a win-win situation.”

Changes that current visitors to the facility will notice are all over the walls. The center’s stairway and hall, which were previously painted tan, are now being painted with bright, bold colors.

“Which is really nice. Everybody loves it,” Benedict said.

And another wall mural, this one depicting life in a kelp bed, as well as the muddy bottom, was recently completed by Barry Isles on the wall nearest to the front door. Isles was chosen from a bank of contestants for the spot and Benedict said he was already known by staff for a salmon life cycle mural he’d painted near the classrooms.

“So we already knew him and he had the passion for the center we were looking for,” Benedict said.

And while it is beautiful and colorful, Benedict said the mural serves the dual purpose of also being a teaching tool.

But the real changes are just around the corner. Several new learning centers will be taking shape in the next few weeks. Those include:

•A docks and pilings exhibit — A real piece of piling will be placed in a tank where the tide changes twice a day

•An updated plankton and jellyfish exhibit — Visitors can use a microscope to view plankton

•The Liberty Bay Station — Three monitors will be linked to 1.) a weather station outside the center 2.) a water quality monitor in Liberty Bay 3.) an underwater camera

•A mud exhibit — An ant farm-like structure will give visitors an up close look at worms, mollusks and other life burrowing in the mud

A wolf eel tank will also be added under the facility’s staircase.

Benedict said the aspect of the remodel she’s most looking forward to is the Liberty Bay Station, which will give visitors real world, up-to-the-minute data on Poulsbo’s waterway. She said she felt it would be very useful for teaching kids how weather affects water quality, for high schoolers doing research reports, and possibly just for general amusement.

“If all goes well, we’ll get some great seal action on the underwater camera. But of course they don’t perform on cue,” Benedict said with a chuckle.

The main component that ties all of the new exhibits is that they are all easily moved, making changing things around much easier than before. Benedict said staff and volunteers have other ideas in the works — like a prototype diving helmet anchored inside a tank so when visitors slip theirs head into the helmet, it feels like they’re underwater — and wanted to be able to easily incorporate those ideas into the new look.

“A lot of us have been planning a remodel since we walked in the door,” Benedict said.

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