Who could have known more than 30 years ago, when the Virginia Marine Science Museum opened its doors, that a seed was being planted that would grow into the current conservation mission we are on today? Though the name has changed, the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center is dedicated more than ever to inspire conservation of the marine environment through education, research, and sustainable practices.
Since first opening, the Aquarium has seen amazing growth and success, reaching millions with inspirational and educational experiences. The Aquarium has engaged in activities, largely outside of public attention, that support marine animal conservation in the mid-Atlantic region and these efforts led to the formation of the marine mammal and sea turtle Stranding Response & Research Program which is now recognized as one of the finest in the nation. From humble beginnings to national recognition, this program has impacted the lives of more than 10,000 stranded animals. We are excited to see this program grow through support and generous giving.
Today we eagerly anticipate the opening of the brand-new Darden Marine Animal Conservation Center, named in recognition of the Darden Family and the Joshua P. and Elizabeth D. Darden Foundation for their generous contribution to this mission. This state-of-the-art, unique facility, which began to emerge in 2018, will provide holding pools and animal care space for sea turtle and seal rehabilitation, examination rooms and laboratory space for forensic investigations of stranded animals, and much needed office space providing logistical and technological support for Aquarium scientists.
The location of the facility provides direct access to a natural seawater supply for aquarium systems and vessel access to the Atlantic Ocean. These are significant advantages for our important marine animal care and rehabilitation programs. The new facility represents the next level of achievement for the Aquarium and allows us to enhance research and conservation collaborations with universities, state agencies, and federal partners.
Our mission is to conserve and protect marine animals and their habitats. Stay tuned for exciting news as we near the opening of this amazing chapter in the Virginia Aquarium’s incredible story.