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Learn about coastal life at UT Marine Science Institute

Walk through a marsh without getting your feet wet at the University of Texas Marine Science Institute's Wetlands Education Center. Photo from

More than research goes on at the University of Texas at Austin Marine Science Institute in Port Aransas. The internationally renowned facility is also open to visitors, who can gain an understanding of coastal plant and animal life through live and electronic exhibits, kid-friendly interactive displays, and a peek into the institute's inner workings.

At the Wetlands Education Center, walk through seagrass, marsh plants, and dunes without getting your feet wet. ADA-compliant trails feature interpretive signs in this 3.5-acre outdoor space that includes a bird blind.

Explore the center on your own or sign up for a guided wetland walk that UTMSI hosts every Tuesday and Thursday at 9 a.m. Parking is available at 855 E. Cotter Ave. in Port Aransas. Call 361-749-6711 for more information.

Three times a week, the institute holds a behind-the-scenes look at the work of its Amos Rehabilitation Keep. ARK treats sick or injured sea turtles, sea birds, and raptors to release back into their native habitats. The guided tours begin at 10 a.m. on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. Park at 855 E. Cotter Ave. and meet at the tarpon statue in front of the Patton Center. ARK is open to the public for guided tours only. Call 361-749-6711 for more information.

The Patton Center for Marine Science Education, which reopened late last year after a post-Hurricane Harvey revamp, features eight aquarium displays of local species in re-created native habitats. Kids and grownups alike can crawl beneath the largest tank and peer through the transparent dome for a rare “bottom-of-the-sea” view of aquatic life.

Interactive exhibits include video screens in which UTMSI scientists describe ongoing research and a bank of tablets where you can experience a virtual release of a rehabilitated animal. Kids can hop into a full-size boat for a virtual fishing adventure.

The Patton Center at 855 E. Cotter Ave. is open Tuesday-Saturday from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Call 361-749-6711 for more information.

The institute’s Bay Education Center, near Rockport Beach at 121 Seabreeze Drive in Rockport, features interactive exhibits depicting flora and fauna in bays, estuaries, and wetlands. The center’s showcase exhibit, Science on a Sphere, projects educational programs on a 6-foot diameter globe. The center is open from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday. Call 361-749-6711 for more information.

UTMSI facilities, including those listed above, might be closed on university holidays. For more information on the University of Texas Marine Science Institute, visit For up-to-date information, including sea turtle releases, visit UTMSI’s Facebook page.

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