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Our 6th annual NOAA Ocean Discovery Day was held March 23, 2013 at the NOAA Galveston Lab.

Staff from Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, NOAA Fisheries, National Weather Service, NOAA Corps, Sea Camp, Texas Marine Mammal Stranding Network, and the Texas Historical Commission showed off their work and entertained guests with activities and information.

Our Mural Painting Activity in 2011 and 2012 was so popular, we did it again this year. This year's mural actually focused on our the kelp forests of our West Coast sanctuaries: Channel Islands, Monterey Bay, Gulf of the Farallones, and Olympic Coast.

A new activity this year was the Sea Turtle Obstacle course, originally developed for the Galveston Island Nature Tourism Council's Sea Turtle Saturday event. This gave kids a chance to run around and burn energy while learning about the life cycle of sea turtles and the perils they face. It was a hit!

The following pictures highlight activities captured by Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary staff throughout the day.

Click on a picture below to see a larger, hi-resolution image
Photo credits: FGBNMS

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Sanctuary Displays & Activities
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An overhead view of the Ball Room entry area at sanctuary headquarters
Information and activities about the sanctuary were displayed throughout the ballroom at sanctuary headquarters. These were the first display areas visible from the entrance.

A display of images and maps from the sanctuary.
The first display inside the ballroom showed bathymetric maps of the three sanctuary banks and some of the wildlife treasures found there.
Guests looking at a display showing biographies of people after whom local area banks were named.
Visitors interested in the regional perspective could learn about the important people after whom many of the northwestern gulf banks were named.

Biographies of Gulf of Mexico researchers and protectors.

F. Stearns MacNeil was just one of the influential Gulf of Mexico researchers to have a bank named after him.

Old fashioned wooden bookcase displaying marine specimens in jars.
Specimen samples have been an important science tool over the decades. These were colleted by Texas A&M researchers over the years.
Two young visitors talk to Bill about corals in a display case.
The coral reefs at Flower Garden Banks have been around for several thousand years, but Bill Kiene talked to guests about other types of organisms that built even older reefs in Texas' past.
An 8-foot table covered in trash picked up from a local beach the day before.
Yesterday's trash--picked up on a beach in Galveston the day before on what appeared to be a relatively clean beach.

A pile of beach trash on a table.
Visitors were stunned by what we found in just 45 minutes in an area about the size of a football field.

A sign telling people that the trash on the table is from their beach, yesterday!
A sign by the pile of trash reminded visitors that it came from their beach!

 Overhead view of the ballroom with the sanctuary banner above.
Exhibits and activities filled our ballroom from one corner to the next.
A TAMUG volunteer gets ready to feed a lionfish on display in a small aquarium.
The first lionfish feeding of the day was a hit! Visitors met Woodstock to learn more about the problems he and his relatives are causing in the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean.

A lionfish in an aquarium.

Woodstock is just one of many lionfish removed from sanctuary waters within the past year. He serves as an ambassador to help us teach others about invasive species.

Two girls hold onto a metal T-frame standing on a picture of the reef and try to get it level.
Two young visitors work together to try and level this T-frame camera setup simlar to what researchers use to capture reef monitoring images.
Boxes full of rolled up posters sit ready for distribution on top of a table.
Posters of deepwater habitats and their beautiful inhabitants were available for visitors to take home.

Two NOAA Corps officers in uniform next to their tabletop display.
Jamie and Marc introduced visitors to the NOAA Corps. A new NOAA Corps officer is assigned to the sanctuary every 2-3 years.

A visitor examines a model of part of a shipwreck.
Folks from the Texas Historical Commission shared artifacts and models of historic shipwrecks, including informaiton about the USS Hatteras, a wreck off Galveston that the sanctuary helped map.

A young girl pulls a toy out of a dark box.
This young visitor is fishing "in the dark" to see what she can find and identify, much like marine archeologists working in low visibility conditions, also known as "black water."

A sample wreck site set up in a plastic tub.
This tub shows an example of how marine archeologists do site mapping underwater. Visitors were invited to try their hand at writing on special underwater paper and drawing out what they saw.

A weather service person standing next to his display.
Our fellow NOAA cohorts at the National Weather Service joined us to share information about their work too.

Looking down on the busy ballroom activities.
The ballroom got busier and busier as the day progressed, but there was plenty for everyone to see and do.

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Fisheries Displays & Activities
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A large image of a researcher working with a turtle, with the turtle's head cut out as a photo opportunity for visitors.
Fisheries added a few photo opportunities around the campus this year. This one let visitors pose as a rescued turtle.

A large photo cutout, with a person's face showing in the place of a turtle's face.
NOAA Galveston Lab Director Roger Zimmerman just had to try it out!

A woman holding a queen conch shell in her hands.
Jennifer talked to visitors about Queen Conch research the lab is conducting in the Virgin Islands. Here she was explaining how a conch shell grows.

A blue crab in a sample marsh tub.
The Benthic Lab folks set up a temporary marsh sampling unit outside their lab as an example of the kind of work they do. This blue crab was "waving" at visitors.

A sign explaining the logo contest.
This year's event also included a logo contest. Young visitors could create and submit a logo design for future Ocean Discovery Day signs.

A young girl drawing a logo design for a contest.
This young visitor created a colorful design entry for the logo contest.

Loggerhead sea turtle swimming in a mesh pen.
Of course, the loggerhead sea turtles being reared at the NOAA Lab were a big hit, as always.

A sea turtle veterinarian talking at the turtle barn.
Dr. Joe Flanagan, Houston Zoo veterinarian, talked to visitors about his work with the sea turtles at the NOAA turtle barn.

A large image of a fisherman in yellow rain gear, with the face cut out for a photo opportunity.
Sanctuary volunteer coordinator Shelley DuPuy tried out another Fisheries photo opportunity while out checking on our volunteers.
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Sea Turtle Obstacle Course
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A shrimp trawl with a turtle excluder device displayed across an open field.
A net with a life-size TED was a big hit at the sea turtle obstacle course.

A girl crawling through a fishing net on land.
A girl crawls throuh the narrowing net toward the TED.
A girl exits a fishing net by way of the turtle excluder device (on land).
This girl found out what it was like to be a sea turtle caught in a net then finding an escape thanks to the Turtle Excluder Device (TED).

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Sanctuary Mural
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This video shows a timelapse sequence of photos taken during the making of the kelp forest mural at Ocean Discovery Day 2013.

Visitors painting various squares of the kelp forest mural
The mural painting room was a popular place, as always. Each person got to work on one tile of the whole mural, which was gradually pieced together as the day progressed.

A volunteer posts one of the painted tiles on the wall in the proper place.
One of our helpful volunteers posting a finished tile that shows part of a juvenile Garibaldi, a fish typically found in the kelp forests of our west coast sanctuaries.

A close up of the juvenile Garibaldi tile.
The bold colors of the juvenile Garibaldi made this one of the most striking tiles of the mural.

Painted tiles drying on a table.
Brilliant colors were part of almost every tile painted for this mural.

A grandfather and his young granddaughter work together on painting a mural tile.
Grandfather and granddaughter work together on a mural tile. Ocean Discovery Day is definitely an inter-generational experience!

Mural pieces mounted on the wall in the appropriate places, waiting for the rest of the tiles to be complete.
Many visitors returned throughout the day to see how the mural was coming together and find how their tiles fit into the overall image.

A visitor painting a Pacific sheepshead fish.
The Pacific sheepshead looks nothing like the fish by that name in the Gulf of Mexico. Scientists use scientific names to avoid this kind of confusion.
A section of the mural showing a partial sheepshead fish.
When the finished sheepshead square (in progress, at left) was added to the mural, the fish was almost complete.
Painted tiles drying on a table before being mounted to the wall.
Tiles dried on a side table until they were ready to be mounted on the wall.
Two squares of the mural depicting a torpedo ray.
The torpedo ray in the mural was one of the earliest animal pieces completed by visitors.

Painiting of a bright reddish pink coral with white polyps.
A bright red cold water coral of the mural looked quite similar to some of the deeper water corals seen in the Flower Garden Banks sanctuary.

The artist and two staff members stand in front of the finished mural at the end of the day.
Artist Jacqui Stanley posed with Sanctuary Superintendent GP Schmahl and Research Coordinator Emma Hickerson in front of the finished mural at the end of the day.

Original sanctuary mural created by Jacqui Stanley
Original kelp forest mural by artist/educator Jacqui Stanley.
Strings will eventually separate it into 162 square sections.
Finished 2013 visitor mural created with 162 separate sections.
Finished mural made of 162 separate paintings that correspond
to the squares outlined in string on the original mural.

weather report observations cool stuff get wet

Juvenile blue tang (fish).  Bright yellow body with irridescent blue marking around eye and at top edge of dorsal fin.
National Marine Sanctuary logo - a stylized whale tail above waves