The Seymour Marine Discovery Center at Long Marine Laboratory in Santa Cruz, CA, gives group tours an insight into the University of California marine research activities. Of the more than 20 ocean research centers located around the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, the Seymour Center is the only one offering a visitor program with guided tours.

The focus of the work here is in dolphins, sea lions, elephant seals, harbor seals and blue whales. There are also several specialty study labs, such as those for seawater plankton and marine invertebrate study.

Ms. Blue, an 87-foot long 18-foot high blue whale skeleton, is found at the entrance to the Discovery Center. This is considered to be the world’s largest and most complete skeletal display, including those of dinosaurs.

The center aquarium is unlike the typical habitat style of displays. The layout and viewing tanks are designed as a research aquarium which directs viewers attention to observation and identification of the unique characteristics of different sea animals. Most creatures displayed come from the Monterey Bay Sanctuary, which includes several species not normally found in other aquarium collections. There are also a number of descriptive exhibits about the Sanctuary distinctive geology and sea life.

Tours of Seymour Marine Discovery

Tour highlights include the pools where scientists conduct behavior studies, where visitors often see the science projects in action. Another interesting stop is at Reinas Weather Station where wind velocity and ocean currents are tracked. The landscape is comprised of indigenous coastal bluff plants, and visitors are led along paths to various interpretive sites including the Yonger Lagoon observation deck. This is a protected native area and part of the UC Natural Reserve System. It reaches from the sea to the slopes of the coastal mountain range and is one of a few undisturbed coastal wetlands that have both salt and fresh water marshes. There are over 100 resident and migratory bird species here, as well as many indigenous land animals including the opossum, weasel, bush rabbit, gray and red fox and bobcat.

The Seymour Center at Long Marine Laboratory is part of U.C. Santa Cruz and located on the western campus, just north of Natural Bridges State Park. It is open for tours all days except Monday.

Several organizations connected to the Long Marine Lab program are found adjacent to the Seymour center. These include the Marine Wildlife Veterinary Care and Research Center, which is the nation’s largest and most advanced research and rehabilitation facility specializing in wildlife injured by marine oil spills and the National Marine Fisheries Service Laboratory, which researches salmon and rockfish. The Center for Ocean Health works in consort with the Institute of Marine Sciences and the Predatory Bird Research Group that is known for its work in restoring the California Peregrin Falcon population. A seabird/raptor facility has been added to the University marine studies complex and the research arm of the Monterey Bay Aquarium has proposed the development of a sea otter center that would add to groups diversity.