Newly expanded Dalton Discovery Center features new interactive exhibits, galleries
The Conservancy of Southwest Florida Nature Center is reopening Dec. 18 to members and visitors after the completion of a monumental $5 million renovation and expansion of its Susan and William Dalton Discovery Center. The expansion includes the new John & Carol Walter Discovery Wing featuring an Invasive Species Gallery and digital Climate Change Gallery.
A grand reopening celebration is planned for 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 18. The event is free to Conservancy members and children ages 2 and younger. Admission for non-members is $17.95 for adults and $9.95 for children ages 3 to 12. In addition to the new Dalton Discovery Center exhibits and galleries, activities for the grand reopening include a guided nature walk; story time in the Little Explorer Play Zone; educational talks focusing on climate change, wildlife and invasive species; and tours and activities in the Conservancy’s new mobile classroom.
The Dalton Discovery Center renovations and expansion include exciting new enhancements, such as an Augmented Reality Wildlife Encounter that will allow guests to interact digitally with a Florida animal.
The new Invasive Species Gallery in the Walter Discovery Wing will explore Burmese pythons, the new apex predator in the Florida Everglades, and a focus of the Conservancy’s nationally recognized Burmese python research and removal efforts. The gallery also will examine lionfish, cane toads, and invasive plants.
The Dalton Discovery Center, which opened in 2012, is an interactive learning center featuring live animals and exhibits that showcase Southwest Florida’s diverse ecosystems under one roof: Introduction Gallery, Uplands, Everglades, Mangroves, Sandy Beaches, and the Ocean Gallery.
“Thanks to support from Sue Dalton, joined by other generous benefactors, including John and Carol Walter, the newly expanded Dalton Discovery Center brings together the latest technologies and hands-on activities to educate, engage and entertain guests of all ages,” said Rob Moher, president and CEO of the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. “There’s so much more for visitors to observe, explore and investigate, and we welcome members and visitors back to the Nature Center to experience our new exhibits.”
The Climate Change Gallery, also located in the Walter Discovery Wing, will focus on the intensification of storms, ocean acidification, and habitat protection. The centerpiece will be a spherical digital display system that introduces visitors to the impacts of climate change locally and around the world. The “Science on a Sphere” system was developed by the federal government through the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and has been deployed around the world with partner organizations.
Additionally, children 18 months through 5 years old can enjoy the Little Explorer Play Zone. Electric boat tours are offered between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., as well as guided kayak tours. The 21-acre Nature Center, also Site #69 on the Great Florida Birding Trail, is the gateway to the Conservancy’s mission, where guests can learn the importance of the area’s natural resources, understand the role the Conservancy plays, and get inspired to take action.
Visitors can explore interactive exhibits in the Sapakie Wildlife Exhibit Hall, meet animal ambassadors in the viewing pavilion and learn more about how to prevent injury to wildlife. Beginning Dec. 21, the Conservancy Nature Center will be open Tuesdays through Saturdays from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
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