Board members and volunteers kick off their final fundraising campaign for the new hands-on Explorer Lab for renovating the space and providing vital equipment.

Aquarium to expand with Explorer Lab

Plans are in place for a 1,300 square foot hands-on learning lab and activity space

After two successful seasons in operation and over 22,000 visitors through its doors, Campbell River’s Discovery Passage Aquarium is about to expand.

Plans are in place for a sister facility, a 1,300 square foot hands-on learning lab and activity space called the Explorer Lab. Located just across from the Aquarium on the bottom floor of the Maritime Heritage Centre building, the new lab will offer a great range of new opportunities and is slated to open in May this year.

“With the confined size of the Aquarium we have been missing the space to work with school classes and interest groups,” says Mark Wunsch, president of the Discovery Passage SeaLife Society, the charity that will run both facilities. “With the new wet-lab and classroom space, we will be able to facilitate discovery and in depth learning about our local coast and watersheds. Our volunteers will now have a dedicated space to meet and work or prepare for special events, which is huge for us.”

With the architectural plans ready to go, the society is reaching out once again to the community and is asking for support to help fund necessary renovations, equipment and operations through in-kind contributions or funds.

Approximately $30,000 in cash and in-kind contributions has already been raised for field and lab equipment, lab tables, microscopes, and programming, however, that is only half of what we need. New walls, plumbing, flooring, washrooms, office space, specialized library, self-contained aquarium system (for the wet lab), and expenses to get their programming and activities up and running is what they’re now asking the community to assist with.

“The Explorer Lab will just completely change what we can offer to residents and visitors to our rich North Island region,” says Deb Cowper, visionary and designated manager of the Explorer Lab. “We will be able to offer fun-filled and locally-focussed curricula, school programming (K-12) for the surrounding school districts in the wet-lab, on the beach, or in class. Summer day camp programs and a ‘Junior Naturalist Program’ are on our list as well as programming for pre-schoolers, seniors, and special interest groups like anglers.”

The initiative certainly got support from the “neighbourhood” like the lab’s future landlords.

“We are very excited to have the Explorer Lab under our roof,” says Dan Telosky, President of the Maritime Heritage Centre Society, “we think it is an excellent fit. The idea of the Explorer Lab aligns well with our own mission and will make our whole Discovery Pier area even more attractive and support the needs of locals and tourists.”

That the Explorer Lab will do exactly that is supported by feedback from the lab’s future customers.

“Booking requests are already in place for regional workshops, training courses for sea kayak guides, school groups and stream-keeper programs,” says society director Laurel Sliskovic, who is leading the marketing efforts of the society.

So, if you want to support the Aquarium and the creation of the Explorer Lab with a donation, sponsorship or skilled work, contact Deb Cowper, Discovery Passage Aquarium Manager – deb@discoverypassageaquarium.ca or 250-287-6179 or Mark Wunsch, President, Discovery Passage SeaLife Society – mark@discoverypassageaquarium.ca or 250.204.3122, or any other director of the society.