UTMSI open house to offer new experiences
When you visit The University of Texas at Austin Marine Science Institute - Port Aransas (UTMSI) open house this year, don't worry about being distracted by other events. For the first time, MSI has decided to give the biennial open house its own weekend, instead of "piggy-backing" on another event.
"We feel that the Port Aransas tourist load during the summer is such now that plenty of support for the open house is available," said Steve Lanoux, the MSI director of facilities.
The date this year is Saturday, June 14. Mark it down; there shouldn't be much else on your calendar for that date.
Veterans of past open houses can expect some new experiences this year, also.
The research vessel (R/V) Longhorn, of course, isn't there any more. MSI sold the boat last year because it was costing too much to operate. The Longhorn traditionally took bunches of visitors on tours of Lydia Ann Channel during open houses, but this year that task will be taken up by three other vessels: The R/V Katy, now the institute's major research vessel; the R/V Nueces, lent by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department from its port in Rockport; the Mustang, lent by owner Billy Gaskins; and the Wharf Cat, lent by Fisherman's Wharf.
Passengers must be at least 10 years old to go out on either the Katy or the Nueces; there is no age limit for the Mustang or Wharf Cat, since both are licensed to carry passengers.
Smaller boats from the MSI fleet will take visitors on wetlands tours. While the institute's Wetlands Education Center is well on its way to completion, boardwalks allowing visitors to get close to the marsh areas won't be finished in time for the June open house.
Partners for this year with the MSI include the new Mission-Aransas National Estuarine Research Reserve (NERR), the Parks and Wildlife Department, the Texas General Land Office and the Texas Department of Transportation. All are expected to have booths at the open house.
Lanoux said he also hopes to be able to send the picture from an imaging flowcytobot to a screen where visitors can see it. The flowcytobot examines water as it flows between the jetties and past the institute's teaching pier, letting scientists know what's in the current. It was responsible earlier this year for alerting them to a toxin in bay waters - the first time such a toxin had been detected without someone first becoming ill from it or a fish kill being observed, researchers said.
The open house, held every two years, is free.