- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 25, 2000

The Monterey Bay Aquarium has spent 16 years teaching its visitors about preserving the bustling oceanic universe. More than 400 staff members and 900 volunteers at the nonprofit center work with more than 300,000 plants and animals representing more than 570 species from the waters off the central California coast.
This living extension of Monterey Bay, a centerpiece of the nation's largest national marine sanctuary, has a cyber component highlighting many of the aquarium's exhibits. The E-Quarium, co-winner of the 2000 Webby Award for best science site, not only acts as a promotion to attract families to visit the area, but offers a wide range of content for the budding marine biologist and oceanographer.

Monterey Bay Aquarium's E-Quarium

Site address: www.mbayaq.org


The Monterey Bay Aquarium Foundation, located at 886 Cannery Row, Monterey, Calif., is supported by admission revenues, events, gift and bookstore sales, grants from foundations, businesses and individuals.

Creator quotable:

"We created this site to inspire ocean conservation by building on our reputation as a trusted guide to the oceans. Through the site, we nurture relationships with our visitors and create emotional and intellectual connections between our visitors and the oceans," says Michael Rigsby, senior on-line writer and developer for E-Quarium.
"The site's designed to be an engaging source of ocean information and a resource for informal learning about ocean life and science-based conservation education for families, kids, teachers and the general public."

Word from the Webwise:

Another world exists under Earth's mighty waters, and the E-Quarium does an excellent job of revealing the wondrous creatures and terrain barely explored by man.
An aquatic-blue backdrop submerges viewers into a mysterious world filled with educational opportunities. Swirling around the page, tempting icons such as a live "Penguin Cam" or "Feature Creature" pop up, leading to immediate gratification for junior marine biologists.
Surfers thinking about visiting the aquarium while on vacation should look for About the Aquarium and Visitor Info, which sell paperless admission tickets.
Those looking for a tidal wave of learning, however, should jump right into Kids E-Q and follow the link to E-Quarium Kids Guide. Plenty of colorful images and icons ripple across the screen, offering numerous access points into the primary on-line exhibits, which mirror the aquarium's actual displays. "Kelp Forest," "Reefs & Pilings," "Sandy Seafloor," "Estuaries & Sloughs," "Rocky Shores," "Beaches and Dunes" and "Open Waters" are featured.
Each habitat selection presents numerous pages of text with images, videos, on-line interactive activities and a pop-up map highlighting where the exhibit can be found at the aquarium.
For example, stop by "Deep Sea Habitat" to explore a two-mile-deep undersea canyon through the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute and discover unusual creatures such as the frightening fang tooth, elegant squid and beautiful pom-pom anemone.
Activities include an on-line game of deep-sea tick-tack-toe, a memory challenge and away-from-the-computer fun involving the creation of lantern-fish sticks and a coloring exercise using pictures of a deep-diving robotic research submersible and some friends from the deep.
Click on the fish scattered throughout the site and get a slick on-line encyclopedia of marine life. Each entry incorporates a pop-up "who's who" window of the species with its diet, any conservation notes, a neat fact and fantastic picture.
Web masters have just added a new exhibit, "Splash Zone: Rock and Reef Homes," and I suggest checking out this well-done, cartoonish look at spectacular coral reefs and plenty of shore dwellers.
Other places worth diving into throughout this dynamic site include an area about ocean careers, a way to send a very cool aquarium postcard to a friend, a list of seafood sources not being decimated by man, an on-line store loaded to the gills with educational items and a huge glossary to clear up any confusing terms.

Ease of use:

If viewers first visit the "E-Q Gear" section to make sure they have the proper browser plug-ins, time spent at the E-Quarium will not be disappointing.
At the very minimum, make sure the computer has version 4.0 or later of Netscape Navigator or Internet Explorer, Adobe Acrobat Reader, Shockwave Player, Quicktime, Quicktime VR and Windows Media Player. The site offers links and technical advice to make uploading and installing these software pieces a breeze.

Family activity:

Stop by the Kelp Forest Habitat area for instructions on creating an Ollie Otter lunch-bag puppet. Children can print out pages, color the otter parts, cut out the pieces, glue the pieces to a lunch bag and use yarn or pipe cleaners to make whiskers.

Don't miss:

Viewers can experience a 360-degree scene of the "Rocky Shores" forest exhibit with the help of Quicktime VR. Amid the periwinkles, sponges and tunicates, look for two bizarre creatures representing the most dangerous species on the planet. Of course, I am talking about the pair of Homo sapiens gawking through the glass at the exhibit.

Cyber-sitter synopsis:

The site provides an excellent haven for children interested in marine life. Parents should be aware that the Monterey Bay Aquarium propaganda machine takes every opportunity to plug its products and services. So junior may be pushing to buy a copy of the Splash Zone CD or a vacation to central California.
Family fun factor: 95 percent

Information grade: A

Have a cool site about science or health for the family? Write to Joseph Szadkowski at Webwise, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002; call 202/636-3016; or send e-mail ([email protected]).

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