Facility Overview


Who we are

An Integrated Approach: The Àros na Mara Centre integrates the functional requirements of the four objectives of the facility: tourism, education, renewable energy, and marine science. The best in situ marine field stations provide an affordable base of operations; rapid access to a wide range of marine and coastal environments for observation, sampling and experimentation; and solid laboratory facilities in close proximity to these environments, in which organisms may be held in good health and sophisticated equipment may be used with security.

Sustainable Building Design: Being a facility focussed on sustainable environment practices, the Àros na Mara Marine Science Centre building will make full use of sustainable technology including the use of appropriate building materials, energy conservation, water heat pump systems, re-cycling of waste water, solar energy, possibly a demonstration project harnessing current power at the Barra Strait Narrows, etc. The sustainable systems will be part of the exhibit experience for visitors and the Centre will promote and offer assistance in the implementation of similar systems around the Bras d’ Or Lake.

The Exhibit Experience: To be a successful tourism destination the Centre features a critical mass of exhibit attractions with a strong appeal to a broad range of the visiting public. Hence we will combine, within a serious science and sustainability context, a powerful exhibit experience around marine life in the Bras d’ Or Lake and our oceans. The exhibit high points include the drama of the multi-media theatre audio-visual show, fascinating live specimens in more than 15 aquaria, an open touch pool, and interactive exhibits featuring science experiments and remote cameras in the Lake.

Designed For Science: The science facilities of the Àros na Mara Centre are designed to meet the basic needs of marine research programs originating within Atlantic Canada and also to attract visiting scientists from Canada and the world who will pay bench fees, service, and accommodation charges to conduct research in the unique marine conditions of the Bras d’ Or Lake.

Seawater Supply: Mechanical pump systems and filtration units located at the extreme end of the concrete wharf delivers sea water to the laboratories, remove sediments and supply nutrient- filled water for feeding experiments. A gravity feed reservoir and header tank are provided in the event of extreme conditions or power failure and automated instruments constantly monitor seawater flow rates and temperature, salinity, oxygen content, nitrate concentration and turbidity.

Tanks & Aquaria: Holding tanks and research aquaria of various sizes are included for specimen maintenance and observation, and the conduct of experiments under controlled conditions of temperature, salinity, light and feeding regimes. These tanks and aquaria will be viewable by the public and they share space and maintenance facilities with the public observation aquaria.

Laboratories: Two wet laboratories will be provided near the specimen receiving and aquarium areas and provision will be made to separate and quarantine exotic specimens or those with dangerous pathogens. Waste water is treated before being returned to the Lake. The laboratories are modestly equipped with basic scientific equipment on the principal that any specialized equipment is only acquired when necessitated by the demands of a specialized research program and that funding is provided for the equipment at that time. Two dry laboratories, a library and computer facilities will be included within the administration area as well as offices for in-house scientists and technicians.

Waterside Facilities: Of critical importance to marine research is the provision of sheltered docking area for small research vessels, maintenance workshops, SCUBA tank filling and equipment maintenance. The location and physical infrastructure of Àros na Mara on a massive wharf provides the core for such a facility, and a breakwater, launching ramp, small boat docks and diving locker will allow safe and ready access to the waters of the Bras d’Or and transfers to the laboratory under all weather conditions.

Exhibit Philosophy

The experience for all site visitors will be: * Dramatic, *Educational, *Cinematic, * Challenging:

The philosophy behind the exhibit design is to create a critical mass of topical interest strong enough to make the Àros na Mara Centre a destination in itself; the way the Bell Museum, the Highland Village Museum, and the Fortress of Louisbourg are destinations that draw visitors to Cape Breton Island. Exhibits will inspire awe, wonder, and respect for life in the oceans. Young people will also see science in action, learn about the natural history of the Bras d’Or ecosystem in a context that will augment school curricula, and may inspire some to take up careers in the marine sciences. Examples of the Interactive Visitor Experiences include:

Exhibit Experience: Visitors will first see the pre-show exhibits introducing them to the centre.

Multi-Media Theatre: A multi-media theatre equipped with a full range of presentation technology able to give visitors a “cinematic” Cape Breton Experience Show unlike anything they have seen before.

Audio-Visual Show: The principal show would explore the main theme of marine science and the Bras d’Or Lake and provide a context to the aquaria and exhibits to be seen at the Centre. The show would be a dramatic and moving experience and would be one of the main features to be talked about by visitors long after they have left the Centre. Links will be made in this presentation to the long history of sustainable use by Cape Breton’s Indigenous peoples, and to the successful initiative to have the UNESCO list the Bras d’ Or Lake as a Man and Biosphere Reserve. Potential partnerships with other local areas of interest, including the scenic Goat Island in Eskasoni, would compliment this project substantially along with possible excursions..

Cape Breton Experience Show: The investment in the multi-media audio-visual theatre provides a wonderful opportunity to present a tourism promotion spectacle which will enthrall visitors with the delights of the entire Cape Breton Island tourism experience.

Interactive Exhibits: Following the dramatic multi-media presentation, this room is dedicated to exhibits which can be touched, operated, or which challenge visitors to overcome a particular marine science problem through their own research and ingenuity. Ocean science interactive exhibits reality & virtual reality shows promote self-learning and are fun to experience for children of all ages.

Touch Pool: The indoor touch pool would introduce younger visitors to tidepool creatures and plant life. The pool would be created in artificial rock and be enhanced with a small hinged header tank which would periodically spill water into the pool to produce a wave action simulating conditions on a beach or shoreline.

Scientific Interactive Exhibits: These would use remote sensing, remote video capture and mechanical/electrical control equipment to manipulate remote experiments and put visitors in touch with real-time events and real or simulated scientific experiments on-going in the Bras d’Or Lake. To attract younger, digitally minded audiences, Virtual Reality experiences have been deemed to be the perfect medium for engaging these demographics. This innovative immersive experience would allow visitors to experience the feeling of being in an underwater submarine tour of the Bras d’Or Lake. Equipment would include computers, electro-mechanical devices, science “experiments”, film footage, and internet connections to bring up remote webcams and specialised website – all of which are intended to stimulate interest and curiosity about the Bras d’ Or Lake in relation to the oceans of the world.

Remote Sub-Sea Cameras: Exhibits could include controllable video cameras located in the waters off the Iona wharf so visitors could see creatures in and around an artificial reef established for the purpose. Remote sub sea cameras could also be placed near the wreck of the sunken hulk which rests in 100 feet of water beneath the Barra Strait Railway Bridge over the Narrows and visitors could observe SCUBA divers when they explore the wreck. The potential additional of a sub-marine observation room in 50 feet of water will allow visitors to walk out into the Barra Strait waters.

Annular Tanks: There would also be two annular tanks: one dedicated to the pelagic biota of the lake such as mackerel, which have to constantly swim and the other dedicated to biota from the adjacent ocean in Sydney Bight (marine designation for DFO). These tanks will allow the viewer to stand inside, simulating immersion in the water column, and will be specially lit and equipped with magnifiers to allow viewing of phytoplankton, zooplankton and nekton species.

Computer/Aquaria Interactives: These exhibits are stand-alone displays which pose a challenge to be solved by the visitor. Subjects would include provocative titles such as: The Rocks beneath our Feet, Pet Projects, SCUBADives, What’s Out There, The Warming Oceans, Alien Invaders, Missing Fish, Seeing is Believing, Diving for Science, Robotic Science, etc. Computer games such as “Design a fish which can survive in the ocean; simulate running a fishery; keep an ecosystem in equilibrium.”

Display Aquaria: This room would comprise the main aquarium visitor experience and contains up to 18 display aquaria of varying sizes and shapes, including ‘Science on a Sphere’. Lighting will come from the aquaria waters themselves, giving a subsea illusion to the room which is further augmented by the sparkling ripple of water light projected onto the ceiling overhead.

Conclusion Room: This dramatic and versatile open space will be suitable for presentations, catered community and private banquets, and other revenue generating and community activities. For the visitor it could be configured into a classroom-style setting equipped with audio-visual presentation gear and a participant voting system where, under the guidance of a program director, visitors and students might face questions that challenge the world’s marine scientists. What are the effects of warming oceans on coastal ecosystems and their people? Why have so many of the fish gone? Is fish farming a viable alternative to the capture fisheries? The results of visitor opinion will be continuously tallied and displayed on computer monitors. The conclusion room is also a location for the display of travelling exhibits from other aquariums and museums.

Science Tour: The visitor experience continues through the doors and “behind the scenes” to the science corridor where visitors see through glass into the specimen receiving area and the two wet laboratories. Also, in the corridor visitors can see the working of the aquaria water supply, animal maintenance and feeding facilities. Finally, visitors arrive in the Gift Shop on the conclusion of their tour. Here they can purchase science toys, gifts, and marine literature as mementos of their visit to Àros na Mara. Outside, visitors can walk along the wharf and visit the small boat floats and the SCUBA tank refilling facility. In addition, they can also walk on the protected government beach, and the adjoining picnic park.