A multi-million pound teaching and research facility that will enable students to learn about the marine environment before they head out onto or under the sea has opened its doors at Plymouth University.
Located on the city’s waterfront at Coxside, between the National Marine Aquarium and Queen Anne’s Battery, the £4.85 million, two-storey building, has bespoke facilities such as wet labs and aquaria where students will be able to study and store samples they collect in the field.
It will serve as the base for the University’s fleet of vessels, including the research vessel Falcon Spirit and sail-training vessel Take the Helm, and its fully-equipped SCUBA diving facilities will not only enable students to learn the skills needed to become scientific divers, but will also be a centre for professional diving training for scientists at organisations such as the British Antarctic Survey.
“The Marine Station will transform the way that our students can interact with the marine environment,” said Professor Neil James, Head of the School of Engineering. “It will enable them to move seamlessly from lecture theatre to water, from theory to experiential, with extensive supporting on-shore facilities to analyse experimental data and information that they have obtained.”
Constructed to BREEAM Excellent standards, with an integrated Combined Heat and Power system and solar photovoltaic panels, the Marine Station has been designed to be highly energy efficient to run. Operationally it boasts a boat house with slipway and crane, maintenance space, field equipment stores, a compressor room to fill diving air cylinders, drying rooms, briefing rooms, and a ‘changing village’. These facilities, which were identified in advance following talks with the Students’ Union and other end-users, are central to the increased focus upon experiential learning across all marine-related degree courses.
In addition to dry classrooms, it has a 120 square metre ‘wet lab’, where up to 50 students at a time will be able to study samples, which can then be transferred to the aquarium facility, which is served by continuous fresh seawater extracted from a borehole.
Professor David Coslett, Interim Chief Executive, said: “There are very few facilities of this type in UK higher education, and none can offer that waterfront location and yet still be walking distance from campus. In a month when we’re also opening our brand new performing arts centre, The House, it demonstrates the investment that Plymouth University is making in its future and in its student experience.”
A public open day will be held at the end of January for people to come and explore the facility.
Professor Kevin Jones, Dean of the Faculty of Science and Environment, added: “The Marine Station is a tremendous asset for our Faculty, the University, and the city as well, and we’re very excited to see how its facilities will be enjoyed by a range of users – our students, our community partners, and our staff, who will be able to use it as a shore-side base of operation.”