During the month of February, the Inner Space Center, located at the University of Rhode Island’s Graduate School of Oceanography, is offering two additional public tours of its facilities to fuel interest in deep-sea exploration and discovery.

Normally, only one public tour is offered per month. However, in an effort to promote interest in ocean sciences, ISC has decided exclusively for this month to add two additional tours to its itinerary in order to make the facilities more accessible to the general public, specifically during school February vacation.

“Not enough people know that we’re here or what we do, and we want to change that,” said Romy Pizziconi, a URI alumnus who handles the press and linguistic aspects of the facility, as well as serving as the information concierge.

Accessibility is important because it garnishes interest in the ocean sciences, especially grabbing the attention of younger visitors who can learn the importance of oceanic exploration in exciting ways and even learn about potential careers in deep-sea biology, according to Pizziconi.

ISC strives to create educational and informational programming about oceanographic exploration and to make it available to the next generation of ocean scientists. This is made possible by utilizing their technologies to project deep-sea exploration to the world in real time through the use of their Mission Control room, broadcast hub and studio where they maintain recordings of Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) dives, host data and distribution servers and maintain an archive of previous expeditions available to local and foreign scientists. All of which can be observed on the public tours.

Holly Morin, a graduate of Texas A&M with a Masters in wildlife and fishery science and a focus in marine mammalogy, works on giving and organizing the tours.

“Our tours begin upstairs where I demonstrate the ROV, an example of our telepresence technology, and stream awesome footage of previous expeditions of when we have ships out live,” Morin said. “A good chunk of the tour takes place is in our Mission Control room. Mission Control for Inner Space has the big screens, intercoms, live streaming data and visual representations that you’d see in a Mission Control center for Outer Space.”

In addition to the technological equipment found at ISC, visitors can observe artifacts from expeditions. They are encouraged to join in on discussions as well as listen to the presentations, learn how the machines work, and have conversations with the scientists and staff.

“The Ocean is a vast resource—a vast resource we know relatively little about,” Morin said. “Much of the environment below the surface is unknown and unexplored. There are cool discoveries out there, just like in the rainforest. Deep-sea exploration is so important because it is a unique ecosystem that plays a huge role in climate change and our environment.”

Tour sizes fluctuate with the seasons, but ISC is expecting a large draw in for these additional tours and look forward to anyone who wants to join in. The ISC encourages undergrads to visit the campus, whether they are interested in pursuing another degree or just coming to observe.

“We have the technology to observe and explore this obscure ecosystem, and we want people to realize that they have access to it and that it’s really cool.” Pizziconi said.

After taking December and January off, this series of tours will be the first of the new year and the Inner Space Center encourages the public to come discover deep-sea exploration first hand through the use of tele presence technologies.  

The public tours will take place Feb. 2 at 3 p.m., Feb. 15 at 11 a.m. and Feb. 17 at 3 p.m. The Inner Space Center (ISC) can be found at URI’s Bay Campus in Narragansett. Tours last about 45 minutes, and cost $5 per person. For more information and to book a tour, visit www.innerspacecenter.org.