For over twenty years The Pier Aquarium, St Petersburg, has provided award-winning educational hands-on experiences in ocean science and marine life to over four million visitors. Surrounded by the teeming sea life of Tampa Bay, The Pier Aquarium is a 2,000 sq. ft. aquarium and marine education center located at The Pier on the downtown St. Petersburg waterfront. It includes the Roy G. Harrell, Jr. Education Station, a freestanding marine lab on Spa Beach and "Water Walk," an outdoor interpretive display located on the Pier approach.
The Pier Aquarium was founded in a cooperative effort in 1988 by Peter Betzer, Ph.D., then dean of the University of South Florida College of Marine Science, and Larry Arnold, assistant to Robert L. Ulrich, Mayor of St. Petersburg with the purpose to highlight and bring attention to the major marine research being conducted in the Tampa Bay region. Founding sponsors also included: the John W. Barger Family, National Marine Fisheries Services, Florida Sea Grant, Pinellas County Schools, Florida Progress Corp., St. Petersburg Times and Chase Bank of Florida.
For the past two decades, The Pier Aquarium has served three major audiences: school children, families and visiting tourists. With funding from marine, environmental and educational organizations such as Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Florida Wildlife Research Institute, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Pinellas County Environmental Fund, Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council, Southwest Florida Water Management District, U.S. Geological Survey and the City of St. Petersburg, The Pier Aquarium has created exciting live fish exhibits, educational displays and family programming. New funding over the past four years secured through the Pinellas County Cultural Affairs Department and other business partners supports our science/cultural arts programs, first-time marketing efforts and the promotion and communication of aquarium's activities through traditional advertising and marketing tools, co-operative and barter trade agreements, a new Web site (www.pieraquarium.org) and free online social networking media (MySpace, Facebook, Twitter). Project funding received in 2009 created a Deaf Docent program and brought a new outreach program to an underserved African American neighborhood at the Sanderlin Neighborhood Family Center and our traveling Ocean in Motion aquarium to two local Boys and Girls Clubs.
The Pier Aquarium, housed in a building at the end of the city of St. Petersburg's Municipal Pier, invites visitors to "discover another world" not found anywhere else in the city or Pinellas County as we are located virtually in Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico, surrounded on three sides by water. Our invitation is one of marine discovery, enjoyment and personal, enlightening experiences. Our mission is to "enhance the public's understanding of the value and fragility of the local and global marine environment through research, education and personal experiences." In the process, we hope to inspire and create a spirit of environmental stewardship. Tampa Bay is the largest marine estuary or body of water in Florida where fresh and salt water meet, and we take full advantage of this unique and complex ecosystem to provide our visitors with first-hand, individual and group explorations.