The Dauphin Island Sea Lab is a marine science research and education center that opened in 1971, and its impact on students of all levels is significant.
During a typical year, the DISL reaches close to 17,000 students through its education programs, which include K-12 STEM programs and undergraduate and graduate research opportunities for college students. Its BayMobile, a traveling classroom, brings the ocean to another 12,000 students. And its aquarium brings 85,000 visitors to Dauphin Island each year.
While these numbers are impressive, the DISL’s impact doesn’t stop there. According to a report recently compiled by the University of South Alabama Center for Real Estate and Economic Development, the DISL generates an overall annual economic impact of $56 million for the state of Alabama, of which $54 million stays in lower Alabama.
In Lower Alabama, which consists of Baldwin, Choctaw, Clarke, Conecuh, Mobile, Monroe and Washington counties, the DISL has an employment impact of 513 jobs, a total personal earnings impact of $16.3 million and a total tax impact of $361,984.
“Our focus is on educating our citizens about how extraordinarily valuable the Gulf of Mexico is to the state of Alabama,” said John Valentine, executive director of the DISL. “We bring together scientists, educators and interested members of the community to study and learn about how our coastal environment is changing and affecting the ocean resources upon which we rely. Clearly, a clean environment and a clean Gulf of Mexico is beneficial to our quality of life and our economic sustainability.”
The DISL serves as the administrative home of Alabama’s Marine Environmental Sciences Consortium, which includes 23 of Alabama’s public and private colleges and universities for marine and environmental science research and education. The research efforts by students and faculty from these 23 institutions cover innovative marine, fishery, biological and oceanographic initiatives. In addition, the DISL’s location positions it to cover not just salt water, but also freshwater marine environments, as it is located within the sixth largest American estuary system.
“Because of the importance of the sea to the world, both as a food resource and means of commerce and trade, I really think it is critical that the Sea Lab continues their research efforts as they work to find new ways of overcoming so many of the challenges we face today,” said Reid Cummings, director of the group who conducted the study.
To that end, the DISL has proposed constructing a new hurricane-resistant building. For the economic impact report, USA researchers based its proposed economic impact figures on a construction cost of more than $7 million. Based on this estimated construction cost, the new building construction would provide a total value added impact of $4.6 million, a total revenue impact of $11.2 million, a total employment impact of 71 jobs, a total personal earnings impact of $3.3 million and a total tax impact of $30,872.
The DISL plans to seek grant funding in 2021 to help with the construction costs of the new building, with an expected construction completion sometime in late 2022 or 2023.
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