How to get a hands-on learning experience at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab

Diver On A Coral Reef.
Dive on in to learning with the Dauphin Island Sea Lab! Photo via DISL.edu

You might know Dauphin Island as a lovely beach destination here on the Gulf Coast, but what you may not have known is that it also hosts the Dauphin Island Sea Lab! DISL is a huge marine research facility dedicated to becoming “a center for transformative U.S. oceanic and coastal research and education.”

What we love about it is their awesome Summer Excursions, Boardwalk Talks, Public Aquarium, and more fun community events! But first, let’s break down what the DISL is and does.

About Dauphin Island Sea Lab

Photo Collage Of Dauphin Island Sea Lab History
A cute little collage about DISL history. Photos via DISL.edu

The Alabama Legislature founded DISL in 1971 as a university outreach program to give students a more hands-on experience with marine life during their studies. Since its founding, DISL has been a huge success—expanding to work with 23 state colleges and universities, starting a K-12 educational program, and opening a public aquarium.

The DISL boasts an entire campus located on the eastern shore of Dauphin Island, with the Mobile Bay and Mississippi Sound on one side and the Gulf of Mexico to the other side, making it the perfect place for marine and estuary research. While not a degree-granting institute, students from universities all over Alabama—undergraduate and graduate students alike—take part in over 25 programs offered by 23 universities every year.

DISL hosts the “K-12 Discovery Hall”, dedicated to hands-on learning for kiddos of all ages. There are seriously so many programs to check out, like Field Classes (essentially a family-led field trip), Summer Camps, Sea Lab Science Fridays (second Friday of every month!), and Ocean Explorer Saturdays. We highly recommend you check out their list of kid’s programs to see which fits right for your family!

There’s also the Virtual Sea Lab, where you can tune in to any lesson you can’t make it out to the Island for!

The Public Aquarium / Estuarium

Sea Turtle Looking At Camera.
We see you wanting to visit the Estuarium! Photo via DISL.edu

This is a very special aquarium because it’s really an estuarium. What’s that, you may ask? An estuary is the portion of the water where the freshwater mixes with the saltwater as bays/sounds/rivers lead to the ocean. An estuarium would be an aquarium highlighting the unique marine and freshwater life that can survive in this habitat! With Mobile Bay being the fourth largest estuary in the country, it’s the perfect place to study this type of ecosystem.

That’s exactly what the DISL Public Aquarium does! With over 100 species on display in 31 tanks (holding around 31,000 gallons of water!), the estuarium is an awesome place to get lost in for an afternoon. Visit the 7,000-gallon stingray tank and get your hands dirty in the Living Marsh Boardwalk.

With various exhibits tailored for interactive learning through exploration, there’s fun for family members of all ages at the DISL Aquarium!


Whether as a student or an afternoon visitor, one thing’s for sure: you’ll gain a new appreciation for marine life after spending a day at Dauphin Island Sea Lab. Be sure to check it out and tag us @thebamabuzz when you visit!

Have you visited Dauphin Island Sea Lab? Tag us @thebamabuzz to let us know and be sure to follow for more!

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Liv George
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