Credit: Connor Frost | Mustang News

Cal Poly Pier hosted its annual open house Saturday at Avila Beach. 

The pier, located on Avila Beach Drive west of the San Luis Creek Bridge, stretches out a half-mile into the Pacific Ocean. The open house showcased research on marine life that professors and students are working on. 

The pier is only used by faculty and students for research. It is not usually open to the public. Open house is the only opportunity where locals can access and learn about marine life there. Moylan said he believes the open house is important in connecting the community with Cal Poly. 

Cal Poly Pier Marine Operations Manager Tom Moylan has worked at the pier for 17 years and said the open house is a popular event. 

“When we first started out on our first year, we had 300 people come and we were just ecstatic,” Moylan said. 

Now, the open house receives up to 1,500 visitors each year. 

This year’s open house featured more than 20 different multidisciplinary presentations with projects and research from biological sciences to computer science students. 

During the grand opening of the new pier, guests could explore ongoing research into local marine life, including projects aimed at protecting Morro Bay’s ecosystem, sustaining local fisheries, and mapping ocean currents off the Central Coast. Connor Frost | Mustang News

Biological sciences professor Nikki Adams teaches Communicating Ocean Sciences to Informal Audiences (MSCI 440). This quarter, 19 students in her class organized presentations and developed six new activities to present at open house. The class teaches students how to improve ocean literacy through public engagement.

Biological sciences professor Alexis Pasulka and a team of students in her lab gave families the opporunity to see marine microorganisms, such as phytoplankton, underneath a microscope. Pasulka said the event was a good opportunity to share and teach community members what they have been researching.

Visitors could also take a personality quiz that matches a phytoplankton to their personality.

“One of the questions is about spending time alone or with others,” Pasulka said. “There are phytoplankton that are solitary or in groups.”

There were also touch tables containing live marine animals for children to observe and touch. 

A “Discovery SCUBA” exhibit also let children wear a scuba regulator and place their face in a tank to see what it would be like to scuba dive. Moylan said this is an extremely popular exhibit and has been around for a long time. 

“Sometimes we have to hold the kids by their legs because they just want to dive right in,” Moylan said. “We try to make it fun and educational and approachable.”

Cal Poly Pier Diving Safety Officer Jason Felton runs the scientific diving program at the pier. Felton, biological sciences professor Crow White and computer engineering director Lynne Slivovsky presented their project, “Dive Beneath the Surface” at the open house.

A scuba diver dove underneath the surface with a high definition camera connected to a monitor inside a classroom. Open house attendees asked questions and directly communicated with the diver.

“What we keep hearing from people is how much they enjoy hearing back from our students and how much they love to learn,” Moylan said.

The goal of the Cal Poly Pier is to pursue education and research with marine life in the central coast, according to Felton. There is the opportunity to fundraise with open house, but the main goal is to connect residents to Cal Poly students.

“We are bringing along the interest of the next generation of marine scientists,” Felton said.

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