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Shoreside & Ship, Facilities and Amenities

Research Vessel Robert G. Brownlee

The Brownlee is a remarkable ship. Like no other, it was specifically designed for the unique conditions of the San Francisco Bay and for the educational needs of the young scientists who explore the Bay. The vessel was put into service in 1998 and has the learning space to accommodate up to 70 students. Onboard, students use a variety of research equipment to explore Bay life. By sailing to ports in San Francisco, Richmond, Rio Vista, and Antioch, we bring science to the students’ nearby waterways thus reducing school transportation costs and travel time. Children must be a minimum of 5 years old to board.


The ship’s original engines were built to last 30,000 hours but through vigilance and a lot of “coaxing,” they served us for more than 100,000 working hours. As a result of our large ship renovation project In January, 2013, the Brownlee now runs on the cleanest and most fuel-efficient marine diesel engines available today. By upgrading to new eco-friendly engines, we achieved a 17% reduction in nitrogen oxide emissions, a 50% reduction in particulate matter emissions, and an 80% reduction in hydrocarbon emissions.


With the new engines and other needed improvements, we have increased fuel efficiency by more than 34%. Each 4-hour voyage now uses only 23 gallons of fuel compared to 35 gallons previously used.

Shoreside Facilities

Marine Science Institute is located in Redwood City, CA on the shore of the San Francisco Bay. Our beach is open to the public, and is a beautiful place to picnic, play, and launch small watercraft. Our other facilities are used for school, public, and private programs--please make an appointment for a tour.


Discovery Lab

A central feature of our shore side facilities, this aquarium is the home base for our operations. The 2,000 square-foot aquarium is the temporary home for live marine animals from the nearby Pacific Ocean and the San Francisco Bay. These animal ambassadors teach thousands of students every year both at our facilities, and in classrooms by travelling in our Mobile Aquarium. Providing a healthy and safe environment for the animals in our 2,600 gallon Bay System and 1,800 gallon Ocean System is crucial to our work, and allows a window to the underwater world for visiting students.


Discovery Classroom and Dock

Students use scientific methods and tools to study science in our Discovery Classroom and Dock, where touch-tanks and equipment provide an opportunity to safely come into contact with live marine animals and participate in hands-on exploration. 


Marine Science Center

This unique 2800 square foot interpretive center accommodates large groups, and provides an enriching learning environment. The impressive exhibits include a 40-foot grey whale skeleton and life-size model of an orca, as well as many artifacts used in our hands-on educational programs. The Center's Plankton Lab provides an opportunity for students to delve into science using microscopes and viewing screens that bring life at all scales into focus. 



Overlooking the bay where we can view marshland, wildlife, and passing ships we have a beautiful partially-shaded amphitheater. This space hosts classes, camps, and private groups and is a perfect place to come together to learn, picnic, or play.


Fort and Annex

Shaded areas adjoin our aquarium and MSC to provide additional learning spaces. The fort and annex are both enriched with large scale, marine-themed decorations. These interpretive enhancements include a life-sized model of a megalodon jaw and murals depicting several different marine habitats such as coral reefs and the deep sea.

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