After being in the same location since 1997 on Shady Lea Road in North Kingstown, owner Mark Hall is moving his much-loved Marine Biology Center to Post Road. Biomes is not your typical learning center. The focus here is on an experience-driven visit; one where you leave feeling like you have learned something, and now feel connected to these animals and the environments in which they live. “Rather than preach about conservation and environmentalism, I want to give people a firsthand experience of the species that live here,” Mark says. Additionally, he houses the largest collection of New England marine life biodiversity in the world, meaning that he has the greatest number of species under one roof.
One of his signature programs includes a shark-petting tank that he pioneered – kids can safely reach into the tank and pet dogfish and catsharks. Another is the fiddler crab habitat exhibit, containing 50 fiddler crab; it's a great way to understand the environment in which these crabs live. “The emphasis is on an experience, not a lecture,” Mark says.
Another great experience is the feeding demonstrations; they feed an octopus, which has been trained to unscrew a jar to get the food inside, sharks, a tortoise and a lionfish. The lionfish is a great tool to teach folks about invasive species. Invasive species are usually accidentally introduced into a foreign environment where they wreak havoc and dominate because they have no competition for resources. The lionfish are from Australia, were accidentally introduced to Florida and are now wiping out reefs in the Caribbean.
His main focus has always been to give schools his full attention. The center holds private tours during the day for school groups but is open in the afternoon to the general public. While Mark is getting his point across without preaching, he is also branching out and using his center for other purposes. While he continues his Boy Scouts sleepovers, where the movie night program will focus on nocturnal animals, he will host Friday date nights and Saturday singles nights. His inspiration for this came from his glass repairer who met his now-wife at Biomes. “Biomes is a great place for couples with kids to meet up with other couples with kids,” he says. Regardless of why you go to Biomes, you will leave feeling that you have experienced something new and are now a little more connected to Li’l Rhody; we are the Ocean State after all.