Tucson is a long way from the sandy shores of the California coast, but a new exhibit at Flandrau Science Center and Planetarium is offering a look at what lies beneath the ocean waves, right here in the middle of the desert.

Situated in the recently renovated basement of Flandrau on the University of Arizona campus, Undersea Discovery is an interactive feast for the senses. A life-size octopus figure greets visitors upon entry. Its accompanied by a 25-foot squid, reminiscent of the monster squid that haunted the Nautilus in “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.”

Theres a touch tank and saltwater aquariums with 30 fish species of every color. Hands-on activities for kids include, a microscope projection station, an ocean rescue game and a midnight zone, meant to simulate the darkest depths of the open seas.

Part of it is just trying to meet the different learning styles that there are, said Nick Letson, a spokesman with Flandrau. Some people are happy to read content on graphics and learn that way. Other people like to learn through touch. It is another way of engaging kids in science.

Letson said the idea for Undersea Discovery emerged from Flandraus regular Marine Discovery program, a collaboration between Flandrau and the aquatic and marine biology departments on campus.

They were bringing cool things to the table in terms of specimens to show kids, Letson said. We thought, Wouldnt it be cool to have an exhibit to enhance that program?

Letson said they thought such an exhibit would fill a need.

It would reach kids that were interested in the ocean, but didnt have the means to make it out to California, Letson said.

Undersea Discovery is the latest permanent exhibit to be constructed at Flandrau, following the launch of its Wild World of Bugs exhibit in 2021.

Like Undersea, Wild World of Bugs is packed with interactive activities and large-scale models. Letson said these types of exhibits are part of Flandraus evolution.

We have been putting more funds and attention into the look, feel and the lighting, Letson said. People like to take pictures with the things in these exhibits. We are more than happy to provide that and an educational experience at the same time.

Flandrau is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays-Sundays at 1601 E. University Blvd. Visit https://flandrau.org/ for more information.