BALD HEAD ISLAND, N.C. -- A unique research and education center has opened on the coast of North Carolina
Monday was the grand opening of the Barrier Island Study Center on Bald Head Island.
The Bald Head Island Conservancy realized the need for this facility in 1999.
"They needed answers to questions like how many deer should be on the island, how do we protect our forest, what do we do about erosion on our beaches?" said Dr. Suzanne Dorsey, Executive Director of the Bald Head Island Conservancy.
Now 13 years and $2.4 million later those issues can be studied on the island.
The 5,000 square foot facility is the first in the nation to be completely funded by donations from community members.
"We feel that we are giving something to the generations to come," said Dick Johnston, a donor.
They are hoping to attract generations of college students and visitors. The building is equipped with two research labs, a touch tank, media center, public library and office space.
"We would normally have to rent hotel rooms, bring trailers down so to have this right here so we can access the beach and bring specimens back, that's cost savings but in terms of logistics it's marvelous to have a facility right here," explained William Smith, Wake Forest University professor.
Dorsey said all the work and research done on barrier islands affects all coastal communities.
"This is a barrier island community and it buffers the mainland from the impacts of major storms, so when you have a healthy barrier island system then your mainland infrastructure will be protected," said Dorsey.
She added that 85 percent of the East and Gulf coasts and 15 percent of coastlines around the world are protect by barrier islands, so they hope this facility leads to solutions that can be used globally.
The center was built with sustainability and the environment in mind.
The conservancy said, the building is on track to get the highest certification for its "green" technology.