Just days ago, there was much left to do to get Southampton High School's new state-of-the-art marine lab ready for its ribbon-cutting Friday. Dozens of water filters buzzed in the background as the students who helped build the lab filled up some of the more than 100 fish tanks, cleaned the glass on others and spruced up the lab.
"When we come back in 20 years, we can know we built it," said Victoria Wisner, as she and some of her classmates cleaned up the lab's greenhouse. "I wish now I was a sophomore."
She and seven fellow seniors -- Sanpwe Tarrant, Ashley Oliver, Malcolm Williams, Collin McNamara, Christian Sanchez, Travis Steidle and Vincent Gulli -- were primarily responsible for erecting the 2,600-square-foot lab in time, along with science teacher Greg Metzger, the lab's chief architect.
On Wednesday, Metzger dumped two white-spotted bamboo sharks into the "touch tank," a 1,200-gallon concrete open basin that will house students' local catches. It will eventually have water movement that mimics the tide's ebb and flow.
In the back of the lab is a 900-gallon glass enclosure that will house quite the opposite of local catch; live coral grown in an artificial climate designed to replicate an Indonesian island.
In the marine greenhouse, which holds two large open-water tanks, local eelgrass will grow, giving students a place to test the effect of brown tide algae on the species.
Among the lab's first projects has been hatching clown fish, one of the more colorful fish sold in pet stores.
"This experience in high school will allow them to walk into any hatchery" and get a job, Metzger said.
The construction of the lab, which began in earnest in the beginning of the school year, in the high school's new wing, was a small part of a $53.4 million bond approved by voters in 2007.
Metzger, who got his bachelor's in marine science at the former Southampton campus of Long Island University, said he was told by administrators to "design your dream classroom" for use with the marine science courses at the high school. So, he went to the Long Island Aquarium and Exhibition Center in Riverhead, East Hampton Shellfish Hatchery and the Southampton campus of Stony Brook University to get advice on building the perfect teaching science lab, he said.
Aquaculture, one of the courses, will focus on the breeding and raising of fish that will be sold to pet shops to help offset the costs of running the lab, such as food, pumps and other equipment. Metzger also hopes to breed Bangaii Cardinal fish and sea horses, as well as the coral, for sale.
Wisner and Oliver agree that working on the lab and studying marine life have given them a better appreciation of their unique East End environment.
"It's good to see the changes, from what it was to now," Oliver said of the lab.
Sanchez said he's not sure if he wants to work in marine environmental studies or criminal justice, but he knows that the lab project was invaluable. "It's a great story to tell, you know?"
Size: 2,600 square feet
More than 100, ranging from 15 gallons to 1,200 gallons
925-gallon coral reef display
Two 300-gallon tanks, one for freshwater fish and another for saltwater fish.