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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Back Bay Science Center's purpose?

The Back Bay Science Center provides a state-of-the-art facility for education and research related to the ecology and conservation of the Back Bay.  The Center's mission is to provide a hands-on facility where students and the public can study and enjoy the estuarine ecology of NewportBay and the marine ecology of the Ocean, and promote natural resource conservation and stewardship throughout the watershed.

What is an Ecological Reserve?

The ecological reserve system, authorized by the California Legislature in 1968, is designed to conserve areas for the protection of rare plants, animals and habitats, and to provide areas for education and scientific research. With the acquisition and designation of Buena Vista Lagoon Ecological Reserve in 1968, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) began an ecological reserve system which now encompasses 119 properties totaling nearly 129,000 acres.

This system of reserves makes a significant contribution to the conservation of California's biological diversity by protecting important species populations and habitats, some found nowhere else in the world!

California's ecological reserves also provide educational and recreational opportunities for wildlife viewing, nature walking, and fishing in areas where these activities have no adverse effect on the wildlife and habitats. Welcome to California's ecological reserves!

What areas of the Ecological Reserve have boating restrictions?

Motorized boats are not allowed past the Newport Aquatic Center, unless it is the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), or someone who has received written permission from CDFW, such as the dredging project.  Non-motorized watercraft (eg.- canoes, kayaks, stand up paddle boards, crew boats, outriggers) can continue up the MAIN channel to the Boating Limit, which is clearly designated with a large buoy that reads NO ENTRY. Side channels and the Upper Bay past the NO ENTRY bouy, are closed to ALL watercraft to protect sensitive species and habitat.  Permission to access this area requires an official Access Letter from the Reserve Biologist at the CA Department of Fish & Wildlife. 


Who owns and operates the BBSC?

The BBSC is a partnership between the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the City of Newport Beach, the University of California Irvine, and the County of Orange Health Care Agency.  The Center is located on Shellmaker Island in Newport Beach, which is owned and managed by the California Department of Fish & Wildlife and is part of the Upper Newport Bay Ecological Reserve and as of January 1, 2012, Marine Conservation Area.

Do I need to make reservations to visit the Back Bay Science Center?

We are open (for FREE) to the public most Sunday's from 10:00am-2:00pm for our Community Days Program. Aside from Community Days, we are only open for program that have been booked in advance with our Education Program Coordinator.

What opportunities are available at the Back Bay Science Center?

There are a variety of programs offered to the general public at the BBSC, some are year round and some are seasonal. Marine Life Inventories are year round and take place one Saturday a month. School tours (7th- 12th grades) are organized through the Education Program Coordinator.

What is the difference between the Department of Fish & Game and the Department of Fish & Wildlife?

Effective January 1, 2013, the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) has changed their name to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW). Website and email addresses also took effect. This is not to be confused with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service which is a separate agency (federal, not state). 


If you have visited the Back Bay Science Center recently and would like to tell the public about your experience, please visit the Contact Us section to leave a review. 

Karen Truong says:

"If you ever have time, come on out and enjoy nature at Back Bay Science Center! Check out all the amazing marine life we have from the Newport Bay. As an intern I had the most thrilling experience and the staff are super nice! "

Annie MacAulay says:

"We LOVE the Back Bay Sci Center!!! Such a great educational place."

Robert Ellis says:

He liked the hands on field work, the enthusiastic staff, and thought that the content was great.  "I love the activites and they allow me to expand upon the monitoring aspects to make larger connections to the marine ecology of the bay."

Preston Galusky (Riverside City College) says:

"The hands on activities are so valuable and inspirational. The experience with handling, measuring, and observing the life of the bay is once in a lifetime for most students. Knowledgeable and enthusiastic volunteers are fantastic!!!"

Don Rutti (Pacific Academy) says:

"Once again it was an awesome MLI!  I love doing these because it fits so well into my curriculum and there is so much hands-on learning.  Furthermore, the students are involved in doing great work for the community and they are learning to be good stewards of their environment.  They won't forget these lessons because they taught by experience.  So thank you for the opportunity."

Ross Durand (Rancho Alamitos High School) says:

"The chance for my students to be hands-on in wildlife data collection is invaluable. The staff and volunteers are always friendly and knowledgeable."

Amelia Strickland (Orange High School) says:

"I really like the online lesson plans/info sheets ~ these really helped me to prep the kids this year."

Cristen Rasmussen (Costa Mesa High School) says:

"This program is excellent!"

Teri Osborne (Santiago High School) says:

"Provides hands on, real experiential support for what we talk about in AP environmental science."
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