Location and Facilities

The Dauphin Island Sea Lab is located on the eastern end of Dauphin Island, a 17-mile long barrier island approximately three miles from the mainland and thirty-five miles south of Mobile, Alabama. It is surrounded by Mobile Bay, Mississippi Sound and the Gulf of Mexico. The 35-acre campus is bordered by Mobile Bay to the north and the Gulf of Mexico to the south and is a five-minute walk from the Mobile Bay Ferry and Historic Fort Gaines. The campus is a no smoking, no weapons, no pets campus.

Instructional & Research Facilities

Campus-wide, instructional and research facilities include seven lecture/lab classrooms, three seminar rooms including two with web conferencing capabilities, a library, two computer centers; a culture lab, a wet lab, a flow-through mesocosm, a marine mammal necropsy center, and oyster hatcheries (operated by Auburn University).

There are four research buildings that contain offices and labs for faculty and students: the Shelby Center for Ecosystem-based Fisheries Management, the Peter Wiese Marine Science Center and the Marine Science Research Building, and the Marine Mammal Research building.

The Marine Science Research building houses a marine chemical instrumentation facility that operates as a technical support lab with equipment measuring dissolved nutrients, total carbon and nitrogen in plant, animal or sediment materials, C12 and C13, dissolved inorganic and organic carbons, total nitrogen in liquids, chlorophyll fluorescence, metals, and some non-metals traces.

Marine Science Hall recently expanded the marine chemical instrumentation space. Pictured is the Skalar San ++ autoanalyzer for dissolved nutrient analysis.

Technical support services are available to assist in dive support, as well as designing and adapting field equipment needed in support of research projects.

The Shelby Center for Ecosystem-based Fisheries Management, a LEED-certified facility, is home to the marine fisheries labs, a 200 person atrium and web-enabled seminar room, a conference room, and administrative offices. Need to host an event or workshop? The Shelby Center Atrium and Auditorium are available for public use. Learn more about booking an event by clicking here.

The mesocosm houses four 2,000 gallon tanks and ten 800 gallon tanks with flow-through capabilities. The tanks are large enough to include elements of field realism but small enough that some factors can be controlled.

Research Vessels

The Dauphin Island Sea Lab maintains two research vessels, the R/V E.O. Wilson and the R/V Alabama Discovery.  


The R/V E.O. Wilson is a 46-foot Fiberglass vessel made by Newton industries.  It is powered by twin John Deere marine engines with a cruising speed of 16 knots.  It has the capacity to carry up to 20 people.  As a research vessel, it comes equipped with 500 llb rated davit, a winch with the capabilities of pulling a 20-foot net, and the capacity to do long-line and vertical line research and instrument deployment. The vessel is equipped with state-of-the-art VHF, Fathometers, and GPS instrumentation.




The R/V Alabama Discovery is a 65-foot x 23-foot wooden vessel covered in fiberglass built by Chesapeake Boat Works in Maryland.  The vessel has twin 650hp Cummins engines and can cruise at 15 knots.  It can carry a class of 38 students for its educational mission.  For research cruises, the vessel has a 500lb side davit, a large winch with the capabilities of pulling a 45-foot net, and full instrumentation package. 



In addition to the Wilson and the Alabama Discovery, the Dauphin Island Sea Lab maintains several small (14 to 30 feet) outboard boats and skiffs.

Student Housing

Challenger & Beagle Dorms

The main dorm buildings on the Dauphin Island Sea Lab campus are used year-round, both for field trip groups as well as summer programs. Each dormitory can house up to 86 people in 43 rooms, each containing 2 twin beds, a dresser, desk, closet space, and a single-unit air-conditioner. A common area with a tv and DVD player is available for groups staying on the first floor, as well as vending machines on the first floor. There are two handicap-accessible, community-style restrooms on each floor. 


May's Cafe

The newly renovated May's Cafe, named in honor of long-time DISL employee May Tillman, sports a fresh salad bar, home cooked breakfast, lunch and dinners, and cheerful staff. 

May's Cafe

Alabama Aquarium at DISL

The Alabama Aquarium at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab formerly named the Estuarium is the campus' educational public aquarium. The visual and engaging interactive exhibits highlight the four key habitats of coastal Alabama: the Mobile Tensaw River Delta, Mobile Bay, the Barrier Islands, and the Northern Gulf of Mexico. It includes the 10,000 square foot Exhibit Hall, a 7,000-gallon stingray touch pool, and a Marsh Boardwalk. Get up close with more than 100 species on display in the 31 aquariums. The exhibits showcase the plants, animals, and other natural resources found in the Estuary and its surrounding marine habitats. A visit to the Alabama Aquarium leaves you with a broader understanding of the interactions that take place in Mobile Bay, the fourth largest estuary system in the United States.

Looking for a unique setting for your special event? The Alabama Aquarium can be exclusively yours after hours for an opportunity to dance and dine under the sea. You can also create a "fin-tastic" birthday celebration. Learn more by clicking here.

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