Heal the Bay officials say a $100,000 grant from the S. Mark Taper Foundation has enabled the Santa Monica-based environmental organization to open an interactive and educational microscope lab at the Heal the Bay Santa Monica Pier Aquarium.

“During a time when school funding is being cut back, the S. Mark Taper Foundation grant has provided Heal the Bay with an amazing opportunity to offer vital scientific education to school groups and the general public,” said Heal the Bay executive director Mark Gold.

“The Santa Monica Pier Aquarium now has an entire area full of high-tech microscopes, computers, and flat panel viewing screens to educate and inspire Southern Californians,” he added.

A new S. Mark Taper Foundation Science Lab will teach students and other aquarium visitors about microscopic organisms, which are considered to be the cornerstone of ocean environments.

Time and materials have also been donated by HO+K Interiors.

The lab will now accommodate up to 15 students and an educator during education field trips to the aquarium. Heal the Bay equipped the lab with learning materials for students in fifth grade through college.

Students can collect and study microorganisms from Santa Monica Bay, practice scientific methodology, and discuss issues such as urban runoff and pollution prevention.

The lab will also be available to the public during visiting hours.

Aquarium staff will use the microscopes to show visitors aspects of marine life not visible with the naked eye.

A large television screen will be used for slide shows and to show documentary films on environmental issues and other marine themes.

The Santa Monica Pier Aquarium is on the beach level of the Santa Monica Pier and is open to the public Tuesday through Friday from 2 to 6 p.m. and on weekends from 12:30 to 6 p.m.

Reservations are required for school groups interested in attending an education program. Information, (310) 393-6149, ext. 105.

Heal the Bay has managed the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium since 2003.