The Dauphin Island Sea Lab (DISL) began as a laboratory of the Seafood Division of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources The first lab was a small green building on pilings in Heron Bay. It was there that Drs. Everett Bishop and Ralph Chermock first began exposing students from the University of Alabama (UA) to the gulf’s remarkable resources in 1960. Their efforts caught the attention of the Director of the University of Alabama Extension campus in Mobile, Dr. Fred Whiddon. The work eventually led the University of Alabama to issue a bond in 1963 that resulted in the construction of a modern marine laboratory on Dauphin Island.
1971 MESC created. Dr. C. Everett Brett named first director.
1971 Point aux Pines destroyed by electrical fire during Christmas break
1972 MESC acquires former U.S. Air Force Radar Base on east end of Dauphin Island. Facility named the Dauphin Island Sea Lab.
1972 Dr. Bob Shipp named Acting Director
1975 Discovery Hall initiated by Tommy Walker and Fred Rees with the support of Dr. George Crozier petitioning the Board of Directors to approve interaction with local high schools.
1977 Dr. George Crozier named Executive Director
1979 Hurricane Frederic cut Dauphin Island off from the mainland. Access was by ferry or the DISL's boats until the new bridge was complete in 1982. Insurance and hurricane relief provided much needed funding for improvements.
1980 DISL Summer Session held at Spring Hill College in Mobile
1986 Dr. Ken Heck hired from the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia as Research Coordinator with a mission to provide the foundation of a research program that was less dependent on member universities.
1998 The Estuarium opens to the public to highlight the four key habitats of the area: the Mobile-Tensaw Delta, Mobile Bay, the Barrier Islands, and the Gulf of Mexico.
2006 Second story addition added to Marine Science Hall. New addition named Wiese Hall in honor of a long time supporter of the Marine Science Program at the University of South Alabama.
2009 Shelby Center and Mesocosm opened
2010 DISL acquires Research Vessel Alabama Discovery to replace the A.E. Verrill
2013 Estuarium opens Rays of the Bay tank on the outside deck.
2015 Marine Mammal Research Center opened. Focuses on data collection and research of marine mammals including manatees, dolphins, and whales.
2017 Estuarium opens new exhibit hall, Windows to the Sea. The technology-focused area includes a 500 gallon tank, interactive video wall, Sounds of the Sea, and educator created games.