After the donor-funded renovations, the center reopened to students in July for two programs despite the lack of air conditioning in the facility. A new air conditioning system has since been installed. The only component that still needs funding is the replacement of the classroom chairs, which the Ward Melville Heritage Organization estimates will cost $3,500.
The Marine Conservation Center is named for marine educator and scientist Dr. Erwin J. Ernst, who persuaded Three Village's well-known philanthropist Ward Melville to purchase land in the area so as to prevent development, according to a Ward Melville Heritage Organization history.
Ernst's widow, Laura Huang Ernst, who is also a WMHO trustee, thanked the donors for their support. "The enthusiasm shown by the donors recognizes their support for these programs that have had a major impact on students all across the country," she said in a statement. "We’re looking forward to teaching children about marine life for many years to come.”