In the summer of 2012, an announcement was made that Aquarius–a 400 square foot chamber located 63 feet below the ocean surface in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary–would lose its funding from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) starting in 2013, leaving the fate of the lab unknown.
Since 1993, Aquarius has supported 114 missions which produced over 550 peer-reviewed scientific publications, in addition to several TV and educational programs and many other popular science articles. The potential loss of such a valuable resource left many scientists and ocean advocates unhappy.
Thanks to the backlash from scientists and a campaign led by South Florida political leaders, NOAA awarded a $600,000 grant to FIU. The grant will allow FIU to continue monitoring and maintaining Aquarius Reef Base for NOAA in 2013. During this time, they will create a new business model to better fund Aquarius in the future. The new model will rely on other government agencies, as well as private groups and universities, explained Jim Fourqurean who will be overseeing activities at Aquarius Reef Base
“It gives us a unique vantage point to understand how changing climate, fishing pressure and threats from pollution and oil and gas exploration and production will impact our coastal environment,” said Fourqurean, biology professor and director of the Marine Education and Research Initiative for the Florida Keys in FIU’s School of Environment, Arts and Society (SEAS).
“Aquarius offers tremendous research opportunities, and we’re ensuring that the investment of American taxpayers continues to provide critical research results to the country,” said Mike Heithaus, executive director of SEAS. “For our students and our marine sciences program Aquarius offers fantastic new possibilities and is a natural fit for the work we are doing in the Keys and throughout the world.”
To learn more about Aquarius, check out some of these links:
- Research Team Spends Ten Days in Aquarius Underwater Lab to Study Coral Reefs
- FIU to operate Aquarius Reef Base
- FIU to take over underwater lab in Keys
- Sylvia Earle on the importance of the Aquarius laboratory (AAAS)
Copyright © 2013 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.