Hub’s oceanographic research initiatives for 2016 January 27, 2016

In 2016, our region’s thriving oceanographic research hub will be conducting groundbreaking research on coral reefs, genome sequencing, ocean acidification, sustainability, harnessing currents and much more.

The Florida Reef, which runs just off our coast from the Keys to Martin County, is the only coral barrier reef in the continental U.S. and the third-largest reef system in the world. The reef, which provides food and shelter to more than 6,000 species of fish, is a critical part of the marine ecosystem, and it is vital to our tourism and recreational boating industry.

MIASF has reached out to and is partnering with Florida Atlantic University’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, Nova Southeastern University’s Halmos College of Natural Sciences and Oceanography, University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and Florida International University’s Marine Science Program. Here is a look at some of the research each school is undertaking.

Nova Southeastern University

NSU’s Halmos College of Natural Sciences and Oceanography has several departments focusing on different areas. They include the National Coral Reef Institute for research and training on coral reef assessment, monitoring and restoration; the Guy Harvey Research Institute for fish research and conservation; and the Save Our Seas Shark Research Center specializing in providing scientific information to government and international NGOs to guide better management, conservation and recovery of sharks and rays globally.

Also, the Broward County Florida Sea Turtle Conservation Program at the college is dedicated to the conservation and improved understanding of endangered and threatened sea turtles by monitoring nests and creating public awareness.

The Save our Seas Shark Research Center combines high-tech genetics, genomics, and field work to gain a holistic understanding of the function, ecology, and conservation of sharks and rays. Its research projects include field research, forensic ecology, conservation and shark genomics.

Genomics projects include sequencing the entire white shark genome. This project is the first comprehensive examination of the entire genome of a true shark. The center also is sequencing extensive portions of the genomes from great hammerhead, shortfin mako and tiger sharks for a comparative study of their immune system genes with those of humans.

The goal is to understand the genetic basis responsible for the extremely efficient wound healing observed in sharks and rays.

NSU’s National Coral Reef Institute is focused on local coral reefs, which provide over $6 billion annually to the South Florida economy and over 71,000 jobs! Researchers at the NCRI are exploring scientifically sound approaches to understand, assess, monitor, restore and mitigate injured coral reefs. This will provide information and research products designed to help understand, manage and conserve these invaluable assets.

The Guy Harvey Research Institute provides the scientific information necessary to understand, conserve, and effectively manage the world’s marine fishes and their ecosystems.

NSU’s Coral Nursery Initiative is fostering re-growth and increased abundance of the threatened staghorn coral species. It is devoted to understanding the species ecology, improving coral conservation methods, and promoting coral reef restoration and species recovery.

The college also conducts oil spill research with experiments involving the break-up of oil spill by dispersants and has been conducting field sampling to analyze damage caused by Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Other areas of research at Nova include physical oceanography, larval ecology, conservation biology and genomics, coral reef restoration, assessment and monitoring, deep sea biology, fisheries science, lionfish, microbiology and genetics, remote sensing and GIS laboratory and evolutionary and reproductive ecology.

Florida Atlantic University

Following are some of the initiatives that researchers further up the coast at FAU’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute are pursuing in 2016:

  • Establishing a water quality monitoring network in the Indian River Lagoon to help measure, study, and bring public attention to the environmental health of the middle-third of Florida’s Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway
  • Studying the water exchange between the Indian River Lagoon and the ocean via the inlets to help understand how tidal flows influence the environmental health of the Lagoon
  • Investigating the causes of harmful algal blooms in the Indian River Lagoon and Florida Keys that kill coral reefs and threaten fish populations
  • Researching how land-based water-management decisions affect the health of near-shore coral reefs and the fish populations they support
  • Studying disease in dolphins in the Indian River Lagoon to shed light on water conditions that may prove damaging to human health as well as to fish and other life
  • Collecting sponges and other organisms from deep-sea coral reefs and analyzing them as a means of discovering new treatments for cancer and other diseases
  • Documenting grouper and other populations in Marine Protected Areas along the Atlantic continental shelf and in the Gulf of Mexico to aid fisheries management efforts
  • Developing a system that uses an unmanned vehicle and underwater microphones to reveal in real time where fish spawning aggregations occur
  • Pairing underwater laser systems with remotely operated and unmanned vehicles to see further and more clearly than is possible with cameras
  • Developing ways to farm seafood on land with maximum efficiency and minimum waste to support the U.S. aquaculture industry and ease reliance on imported farmed seafood

Florida International University

Florida International University’s Marine Sciences Program is committed to enhancing our understanding and stewardship of the world’s oceans, especially coastal ecosystems.

The school’s research primarily takes place at two research labs – the Acoustics and Fisheries Ecology Lab and Marine Macroalgae Research Laboratory.

FIU also is home to the Medina Aquarius Program, which is dedicated to the study and preservation of marine ecosystems worldwide. At the heart of the program is the one-of-a-kind Aquarius Reef Base, the world’s only undersea research laboratory.

Deployed 60 feet beneath the surface in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, Aquarius is a globally significant asset that provides unparalleled means to study the ocean, test and develop state-of-the-art undersea technology, train specialized divers and astronauts, and engage the world’s imagination. At Aquarius, scientists are at the cutting edge of research on coral reefs, ocean acidification, climate change, fisheries and the overall health of the oceans.

Other areas of research at FIU include the survival of coral reefs, marine ecosystems, the effect of oil spills on deep reef fish communities, Everglades restoration and surveying shark populations, which recently received funding from Paul Allen. Read more at

University of Miami

University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science is divided into five research departments that focus on projects involving atmospheric sciences, marine biology and ecology, marine ecosystems and society, marine geosciences and ocean sciences.

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