Dr. Sylvia Earle, (c) DJ Roller, Liquid Pictures

January 16, 2013


Yesterday, news that gives us hope for future ocean exploration was confirmed – Aquarius Reef Base off Key Largo has been saved! Through a great deal of work by a great number of dedicated people, the only underwater laboratory on earth has been funded for continued operation.  Aquarius is an invaluable tool to study the ocean environment allowing us to gather knowledge of our changing ocean and its inhabitants.

Fabien Cousteau (c) KipEvans
Fabien Cousteau (c) Kip Evans/Mission Blue

Last July, Dr. Sylvia Earle and a team of Aquanauts spent a week at Aquarius Reef Base during One World One Ocean’s Mission Aquarius focusing worldwide attention on the imminent loss of funding for the deep sea lab. Special guests Fabien Cousteau of Plant-a-Fish, Bob Weir of Nightline and Dan Orr of DAN joined One World One Ocean and the Mission Blue team to maximize exposure for the campaign. And now, 7 months later, it has all paid off, with FIU (Florida International University) stepping up to the plate with the needed funds.

Writing from inside the habitat one evening last summer, Dr. Earle said, “Gone too, would be a priceless living laboratory, the only place in the world where scientists, artists, poets and others can live underwater, using the ocean as a laboratory – an enduring muse.” ~ Ed.

DJ And Sylvia Shooting
DJ And Sylvia Shooting (c) Kip Evans/Mission Blue

From PR Newswire:

MIAMI, Jan. 15, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Florida International University has been awarded a grant to continue stewardship of the Aquarius Reef Base, the world’s only operational underwater research center.

As a member of the Cooperative Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Science CIMAS, FIU received a grant to continue maintenance and monitoring of the facility for NOAA in 2013. This will enable FIU to develop a new business model to fund operations at Aquarius. NOAA’s National Undersea Research Program, including Aquarius, was not included in the president’s fiscal 2013 proposal, however, NOAA recognizes that the Aquarius Reef Base is a unique and valuable asset to the scientific community. The new business model would include research and education activities supported by federal, state and local government funding, as well as fees for services from science and engineering teams from government and industry that use the facility. Donations from private benefactors also will be key to ensuring the future of Aquarius.

Sylvia Earle and Fabien Cousteau
Sylvia Earle and Fabien Cousteau (c) Kip Evans

“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 FIU’s School of Environment, Arts and Society (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.”

FIU biology professor Jim Fourqurean is the director of the Marine Education and Research Initiative for the Florida Keys in SEAS, and he will be overseeing activities at Aquarius Reef Base. The existing Aquarius team will become FIU employees.

“Rapid changes in the environment that supports the beauty and economy of South Florida make the observation post of Aquarius even more important,” said Fourqurean. “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.”

Dr. Earle returning from Mission Aquarius (c) Deb Castellana/Mission Blue

Aquarius provides unparalleled means to study coral reefs and the ocean, test state-of-the-art undersea technology, train specialized divers, and to engage the imagination of students and the public across the globe in ocean science, coral reefs, conservation, and underwater technology. The undersea lab even offers training opportunities for astronauts headed to space.

Original Source:  PR Newswire


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