Aquarius Reef Base Will Continue Delivering Underwater Insights
The Aquarius Reef Base, an underwater classroom and research hub operating 60-feet below sea level, has been salvaged by Florida International University (FIU).
Previously managed by University of North Carolina, Wilmington, the Aquarius, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) facility located in the waters off of Key Largo, Florida, will now continue to house multi-day underwater missions and will additionally serve as a way for professors to broadcast talks from the underwater lab to students on dry land. FIU, located in Miami, Florida, took on Aquarius responsibilities in January 2013 and will be using the facility to expand their current research activities and course offerings, as well as their community outreach programs in the Florida Keys.
NOAA has signed off on providing FIU with $600,000 to keep the Aquarius running through March 2013. These funds will be delivered through the Cooperative Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Studies. After March, FIU will be looking for new funding from both private and government sources to keep the Aquarius running. In the past, both NASA and the Navy have used the Base and although President Obama’s FY 2013 budget proposal did not include funding for the Aquarius, South Florida House Republicans, led by Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (Fla.-27), were able to secure funding.
2013 marks the 20th year since the facility was put in place and began collecting comprehensive data on the underwater reef. Missions at the Base in 2012 included a study of sponges on Florida coral reefs, a NASA space simulation and training, and a coral reef study that also yielded 3D footage of the underwater world for educational and outreach purposes. The Base has hosted over 120 missions since its inception.