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Nova Southeastern University Wins Federal Grant to Build Coral Reef Research Center

Nova Southeastern University on Friday received $15 million in federal stimulus money to build America’s largest coral reef research center.

The 86,000-square-foot Center of Excellence for Coral Reef Ecosystems Science Research Facility will house local, national and international coral reef research. The facility will be located at NSU’s Oceanographic Center at John U. Lloyd Beach State Park in Dania Beach.

At a price-tag of roughly $30 million, the center is expected to create 22 new academic jobs and 300 construction jobs; employ 50 graduate students; and preserve 22 existing academic jobs.

“I am thrilled that Nova Southeastern University has this opportunity to continue its leadership role in Florida’s science and research economy. This type of research infrastructure is urgently needed to support economic growth and environmental sustainability in our region. It builds on NSU’s multi-disciplinary research mission and will provide an anchor for the creation of hundreds of new jobs in addition to the direct academic, research and construction jobs it will provide.“ said Ray Ferrero, Jr., Chancellor of NSU.

The award was one of 12 announced today by the National Institute of Standards and Technology as a result of a nationwide competition made available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding passed by Congress last year. The NSU grant was one of two to receive the largest amount awarded at $15 million. Other grantees included the Woods Hole Oceanographic Center, Columbia University, and other highly respected national research institutions.

The new center will be the only research facility in the nation dedicated to coral reef ecosystem research.

Richard Dodge, Ph.D. dean of NSU’s Oceanographic Center and Director of the National Coral Reef Institute (NCRI) said this represents recognition of the tremendous value of coral reefs to the nations and also the considerable threats and stressors that are now impinging upon them. The new Center of Excellence in Coral Reef ecosystem science aims to find management and conservation solutions to these pressing issues.

As one of NOAA’s external institute partners, NCRI has long supported NOAA’s mission by providing outstanding scientific research to support federal, state and local managers in addressing local solutions to the global crisis. The contributions of NCRI and the other coral reef institutes was also recognized by Congress in the FY 2010 appropriations bill.

The Center of Excellence for Coral Reef Ecosystems and Science will be the only dedicated research facility in the U.S. to focus on coral reefs and tropical ecosystems.

The new center fits perfectly within NOAA’s mission and provides both urgently need physical facilities and expanded scientific capacity to supporting NOAA’s mission both regionally and nationally, and we are thrilled to have this recognition in order to continue our role.

The location is ideal as a NOAA study recognizes that 84 percent of the nations reefs are located in Florida. These are incredibly valuable resources both in terms of economic impact and ecological diversity. Roughly 25 percent of the oceans fish species emanate from coral reef habitats, Dodge said.

The South Florida Congressional Delegation led by Reps. Ron Klein and Debbie Wasserman Schultz worked hard to help secure this funding and we owe them a debt of gratitude, Dodge said. This is an incredible recognition of the urgency of the problem, he said, and the importance of coral reef ecosystems and the jobs they support.

In addition, Senators Nelson and Lemieux worked together to support the application. Citing compelling new evidence of widespread mounting threats to coral reefs in U.S. waters, the Congressional delegation united in support of the application, called it absolutely critical that Congress and the Obama administration continue their bipartisan efforts to invest in coral reef research and institutional infrastructure.

In addition to Wasserman-Schultz and Klein, House signatories to the a letter requesting funds for the center included Rep. Hastings, Rep. Ros-Lehtinen, Rep. Meek, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart and Rep. Wexler.

Operated by the National Coral Reef Institute at NSU, the center will help protect coral reef ecosystems, which contribute over $6 billion and 71,000 jobs annually to South Florida alone. The center will protect and expand jobs in Florida that depend on healthy reef systems.

NSU is planning to contribute 50 percent of the center’s construction cost. The university received $15 million from the federal stimulus package to fund the other portion.

The Center of Excellence for Coral Reef Ecosystems Science Research Facility, a multi-disciplinary center will address national and international priorities in coral reef research in five areas: 1) Impacts of global and local stressors; 2) Geospatial analysis and mapping; 3) Deep sea coral reefs and biodiversity; 4) Genetic and genomic connectivity; and 5) Hydrodynamics.

The center will have space for offices, laboratories, collaboration, research training and fieldwork staging. It’s designed to promote research by current and new faculty, researchers, visiting scientists, post-doctoral fellows and graduate students.

Coral reef ecosystems throughout the world are extremely valuable biologically, environmentally and economically. Florida coral reefs represent the majority of all coral reefs in the U.S. These living creatures have been in existence for over 215 million years.

They provide employment, food, recreation and coastal protection. Millions of tourists and residents enjoy SCUBA diving, snorkeling and fishing on coral reefs --- activities that provide a major source of income for the Sunshine State and its coastal communities.

Sadly, about 20 percent of the world’s coral reefs are lost, and another 50 percent are in danger of imminent and irreparable degradation. NSU’s Center of Excellence for Coral Reef Ecosystems Science Research Facility aims to reverse this trend and preserve coral reefs for future generations to enjoy.


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