NSU Marine Environmental Education Center (MEEC) is getting a new addition!
To help educate the public about the wonders, beauty and threats to Florida’s coastal water ecosystems, a new coral reef exhibit is being installed at the MEEC that features live native corals, fish, and invertebrates. This first tank is more than 300 gallons and should be up and running by early 2021. Two additional exhibit tanks are planned to focus on the critical importance of mangroves and sea grasses. This exhibit is joining “Captain,” the green sea turtle who is the permanent resident – and environmental ambassador – at NSU’s MEEC.
“This project fits right in with the mission of the MEEC,” said Derek Burkholder, Ph.D., research scientists and director of the center. “Educating the public about our marine environments is vital and by brining attention to the plight of our coral reefs, we’re adding a new dimension to our outreach efforts.”
Initial funding was spearheaded by the regional nonprofit organization, Friends of Our Florida Reefs (FOFR). Generous donors have already committed $7,500 to kick start a ‘challenge match’ campaign for the exhibit. By the end of 2020, FOFR hopes to contribute at least $15,000 depending upon additional public donations towards the budget for the living coral reef tank and detailed informational signage.
Gifts of any size may be donated directly to FOFR (via the website, Facebook page, or mail) for the match challenge. Donors contributing $100 or more for the MEEC reef tank match will be invited to submit names for established coral colonies living along the southeast Florida reefs, and donors contributing $250 or more will have the opportunity to submit names for a limited number of corals to be placed in the MEEC tank.
NSU’s MEEC will provide additional funding and expert maintenance, while also fundraising for the remaining two tanks to highlight local mangrove and seagrass communities.
“As with coral reefs around the Earth, Florida’s long-lived corals have come under considerable stress over the last 30 years,” said FOFR Co-founder Scott Sheckman. “It’s critical that we do all we can to increase public awareness and appreciation of these living treasures, and reduce many man-made stressors on what remains healthy and restorable.”
FOFR is the dedicated Citizen Support Organization for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) Coral Reef Conservation Program, which manages the northern section of Florida’s Coral Reef from the St. Lucie Inlet to the northern border of Biscayne National Park.
“Florida’s Coral Reef has been decimated by stony coral tissue loss disease, a serious outbreak that started in 2014,” said Melissa Sathe, FOFR’s President. “We are excited to partner with NSU which is on the forefront of disease research and reef restoration to bring awareness to our beautiful reefs.”
DEP also co-manages the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary with NOAA. DEP is working alongside NSU/MEEC to create the new displays for the first exhibit tank.