Florida Institute of Technology begins building new marine life research center

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By Danielle Lachance-Butler

The Florida Institute of Technology began building the $ 1.25 million Mertens Marine Center to strengthen the college’s aquatic education. The facility will provide undergraduates and graduates the opportunity to conduct research in ocean engineering, oceanography and environmental sciences directly in the Port of Melbourne.

The ideal study environment

According to Kevin Johnson, professor of oceanography and environmental sciences at FIT, the new research center is ideal for students because the center is directly on the water. The university, by comparison, is on Babcock, which isn’t as convenient for students who need first-hand experience of aquatic life. At the research center, Johnson says, students will be able to conduct studies in estuarine chemistry, estuary biology, and estuary ecology – the study of organisms in a semi-enclosed coastal water body.

The project is expected to be completed by the end of 2021, according to FIT spokesman Adam Lowenstein. However, the COVID-19 pandemic could potentially impact the construction schedule. Approximately 50% diseases, including COVID-19, spread through the air, especially respiratory droplets, and Florida is currently reporting 3.39 million cases of COVID-19. Still, the deadline for the new research space looks promising, and the center is expected to offer students more lab and classroom space.

The center will also provide data solutions to students and storage security, which is imperative in modern business. In the first half of 2019 alone, approximately 4 billion of records across the United States have been exposed to data breaches, researchers say, and cybercrime has increased exponentially since 2020. Strong cybersecurity measures Such as cybersecurity audits and Common Security Frameworks (CSF) can ensure the security of the new research center.

The Mertens Marine Center

Funding for the project was provided by Lawrence and Margarete Mertens, who donated $ 1 million to the school several years ago. Margarete, a scuba diver, and Lawrence, the college’s first marine biology instructor, are committed to providing the university with an aquatic education center for its future students. Margarete died in May 2018 at the age of 83 and Lawrence passed away in December 2017 at the age of 88.

Named Mertens Marine Center in honor of the couple, the research center will be located across from Chart House and will overlook Crane Creek on the college’s mooring property, which is approximately 3 acres in width. Currently, the anchorage is home to the Ralph S. Evinrude Marine Operations Center as well as the college’s research vessels and Indian River Lagoon boats.

According to Johnson, student research boats typically travel from Turkey Creek to Mosquito Lagoon as part of the Indian River Lagoon Research Institute. Students in the program study lagoon inputs, nutrient loads, dredging, etc. The new Mertens Marine Center will serve up to 50 graduate students and 140 undergraduates involved in the college’s environmental science, oceanography and ocean engineering programs.


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