July 2021

According to a new study by Florida Atlantic University’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, that depends on very specific environmental conditions and the type of toxin on the water surface of Florida’s Indian River Lagoon. FAU scientists in collaboration with the St. Johns River Water Management District collected surface water samples during the 2018 wet and 2019 dry seasons. Results of the study, published in the journal Harmful Algaeshowed that concentrations of Microcystis aeruginosa, harmful algal bloomsand saxitoxin, a neurotoxinwere both generally higher during the wet season. Microcystins were present only under specific environmental conditions... Read More

FAU Harbor Branch received a $100,000 award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to create the “Keep the Sea Free of Debris” Junior Ambassador Program. The program aims to teach children in underserved communities about the effects of litter and marine debris and empower them to be advocates for the ocean and inspire environmental stewardship. FAU Harbor Branch is partnering with the Boys & Girls Clubs of St. Lucie County and the St. Lucie County Solid Waste Division to provide this transformative summer experience for middle and high school children... Read More
A Land-based Sponge Nursery to Restore Habitats and Improve Water Quality in Florida Bay

Andia Chaves Fonnegra, Ph.D., an assistant professor of biology in the Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College and Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute at Florida Atlantic University, and Shirley Pomponi, Ph.D., a research professor at FAU Harbor Branch received a grant from U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to develop a land-based sponge nursery in the aquaculture park at FAU Harbor Branch. Researchers will grow 12 species of sponges (Phylum Porifera) from larvae, buds, and 3-D sponge cell aggregates. This project will lead to the selection and optimization of more resilient genotypes, add genetic variability, and increase species diversity to restore wild populations and improve water quality in Florida Bay.
Research Spotlight

Using a numerical model that simulates ocean currents, researchers from Florida Atlantic University’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute and collaborators have conducted a first-of-its-kind study identifying the mechanisms behind the formation of sub-mesoscale eddies (circular currents of water with a whirlpool motion that moves nutrients to the water’s surface) in the Straits of Florida, which have important environmental implications. The study was published in the Journal of Physical Oceanography... Read More

The FAU Harbor Branch Coral Reef Health & Molecular Ecology Lab is part of the coral reef restoration team that successfully outplanted 1,152 coral colonies along Florida’s Coral Reef. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) announced this is the largest coordinated experimental outplanting effort in Florida to date. FAU Harbor Branch is leading the restoration and research efforts in Martin and Palm Beach Counties... Read More

The status of U.S. marine finfish species for aquaculture is the focus of a special issue of the Journal of the World Aquaculture Society (JWAS). Based on a scoping workshop conducted at Florida Atlantic University's Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, which resulted in a subsequent stakeholder survey, 18 different marine finfish species were identified as first-tier candidates to explore for increasing attention toward the expansion of U.S. marine finfish aquaculture. These articles provide an in-depth look at these species and offer a road map for researchers, industry members, funding agencies, investors, and other stakeholders to assist with prioritizing opportunities for advancing their commercialization... Read More
Student Spotlight

Megan Conkling, a second-year FAU Harbor Branch Ph.D. student is the recipient of the Women Divers Hall of Fame Simone Melchior Cousteau $5,000 Research Grant.  The competitive grant sponsored by Scotch and Soda is awarded to women conducting research on the sustainability of marine or freshwater species or communities impacted by climate change. Megan's research focuses on the sustainability of coral reef ecosystems. Megan will develop quantitative methods to validate benthic habitat maps; determine if Florida reef sponges can sustain changing environmental conditions related to climate change, and use novel modelling approaches to predict population distributions of corals, sponges, and algae.

A study led by FAU Harbor Branch Coral Reef Health and Ecology Lab graduate student Lexie Sturm investigating the connectivity and health of shallow and mesophotic coral reefs across the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary was published in the journal Coral Reefs. The study titled, "Population genetic structure of the broadcast spawning coral, Montastraea cavernosa, demonstrates refugia potential of upper mesophotic populations in the Florida Keys,” is part of the journal’s upcoming special issue on Coral reef biodiversity and history: Insights from molecular phylogenetics, biogeography and population genetics. This publication is the second led by Sturm under the direction of Joshua Voss, Ph.D., senior author, and associate research professor at FAU Harbor Branch and executive director of the NOAA Cooperative Institute for Ocean Exploration, Research, and Technology at FAU Harbor Branch... Read More

Semester by Sea will sail again in the spring. The program was put on hold due to COVID but the program is getting new life thanks to a three-year commitment from the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute Foundation (HBOIF). For nearly 20 years, FAU’s Semester by the Sea program at Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute (HBOI) instilled a passion for ocean science in more than 400 undergraduate students. By getting out of the classroom and into the field, where they could experience diverse marine life firsthand, program alumni have gone on to graduate programs and professional careers in the field of marine science — paths made possible by Semester by Sea.
Mission: Ocean Discovery

Don’t miss the last lecture of The John & Barbra Ferrera Ocean Science Lecture Series – Spring Series. If you have not already registered, you can do so below. All lectures are free and open to the public; For more information, visit here.
Gabby Barbarite, Ph.D., FAU Harbor Branch
Wednesday, July 14 at 4 p.m.

A major focus of aquaculture research at FAU Harbor Branch has been the development of new, sustainable systems and the transfer of this technology to the private sector. One hallmark advancement is the Integrated Multi-Trophic Aquaculture (IMTA) system, which can be used to cultivate multiple products like fish, shellfish, and sea vegetables. This collaborative project involves a diverse team of scientists, engineers, and technicians who work together to develop novel technologies that reduce the environmental impacts of aquaculture and benefit this growing industry. Join us as we take a behind the scenes look at this cutting-edge research and related education initiatives. The lecture will conclude with a Q&A session with several FAU Harbor Branch scientists involved with the IMTA project.
Bring Ocean Science for A Better World® right into your home with virtual resources from FAU Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute! Online offerings include lectures, interviews with marine scientists, activities for children and much more! Visit our virtual resources page to learn about these great opportunities for teachers, students and ocean lovers of all ages!... Learn More

As a health and safety precaution, FAU Harbor Branch Ocean Discovery Visitors Center is temporarily closed. Please check back for updates.

Visit FAU Harbor Branch social media channels for daily research highlights, facts and trivia questions.

Also, make sure to check out our new online gift shop!
In the News

FAU Harbor Branch Executive Director Jim Sullivan was featured on the American Shoreline Podcast to discuss the condition of Florida's harmful algal blooms, most notably Cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) and Karenia brevis (red tide). Dr. Sullivan talks listeners through the science, the risks, and how to understand our changing coastal waters... Listen
Chef Andrew Zimmern Features FAU Harbor Branch Aquaculture

Andrew Zimmern, an Award-winning chef, TV personality, writer, and teacher featured FAU Harbor Branch sea vegetables (sea asparagus, sea purslane, saltworts) grown in our aquaculture system in several recent food demo! “We have a hungry planet to feed and we need food sources that can positively impact the economic and environmental health of our communities. This is why farming our oceans is necessary, and I love finding new brands and institutions that share my passion,” said Zimmern.
Marine Mammal Stranding and Population Assessment Team
Bottle Nose Dolphin Rescue

A bottlenose dolphin is back to being social! The FAU Harbor Branch Stranding and Population Assessment Team found the adult female stranded during low tide on a shallow flat in the back areas of the Indian River Lagoon in Vero Beach, FL. The dolphin was bright, alert, and responsive upon our team’s arrival. Researchers were able to collect blood, apply a green roto tag, and stretcher the animal to deeper water for immediate release.⁠
The dolphin was later spotted acting normally and interacting with three other dolphins slightly further north from the stranding location. This work is funded by proceeds from the Protect Wild Dolphins specialty license plate.⁠
If you ever see an injured, entangled, or stranded dolphin or whale in Florida, please call the FWC hotline at 1-888-404-3922.
Support HBOI

FAU Funder, FAU’s crowdfunding platform, features several of FAU Harbor Branch’s research projects. You can help save the queen conch, support plastic pollution studies in local waters, fund beluga whale research in the Arctic or help researchers as they use deep sea molecules for potential life-saving medicines. Please visit FAU Funder for detailed information on each project. Your contributions can make a difference!

A temporary display highlighting 50 years of ocean exploration at FAU Harbor Branch is now open to the public at the Manatee Observation & Education Center in downtown Fort Pierce. It will be on display through August.

Through FAU Harbor Branch Speakers Bureau, community organizations may request a virtual presentation on a specific research topic or a general overview of FAU Harbor Branch. This program provides an excellent opportunity to learn about the institute’s most recent discoveries and connect with marine science experts. There is no charge for scheduling a speaker, however an honorarium or donation is encouraged.

If you would like to request a virtual speaker for your group/event, please fill out FAU Harbor Branch Speakers Bureau request form.

Follow along in real-time as researchers track potential harmful algal blooms (HABs) in Lake Okeechobee. Scientists at FAU Harbor Branch are using a data portal designed by the Gulf of Mexico Coastal Ocean Observing System (GCOOS) to provide the public with their latest research findings from the Harmful Algal Bloom Assessment of Lake Okeechobee (HALO) project. Sign up for their latest bloom brief here.