Jacksonville University and its ocean research partner, OCEARCH, will receive $5 million from the state of Florida for the OCEARCH Global Headquarters in Mayport.
“Right now, and for many years to come, Jacksonville University believes exploration, education and scientific discovery are the key ingredients to achieving real progress in tackling massive challenges of our time, such as climate change and healthy oceans,” JU President Tim Cost said in a news release.
“For the past two years, Jacksonville University and OCEARCH have been working with the City of Jacksonville, Mayport community groups and our local delegation on this important project, and we are honored to receive this generous support from the state to advance our plans,” he said.
The facility, at 4638 Ocean St. on 1.18 acres of waterfront property at the mouth of the St. Johns River, will serve as the hub for OCEARCH’s research efforts, education programs and vessel operations. Jacksonville University and OCEARCH expect to break ground on the project by 2024.
Plans for the OCEARCH Global Headquarters comprise spaces for public education and meetings, OCEARCH ship operations, dockage for research vessels, a marine life research laboratory with data and academic resource management and basic housing for researchers and crew members.
A concrete dock funded by the city is under construction at the site.
OCEARCH founder and Jacksonville University Explorer in Residence Chris Fischer said the organization’s mission is to accelerate the oceans’ return to balance and abundance.
“It’s inspiring to see the State of Florida, City of Jacksonville and Jacksonville University stepping up to support our nonprofit work on the water. Together we will fearlessly pioneer the vital research necessary to deliver an abundant ocean to future generations. This is a dream come true for me,” Fischer said in the release.
“Our goal is to educate visitors on why marine organisms, including sharks, are so important for the health of the world’s oceans and for our global climate, while also promoting more data-centric public policy at the state and federal level,” Quinton White, executive director of JU’s Marine Science Research Institute, said in the release.
In 2017, Jacksonville University became the academic home of OCEARCH, the largest shark-tagging and oceanic research organization in the world.
To date, OCEARCH has conducted 45 ocean research expeditions, helping advance research projects involving more than a dozen public and private institutions in Florida. The expeditions have resulted in more than 80 peer-reviewed scientific publications, including one of the largest studies published on white sharks, authored by Jacksonville University researcher Bryan Franks and his OCEARCH colleagues.
JU students and faculty have joined OCEARCH and its coalition of independent scientists on 11 research expeditions.
Visit www.ju.edu/ocearch or OCEARCH.org for more information.