The Medina Aquarius Program enables an ideal combination of research, education and outreach that is both vital and timely given the state of our global ecosystem and societal needs. Situated within a marine sanctuary in the Florida reef tract, the most extensive living coral barrier reef system in contiguous U.S. waters and the third largest system in the world, Aquarius provides invaluable access to one of the most biologically diverse and economically valuable ecosystems on Earth. Coral reefs are precious facets of our oceans, offering coastal protection from storms, wave action and floods, and supporting a rich biodiversity of marine organisms, which provide myriad resources for food, medicines, recreation and tourism. With estimated values of tens of billions of dollars worldwide, coral reef ecosystems also carry limitless intrinsic and cultural value. Yet, they represent one of the most at-risk ecosystems on the planet.
Facing global climate change, ocean acidification, overfishing and species extinctions, we are at a critical time in history to understand, restore and protect coral reefs. Aquarius is the only facility of its kind and offers maximum efficiency and access for the study and exploration of a region particularly susceptible to global environmental threats. Its unique capabilities also make it one of few sites ideal for undersea equipment testing and training for study and exploration in extreme environments such as space.
Most importantly, Aquarius is a platform for everyone. In keeping with the mission of FIU’s School of Environment, Arts and Society to, in part, ensure a sustainable future, the Medina Aquarius Program includes extensive educational outreach programming to give access to its marine ecosystem, share its science, and inspire countless minds young and old. Its potential is boundless.