The Aquarius undersea research station has evolved from the programs of the past into a state-of-the art saturation diving facility for science along with synchronous ocean observing, a test bed for technology development, and advanced communications that now allows for telepresence education and outreach events. The habitat program has expanded into Aquarius Reef Base, which is composed of the undersea lab, an ocean observing station with real-time access via the Internet, and a shore base. Our partners, such as NASA and the Navy, have helped make advanced technologies at Aquarius Reef Base available for research, training, and education, and new collaborations with the media are providing exciting avenues for outreach. Our five-fold mission includes:
- Scientific Research: providing extended access to a designated research-only protected site within the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary designed to help managers assess long-term change, study the effectiveness of protected area management and potential restoration techniques, and answer fundamental research questions vital to preserving and protecting one of Florida’s most valuable marine resources.
- Coral Reef and Ocean Observing: providing extended access to a coral reef for repeat, long-term surveys to assess change over time and in situ experiments to better understand the reef ecosystem, effects of management and restoration efforts, and the impacts of climate change. The ocean observing capabilities provide critical and complementary data (including salinity, temperature, oxygen, waves, currents, and various optical properties), and serves as a test-bed for developing new undersea technology for coral reef research, observing, and exploration.
- Undersea Technology Development: providing a world-class facility to develop and test cutting edge technologies that are needed in ocean observing, forecasting, and modeling; reef monitoring and restoration; and exploration.
- National Training Facility: providing a unique state-of-the-art saturation diving facility used to train divers for science, forensic and defense purposes; and astronauts for space exploration and technology development.
- Ocean Education and Outreach: providing an exciting window into the undersea world to excite and engage students and the public in learning about the ocean, science, exploration, conservation, and undersea technology.