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Unique Partnership Brings Together Scientists, Researchers and the Yachting Industry

NSU Researchers Can Get More Time On "The Water" to Further Their Work

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

FORT LAUDERDALE-DAVIE, Fla. – What do you get when you combine marine scientists, researchers and a world-class yachting membership club? A unique partnership that allows for further research and exploration of our oceans.

This new partnership is made up of Nova Southeastern University’s (NSU) Halmos College of Natural Sciences and Oceanography, the International SeaKeepers Society® and Fleet Miami. And recently, they embarked on their inaugural research cruise to study sponges in the waters off the Bahamas. Joining this research group was staff from the Public Television (PBS) series Changing Seas, which was filming for an episode to air in early 2016.

“This was a great opportunity for us to get to and spend time in Bahamian waters to study sponges, their microbiomes and marine environs,” said Jose Lopez, Ph.D., professor and researcher at NSU. “Plus, getting to travel on an 87-foot yacht as our base of operations isn’t something that we get to do that often, so that made things quite interesting. I feel almost spoiled after being on such a boat.”

During the expedition, Lopez and NSU student-assistant Amanda Costaregni joined fellow researcherJoe and Amanda underwater research - webs as they dove on Andros and Nassau reefs to identify existing sponge species and collect sponge, sediment and water samples. Samples were brought back to laboratories at NSU where they are undergoing further analysis and genetics work. Results from this expedition and continuing work will tell scientists about the species diversity and connectivity between Florida and Bahamian reefs. Examination of sponge tissue samples and associated bacteria found living with sponges could be used in the development of pharmaceuticals. The expedition location was important to Dr. Lopez from a personal standpoint.

“Some of the first relatively “pristine” reef habitats I ever saw were on Andros Island over 20 years ago,” Lopez said. “The Elkhorn Coral (Acropora palmata) was so large they stuck out of the water at low tide.”

Lopez is also the founder of the Global Invertebrate Genomics Alliance (GIGA,) an international organization of diverse scientists who will promote comparative genomics and bioinformatics research on non-insect/non-nematode invertebrates including sponges of course.

One day of the expedition “dove” into Bahamian culture – i.e. the native spongers of Andros Island. Residents of Red Bays Village on Andros Island demonstrated the sponge industry process and explained the history and significance of sponging to the local culture and economy.

The expedition was hosted by Fleet Miami, which provided the 87-foot Warren D/Y Mystique yacht to serve as the base of operations and at-sea laboratory in the Bahamas. The vessel allowed scientists access to remote reefs off New Providence Island and Andros Island. This is the third SeaKeepers DISCOVERY Yacht expedition supported by Fleet Miami. Additional expedition support was generously provided by Albany Marina and Resort on New Providence, Bahamas.

“Our goal is to have this be the first of many research expeditions involving NSU, International SeaKeepers Society and Fleet Miami,” Lopez said. “The more opportunities we get out on the water for researchers and students, the more we learn about the marine environment and, of course, the more we can do to help protect the world’s oceans and all the creatures that call it home – knowledge is key.”

 

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About Nova Southeastern University (NSU): Located in beautiful Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Nova Southeastern University (NSU) is a dynamic research institution dedicated to providing high-quality educational programs at the undergraduate, graduate, and first-professional degree levels. A private, not-for-profit institution with more than 24,000 students, NSU has campuses in Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, Jacksonville, Miami, Miramar, Orlando, Palm Beach, and Tampa, Florida, as well as San Juan, Puerto Rico, while maintaining a presence online globally. For more than 50 years, NSU has been awarding degrees in a wide range of fields, while fostering groundbreaking research and an impactful commitment to community. Classified as a research university with “high research activity” by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, NSU is 1 of only 37 universities nationwide to also be awarded Carnegie’s Community Engagement Classification, and is also the largest private, not-for-profit institution in the United States that meets the U.S. Department of Education’s criteria as a Hispanic-serving Institution. Please visit www.nova.edu for more information.

About The International SeaKeepers Society®: The International SeaKeepers Society is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization focusing on the health of the world’s oceans and climate. SeaKeepers works with the boating and yachting community to take advantage of their unique potential in order to further marine research and to raise awareness about the issues our oceans face. The International SeaKeepers Society acts as a global catalyst working with governments, scientists, industry, and other marine organizations to further its mission and to support sensible, achievable marine protection and restoration. For more information, please visit www.seakeepers.org.

 

October 2, 2015

Joe Donzelli | NSU Office of Public Affairs
954-262-2159 (office) |954-661-4571 (cell)
jdonzelli@nova.edu| www.nova.edu