FT. LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – Just off Florida’s shore lies one of its greatest resources – a living coral reef.

This fall, Nova Southeastern University is set to open a new coral reef research center at Port Everglades.

“It’s the largest research center of it’s kind in the United States, one of two in the world,” said Ken Ma, NSU spokesman.

Once up and running graduate students and staff at the $40 million plus center will focus on ways of enhancing ecosystems linked to coral reefs which experts say in the key to ocean biodiversity.

Designated a national Center of Excellence by the U.S. Commerce Department, the center will employ 50 graduate students and 44 academic positions. Its construction is being funded by a $15 million federal economic-stimulus grant which was matched by the university plus money from other funds.

“We have a state of the art facility,” said Ma. “We have cutting edge research facilites here in this center it’s a five story facility. Its able to do research projects that a lot of researchers can’t do in their own facilities”

The center will be part of Nova’s Oceanographic Institute which was started in 1966. The institute has a number of research units which study various fields of marine life including sharks. Recently, the institute successfully grew more than two dozen basketball sized staghorn corals at their inland nursery and transplanted them onto a threatened reef about three miles north of Port Everglades.

The bulk of the coral reefs in the U.S. can be found off Florida’s coastline. From fishing to diving to boating, the reef’s ecosystems bring in about $6 billion in Florida and help maintain approximately 71,000 jobs.

The new coral reef eco-system research center is scheduled to open September 27th.


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