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Press Release:

MEDIA CONTACT: Gisele Galoustian

FAU’s Harbor Branch and Georgia Aquarium Research Center to Establish Formal Research and Education Partnership
Partnership to initially focus on coastal ecosystems of the southeastern United States with eventual expansion to other regions

BOCA RATON, FL (December 14, 2010) – Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute at Florida Atlantic University and Georgia Aquarium Research Center, a unit of Georgia Aquarium, have joined forces to explore developing a formal relationship to combine expertise and resources in ocean sciences and conservation which will initially be focused on the ecosystems of the southeastern United States with eventual expansion to other regions. The two organizations have begun discussions on how to develop a structure to expand their research and education collaborations in the areas of marine mammal research and conservation, coral reef research and conservation, and marine species husbandry/aquaculture.

“We are so pleased to formalize our relationship with the Georgia Aquarium,” said FAU President Mary Jane Saunders. “FAU and the Georgia Aquarium already have a number of existing marine science research, education and conservation collaborations that reflect our shared interests, and joining forces will enable us to expand our research enterprises.”

Among the programs the two organizations have jointly conducted include the Florida Dolphin Health Assessment which is an internationally recognized program based at Harbor Branch in Ft. Pierce. This summer, researchers from both organizations completed the Florida Indian River Lagoon (IRL) Atlantic bottlenose dolphin Health and Risk Assessment research project. The IRL is a unique estuary that covers approximately 30 percent of Florida’s east coast. Researchers are using dolphins as sentinels or barometers for ecosystem and human health. Since 2003, under a federal permit, they have examined and released more than 240 dolphins.

“Georgia Aquarium’s relationship with FAU’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute is a natural fit,” said Georgia Aquarium President and COO David Kimmel.  “Jointly, we can contribute so much more to the understanding of the world’s oceans and the animals who call them home.”

            As a leader in aquatic conservation and research, the Georgia Aquarium is working in collaboration with other researchers to enable a better understanding and protection of many species including whale sharks in Mexico, Belugas in Alaska, spotted eagle rays in Florida and penguins in South Africa. Furthermore, the Georgia Aquarium operates one of the largest living reef aquariums in the world. To complement these efforts, researchers at Harbor Branch provide expertise in many areas of ocean health sciences and conservation. Harbor Branch has several programs dedicated to marine mammal research and conservation, including a polar research program which uses molecular genetic techniques and satellite-linked telemetry to study the molecular and behavioral ecology of northern temperate, Arctic and Antarctic marine mammals. In addition, to address issues related to coral health and disease, and research and conservation, Harbor Branch’s Robertson Coral Reef Program is focused on understanding and preventing losses in deep- and shallow-water coral communities that result from both natural and anthropogenic causes.

            “My personal experience in working with programs with Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute in the past has been exceptional,” said Dr. Gregory Bossart, senior vice president and chief veterinary officer of the Georgia Aquarium.  “Combining the expertise of both institutions means we will truly be able to make a difference in the level of understanding of many unique species of animals in the Southeast.”

            To bring in additional expertise and resources, researchers from Harbor Branch and Georgia Aquarium will also work with the Florida Center for Environmental Studies in the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science at FAU and with FAU’s College of Engineering and Computer Science for systems design, such as aquarium life support and overall energy efficiency. The Center for Environmental Studies b rings together the full resources of the Florida State University System to collect, analyze and promote the use of scientifically sound information concerning tropical and sub-tropical, freshwater and estuary ecosystems.  The Center is focused on critical environmental management issues of the state and of tropical and subtropical ecosystems worldwide.

            “Formalizing the FAU and Georgia Aquarium partnership will not only enhance the good research we are conducting together, it will enable us to share with the public the importance of the oceans in our everyday lives,” said Megan Davis, Ph.D., associate executive director, FAU’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute.


- FAU -

About FAU’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute:

Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute at Florida Atlantic University is a research institute dedicated to exploration, innovation, conservation and education related to the oceans.  Harbor Branch was founded in 1971 as a private non-profit organization. In December 2007, Harbor Branch joined Florida Atlantic University. The institute specializes in ocean engineering, at-sea operations, drug discovery and biotechnology from the oceans, coastal ecology and conservation, marine mammal research and conservation, aquaculture, and marine education. For more information, visit

About the Georgia Aquarium

The Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta, Georgia is the world’s largest with more than ten million gallons of water and more aquatic life than any other aquarium. The mission of the Georgia Aquarium is to be an entertaining, educational and scientific institution featuring exhibits and programs of the highest standards, offering engaging and exciting guest experiences and promoting the conservation of aquatic biodiversity throughout the world. One of the Georgia Aquarium’s goals is to be a leading facility for aquatic animal conservation and research. The Georgia Aquarium conducts research to improve husbandry methods, develop innovative and exciting new exhibits, contribute to the understanding of the underwater world and apply new discoveries to the conservation of aquatic life. Every day, researchers in the Aquarium’s exhibits and labs are learning more about marine life in order to develop new methods of animal care and veterinary medicine. By combining field research with the study of on-site animals in a controlled environment, the Aquarium is contributing to the advancement of human knowledge in the area of animal science. For additional information, visit

About Florida Atlantic University:

Florida Atlantic University opened its doors in 1964 as the fifth public university in Florida. Today, the University serves more than 28,000 undergraduate and graduate students on seven campuses and sites. Building on its rich tradition as a teaching university, with a world-class faculty, FAU hosts 10 colleges: the Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts & Letters, the College of Business, the College for Design and Social Inquiry, the College of Education, the College of Engineering & Computer Science, the Graduate College, the Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College, the Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine, the Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing and the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science. For more information, visit

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