Boat Tours

Boat Tours are Back!

coral in the ocean

2nd Annual International Ocean Film Festival
June 8, 2024

Virtual Resources

Virtual Resources for teachers, students and ocean lovers of all ages

Gift Shop

FAU Harbor Branch Gift Shop

Dennis Hanisak

With great sadness, we share the news of the passing of Dr. M. Dennis Hanisak, a beloved and renowned member of the FAU Harbor Branch research faculty. Dr. Hanisak was a research professor, director of the Marine Ecosystems Health program, director of education at FAU Harbor Branch, and principal investigator of numerous research projects. He is remembered as an eminent marine scientist, a devoted teacher and mentor, and a pioneering conservationist for the Indian River Lagoon (IRL).

Dr. Hanisak joined the research team at Harbor Branch in 1977, conducting research on marine plants (seaweed and seagrass) in the IRL and other parts of Florida, the Bahamas and the Caribbean. He authored more than 70 scientific publications and co-authored the book “Submersed Plants of the Indian River Lagoon: A Floristic Inventory & Field Guide,” a comprehensive floristic compendium of Florida’s remarkable Indian River Lagoon. His contributions to marine biology and ecology – particularly for understanding the health and stressors on the Indian River Lagoon – are innumerable.

Importantly, Dr. Hanisak was an educator. His leadership was paramount to establishing FAU Harbor Branch as a destination for training the next generation of scientists. He was instrumental in developing programs for students of all ages, from grade school through doctorates. He inspired generations of new marine scientists, and his legacy lives on through their work.

“This is an overwhelming loss for his family, friends and the Institute, and a sad time for us all,” said Dr. James M. Sullivan, executive director of FAU Harbor Branch. “As we move forward through this difficult time, we take comfort in knowing that we are able to honor his legacy by continuing the great work he started.”

Dr. Hanisak is a true icon of FAU Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute. His passion was infectious, and his work made an indelible impact on the world. A memorial celebration for Dr. Hanisak to be held at FAU Harbor Branch is currently being planned. Details will be publicized as they are finalized.

For inquiries related to Dr. Hanisak’s professional work through FAU Harbor Branch, please contact James Sullivan at or Patrick Boles at

For media inquiries, contact Chelsey Matheson at


FAU Harbor Branch prioritizes solution-oriented research that addresses critical issues affecting coastal zone, oceans, and human well-being. Research scientists take a global approach, conducting studies around the world in varying climates, ecosystems, and cultures.
Harbor Branch campus building

Harbor Branch

5600 US 1 North, Fort Pierce, FL 34946 772.242.2400
Florida Atlantic University (FAU) Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute is a world class research organization with a focus on exploring the marine environments, studying key species and understanding the connection between humans and the ocean. Founded in 1971 as Harbor Branch Oceanographic Foundation, Inc., the Institute expanded its reach to over 100 miles along Florida’s east coast when it joined Florida Atlantic University in 2007. Located in St. Lucie County, our 144-acre campus along the Indian River Lagoon employs over 200 scientists, engineers, educators, staff and students. To this day, the Institute actively pursues solution-oriented research that addresses some of the most critical issues affecting coastal zones, oceans and human well-being.
After Hundreds of Years, Study Confirms Bermuda Home to Cownose Rays
Using citizen science and morphological and genetic data, FAU Harbor Branch researchers are the first to provide evidence that the Atlantic cownose ray has recently made a new home in Bermuda.
FAU Researcher Earns Top Award for Marine Natural Products
Amy Wright, Ph.D., research professor at FAU Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, received the Paul J. Scheuer Award in Marine Natural Products, considered the foremost accolade in the field.
FAU Lands $1.3 Million Grant to Clean Up Stinky Seaweed in Florida
FAU Harbor Branch researchers will assess if it is better to harvest Sargassum in water as opposed to on the beach to better plan for removing vast amounts of seaweed from beaches and preventing aggregations.
Study Explores Severe Hurricanes and Coral Reef Sponge Recolonization
A study by FAU researchers and colleagues is the first to evaluate substrate recolonization by sponges in the U.S. Virgin Islands after two catastrophic storms using genetic analyses.

HBOI ocean fish