Past Special Events and Projects
Over the years, MRDF has participated in several special events and conducted a variety of projects. Additional information on these and other projects can be found on our Publications & Projects page. Current research projects can be found here.
In 2014, MRDF co-sponsored the Classroom Under The Sea, a 73-day mission in Jules' Undersea Lodge by Bruce E. Cantrell and Jessica Fain, both of Roane State College in Tennessee. During their stay, a weekly broadcast was made discussing problems facing the ocean today and possible solutions. An online biology course was also offered, the first in the world. More details and links to the broadcast can be found here.
In 2008, MRDF's Habitat Operations Director Chris Olstad was sent to Malta with the Video Ray unit to assist in a cistern mapping project, initiated by Dr. Timmy Gambin, Director of Archeology at the Aurora Special Purposes Trust. Other investigators included Keith Bugahiar of the University of Malta and Dr. Christopher Clark of California Polytechnic State University. VideoRay's mission was to explore these ancient submerged underground cistern chambers and passageways while extracting video and sonar data which could later be used by archeologists to enhance their understanding of the evolution and complexity of ancient water storage systems in Malta.
On September 9, 1995, MRDF joined with the National Aeronautic and Space Administration (NASA) in a rare sea to space connection, only the second time such a link has ever been established. During the link, Ian Koblick and Astronaut/Aquanaut Scott Carpenter, speaking from Jules’ Undersea Lodge, communicated with Astronaut Michael Gernhardt onboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour. The event marked the 30th anniversary of the first such link-up when Carpenter spoke from the Navy’s Sealab Habitat on the bottom of the Pacific Ocean in 1965 to fellow Mercury 7 astronaut Gordon Cooper, orbiting above.
The “Coral Reef Management Workshop” was organized and hosted by MRDF in 1988. Funded by a NOAA appropriation, this event brought scientists and resource managers from around the world to Key Largo to discuss the health and management of the Keys’ coral reef tract. As a result of that workshop, the MacArthur Foundation granted $789,000 to the Florida Institute of Oceanography for coral reef research and monitoring.
In 1985, MRDF prepared a document entitled “The Declaration of Dependence on Marine Resources,” in an attempt to mobilize the support of leading marine scientists and citizens of influence. The document and a preface prepared by MRDF were entered in the Congressional Record by Arkansas Congressman Bill Alexander to bring this global issue to the nation’s attention.
The Golden Venture, a 147 foot research vessel operated by MRDF in 1981 and 1982, was equipped with submarines, cranes, and diving equipment designed for ocean exploration projects. It was used to locate and uncover artifacts from the sunken Spanish galleon, Nuestra Senora de Atocha, one of the most significant shipwreck finds in American waters.
MRDF was not solely involved in science and physiology studies. In the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, the lagoon at MRDF hosted several works of art as they formed through the process of accretion.
Using a wire mesh and running a weak electrical current through it, while suspended in seawater, will cause calcium carbonate to precipitate out of the water and coat the mesh. Artist Chris Scala used this technique to create at least three sculptures which were subsequently placed in outdoor art settings: a woman, “Thanks,” which was placed in a fountain (1989); “Exploding Sphere,” a soccer ball in the process of exploding, which was commissioned by and exhibited at the 1994 World Cup in Los Angeles, California; and a larger-than-life female figure called “Ascending Swimmer,” which was completed in 1996.
In addition to being a unique way to create sculptures, it has practical application too. In 1991, the Kress Foundation granted funds for MRDF to study the experimental use of this technique to strengthen the submerged foundations of buildings in Venice, Italy. Artist Michele Oka Doner, an investigator in this grant, wrote a report. She also used this technique to create two obelisks which were subsequently placed in a park in Santa Monica, CA in 1992.
Throughout most of its history, MRDF has been interested and involved in fisheries and aquaculture projects. It was involved in an early study of lobsters in the US Virgin Islands (1970) and eventually developed an aquaculture of Gracilaria species, a type of marine algae, for human consumption. The resulting product was sold to south Florida retailers, Disney’s Living Seas restaurant at Epcot Center, and to the University of Miami’s Aplysia Resource Facility to support its mariculture of the Aplysia sea hare, used in biomedical research, until the facility began to grow its own Gracilaria.