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Medina Aquarius Program School of Environment, Arts and Society

Aquarius is the world’s only operating undersea research lab. Aquarius is the world’s only operating undersea research lab. The habitat allows scientists to live and work underwater 24 The habitat allows scientists to live and work underwater 24 hours per day for days and weeks at a time. hours per day for days and weeks at a time.

Provides power, Provides power, air compressors, air compressors, communications communications and other support and other support equipment. equipment.


Hundreds of peerHundreds of peerreviewed scientific reviewed scientific papers papers Infographic courtesy of One World One Ocean Infographic courtesy of One World One Ocean

Astronauts and advanced Astronauts and advanced divers simulating extreme divers simulating extreme environments environments

Live broadcast Live broadcas students world students world every year every year

Infographic courtesy of One World One Ocean

Atlantic Giant Grouper: A massive fish that can reach 8 feet long and weigh almost 800 pounds. Aquarius Reef Base has its own resident groupers. Barrel Sponge: Sponges are now the dominant habitat-forming animals on Caribbean coral reefs. Among them, the giant barrel sponge, Xestospongia muta, has the greatest biomass on Florida coral reefs.

Aquarius is located within a special research-only zone of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary off the coast of Key Largo. The research lab resides along the Conch Reef, which is part of the Great Florida Reef, the world’s third largest barrier reef.

Corals: Not just pretty rock-like animals, corals are voracious predators. Using tentacles, they capture small creatures which swim by.

1993 Deployed near Key Largo, Fla. 1994 Long-term coral reef monitoring begins 2001 NASA begins using Aquarius for its Extreme Environment Mission Operations 2013 FIU assumes stewardship of the Aquarius Reef Base in January; First FIU student research mission takes place in November

2014 Medina Family Foundation gives $1.25 million to establish the Medina Aquarius Program at FIU

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Development of various technologies for ocean exploration

More than 20 years of in-depth research and real-time analysis

Medina Aquarius Program School of Environment, Arts and Society

“At Aquarius, you can do research that can’t be done anywhere else in the world. You can really start to look at things with 24/7 data. In my research on coral reefs, Aquarius provides all these additional tools and resources that take the work to a whole new level. It’s phenomenal.” — Andrew Shantz FIU Student, Marine Sciences Aquanaut, FIU Mission 1

At Aquarius Reef Base, Florida International University is pushing the capabilities of what can be achieved underwater, putting students at the forefront of marine research, and inspiring the next generation of scientists and explorers.

About the Medina Aquarius Program The Medina Aquarius Program is dedicated to the study and preservation of marine ecosystems worldwide. As part of the FIU Marine Education and Research Initiative, the Medina Aquarius Program is enhancing the scope and impact of FIU on teaching, research, educational outreach, technology development, and professional training. At the heart of the program is the one-of-a-kind Aquarius Reef Base, the world’s only undersea research laboratory. Deployed 60 feet beneath the surface in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, Aquarius is a globally significant asset that provides unparalleled means to study the ocean, test and develop state-of-the-art undersea technology, train specialized divers and astronauts, and engage the imaginations of people all across the world. At Aquarius, scientists are at the cutting edge of research on coral reefs, ocean acidification, climate change, fisheries, and the overall health of the oceans. Since its deployment in 1993, aquanauts and their support teams have used Aquarius to answer critical challenges facing scientists and policy makers. Universities, government agencies and private industry have conducted more than 120 missions to discover, preserve, train and innovate. More than 600 scientific research papers have been published based on Aquarius science. Aquarius is a complex diving system that consists of the lab below the ocean; a life support buoy on the surface that houses power generators, air compressors and data connections; and a mission control center in Islamorada, Florida. Using a technique known as saturation diving, Aquarius residents can spend days to weeks underwater conducting research that cannot be accomplished anywhere else on the planet. Aquanauts diving from Aquarius can spend nine hours per day to depths of 99 feet with a reduced risk of decompression sickness, making Aquarius safe, efficient and cost-effective.

Mission Opportunities Saturation diving gives aquanauts 10 times more bottom time than what traditional divers have to conduct studies and training operations. Continual power and telecommunications capabilities make Aquarius an ideal platform for advanced sensor development and longterm monitoring of coastal oceans and coral reefs. Visiting Aquarius for up to an hour is possible using standard scuba diving protocols. For projects and events requiring more time in the habitat — hours to overnight stays — but with limited time outside, Aquarius offers 1-Atmosphere Operations, which can accommodate up to six certified divers. Full saturation missions are available for educational institutions, research programs, government agencies and private industry. Standard saturation missions range from three to 10 days after a multiday training program. Longer missions are possible. Marine Ecosystem Science and Long-Term Monitoring Aquarius provides scientists with the opportunity to conduct crucial research covering a variety of areas including water quality, coral reef biology, ecology and physiology, long-term ocean monitoring, restoration science, ocean acidification, and global climate change. Undersea Equipment Testing Aquarius provides extended presence in a real underwater environment, which exceeds the capabilities of no-decompression scuba diving or most ship-based facilities for equipment testing. In this capacity, Aquarius can evaluate the latest technologies in ocean observing, forecasting and modeling, reef monitoring, and extreme environment equipment. Training and Procedure Development Through partnerships with NASA, the United States Navy, and others, Aquarius serves as a space analog, training platform, and remote telemedicine testing facility. Studies include human physiological responses to extreme environments, spacewalk and lunar excursion procedures. Robotic geological sample retrieval and remote tele-robotic surgical procedures have also been tested during Aquarius saturation missions.

Photo Courtesy of DJ Roller/Liquid Pictures 3D

Impact of Aquarius The Medina Aquarius Program enables an ideal combination of research, education and outreach that is both vital and timely given the state of our global ecosystem and societal needs. Situated within a marine sanctuary in the Florida reef tract, the most extensive living coral barrier reef system in contiguous U.S. waters and the third largest system in the world, Aquarius provides invaluable access to one of the most biologically diverse and economically valuable ecosystems on Earth. Coral reefs are precious facets of our oceans, offering coastal protection from storms, wave action and floods, and supporting a rich biodiversity of marine organisms, which provide myriad resources for food, medicines, recreation and tourism. With estimated values of tens of billions of dollars worldwide, coral reef ecosystems also carry limitless intrinsic and cultural value. Yet, they represent one of the most at-risk ecosystems on the planet. Facing global climate change, ocean acidification, overfishing and species extinctions, we are at a critical time in history to understand, restore and protect coral reefs. Aquarius is the only facility of its kind and offers maximum efficiency and access for the study and exploration of a region particularly susceptible to global environmental threats. Its unique capabilities also make it one of few sites ideal for undersea equipment testing and training for study and exploration in extreme environments such as space. Most importantly, Aquarius is a platform for everyone. In keeping with the mission of FIU’s School of Environment, Arts and Society to, in part, ensure a sustainable future, the Medina Aquarius Program includes extensive educational outreach programming to give access to its marine ecosystem, share its science, and inspire countless minds young and old. Its potential is boundless.

Outreach and Engagement With each mission, Aquarius is inspiring the next generation of researchers and explorers through innovative education and outreach programs that reach millions of kids globally. Leveraging onboard video conferencing capabilities, scientists inside Aquarius and on the adjacent reefs are able to engage audiences worldwide through interactive classes and other live programming. At FIU, researchers are able to teach classes from the depths of the ocean and visit with schoolchildren by offering virtual fieldtrips of the undersea lab and their coral reef study sites. Aquarius also features the Teacher Under the Sea program, which provides unique experiential learning opportunities to engage today’s explorers and tomorrow’s problem-solvers.

About Florida International University Florida International University (FIU) is Miami-Dade County’s first public, four-year research university. With more than 52,000 students, 1,000+ full-time faculty members, and nearly 200,000 alumni, FIU is one of South Florida’s anchor institutions. FIU offers more than 180 bachelor, master and doctoral degree programs in its colleges and schools and is first in the nation in awarding bachelor’s and master’s degrees to Hispanics. Recently, the university has achieved several notable milestones, including the establishment of South Florida’s only public College of Medicine, and the accreditation of its College of Law.

About the College of Arts & Sciences As the heart of a leading public research university, the College of Arts & Sciences plays a vital role in the intellectual, cultural and civic life of local, national and international communities. The college provides an educational foundation that prepares FIU students to be successful and engaged citizens in a global society.

About School of Environment, Arts and Society By bringing together the natural sciences, social sciences and humanities, the School of Environment, Arts and Society (SEAS) is transforming the way we conduct research, educate students and engage the community. Because the world’s environmental challenges are multi-dimensional, the school’s revolutionary approach to a full spectrum education will ensure our students become innovative leaders of the 21st century. SEAS includes three signature departments: Biological Sciences, Earth and Environment, and English. The school also houses many of FIU’s prominent centers and programs.

Medina Aquarius Program School of Environment, Arts and Society College of Arts & Sciences Florida International University 11200 SW 8th Street Miami, FL 33199

Phone: 305-348-4084 Fax: 305-348-4096 E-mail:

For more information about online programs offered by the College of Arts & Sciences, visit

For general information, visit Florida International University is an Equal Opportunity/Access Employer and Institution.

Cover photo by Liquid Pictures Š DJ Roller Liquid Pictures 3D 2013


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