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CMS empowers its program with new Environmental and Oceanographic Center of Excellence – The Crow’s Nest at USF St. Petersburg

CMS empowers its program with new Environmental and Oceanographic Center of Excellence – The Crow’s Nest at USF St. Petersburg

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USF plans to combine the new facility and the currentmarinesciencecomplex into a Center of Environmental Excellence.

Courtesy USF

By Brianna Madden

The University of South Floridas St. Petersburg campus is renowned for its prestigious College of Marine Science (CMS). In hopes to continue this influence, the university will build a new Environmental and Oceanographic Sciences Research and Teaching Facility to further address the environmental issues Tampa Bay is facing.  

As climate change has posed a threat to Florida’s coast, it is vital that environmental research be intensified. Hazards such as sea level rise, storm surges and higher tides threaten billions of dollars in coastal damage.  

USF requested funding from the Florida Legislature in order to build the $80 million building. The university is hoping to not only offer students a place to further their knowledge on these issues but expects that researchers will utilize the center as a base for studying this coastal crisis.  

Surrounded by many esteemed marine science organizations, such as the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) and the Florida Institute of Oceanography (FIO), the USF St. Petersburg campus hopes to encourage nearly 2,000 marine science-based employees within the Innovation District to utilize the building as a main research facility. 

The St. Petersburg campus wants all research conducted to be accessible, thus inspiring policymakers and the public to understand and prevent the dangers that threaten Floridas vulnerable coastlines. 

This will be a game changer, not just for USF and our Innovation District, but for the way we think about managing rising oceans and flooding in coastal communities, Jason Mathis said, CEO of the St. Petersburg Downtown Partnership.  

This facility is designed to enhance students’ learning experience. With four floors of modern technology, new classrooms, and fully equipped research and teaching laboratories, the Center of Excellence makes creating new undergraduate and graduate programs possible. USF anticipates including degrees like coastal and ocean engineering, science journalism and environmental chemistry.  

[The Oceanographic Sciences Center of Excellence] will open the door for new oceanographic and environment-related programs that could attract some of the best students and faculty in these fields from around the world, Dr. Richard Mbatu said, professor of Introduction to Environmental Science and Sustainable Human Systems at the USF St. Petersburg campus.  

USF hopes to receive funds from the next Florida legislative session to begin construction on the building immediately.  

The plan is to obtain over $60 million from the state, while USF will provide approximately $20 million. This estimated cost of over $80 million includes the demolition of the old Marine Science Complex northwest wing, the remodeling of the rest of the complex and the construction of the new building.  

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The costs are high but the benefits are too great not to consider.  

It is expected that once the facility is fully functional, it will have a tremendous economic impact each and every year. This will quickly surpass its $80.4million construction cost.  

Overall, USF hopes that the implementation of this new Center of Excellence will broaden current programs, offer new degree opportunities, provide a research base for scientists everywhere and enable USF to participate in the need for innovative responses to coastal resiliency.  

 Located in the Tampa Bay Area, [USF] should be a national and international leader in research on climate change adaptation and resilience, Dr. Mbatu stated when regarding the facilitys goals, and the Center for Excellence in Environmental and Oceanographic Sciences will serve the research and teaching needs. 

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