The location of the Whitney Laboratory for Marine Bioscience is perfect for studying local biodiversity and advancing biomedical research. Unfortunately, space is limited – if you stopped for a tour and walked through the various labs, you would see aquariums full of zebrafish, tucked away in cupboards; or glass bowls of sea anemones or worms stacked on laboratory benches; or banks of dissecting microscopes hugging the walls.
After the difficulties of 2020 – with a global pandemic and the resulting safety protocols and laboratory resource limitations – 2021 looks bright for Whitney Laboratory.
With plans to begin construction of a new, state-of-the-art facility, the lab is poised to double its research space and expand capacity for the benefit of both the scientific community and those who care about it. live (and visit) Flagler County.
Plans for the 25,000 square foot building were presented in 2002, while fundraising for the project began in 2013.
Since then, lab administrators have raised nearly half of the $ 28.5 million required for the new facility.
On the morning of June 2, Governor DeSantis approved $ 16.5 million in this year’s state budget to be allocated to the construction of the new research building on the Whitney campus.
“We’ve waited a long time to get a new building, and we can’t wait to fill it with more of the best and brightest scientists in the country!
– MARK MARTINDALE, Director, UF Whitney Lab
“This is the only capital construction money coming across the entire UF campus this year,” said director Mark Martindale. “We have reached our goal, including almost $ 10 million in private donations, and planning for the building will continue in earnest.”
Martindale and Jessica Long, senior director of advancement at the Whitney Laboratory, recently met with the UF campus planning and construction teams on Zoom.
The meeting brought together over 80 different people representing design and construction companies. Directors of UF and Whitney Laboratory will begin interviewing companies and have narrowed the list to three potential candidates by the middle of this month.
Construction of the new building is expected to begin in winter 2023.
Those who have passed the Whitney Laboratory for Marine Bioscience on the A1A may be surprised to learn what is going on behind the “bunker walls” of the main research building.
Current installations are a snapshot of the ’70s – chunky and durable enough to withstand a hurricane, but not really a billboard for aesthetics.
“Our existing building is dilapidated with small rooms, poor lighting and insufficient air circulation,” Martindale explained, stressing the need for an updated building.
The concrete walls may show some rocks from old age, but the work done inside these walls pushes the boundaries of scientific conservation and discovery.
On the shores of Matanzas Inlet, researchers at the Whitney Laboratory are engaged in oyster restoration, an initiative that began in 2019 to prevent shoreline erosion and promote local biodiversity.
The technology used by researchers at Sea Turtle Hospital has helped fight the current COVID-19 pandemic.
Research technicians, graduate students and post-docs are engaged in scientific research spanning the discovery of antibiotics, stem cell biology, and cell regeneration, which lay the foundation for advancing biomedicine and public health.
With the construction of the new building, the administrators and staff of the Whitney Laboratory are responding to the country’s growing demand to inspire and train STEM researchers, young and old.
“We’ve waited a long time to get a new building,” Martindale said. “And we look forward to filling it with more of the best and brightest scientists in the country!”
The new facility will expand laboratory space devoted to specialized areas of study such as sensory biology and neuroscience, as well as additional research on environmental conservation.
The building will also include an educational center to attract visitors who want to learn more about the research underway in the lab and its impact on the community.
A key added feature will be a new and expanded sea turtle hospital where the public can learn more about local sea turtles.
With the lab location nestled between Marineland and Matanzas Inlet, families visiting the Florida First Coast can swim with dolphins, then cross the street to the new Whitney Laboratory education center.
“None of this would be possible without the significant community investment in research, education and conservation on our coast,” Long said. “We are especially grateful to our local lawmakers Paul Renner, Cyndi Stevenson and Senator Travis Hutson, who have always supported STEM education and research at UF’s Whitney Laboratory.”