Top This! New Facilty Reaches Milestone

IMG_0168On Wednesday, January 9 more than 200 construction crew members attended a ceremony to celebrate the ‘Topping Off’ of the Marine Technology and Life Sciences Seawater Complex on the campus of UM’s Rosenstiel School.  The ceremony is a builder’s tradition that marks when the last beam is placed at the top of a building.  Speakers at the event included Mr. Dagoberto Diaz and Mr. Rex Kirby of Suffolk Construction; Dr. Michael Schmale of the University of Miami; and Chief Architect Peter Sollogub of Cambridge Seven Associates.

IMG_0001Dean Avissar and co-PI’s Mike Schmale and Brian Haus were among those who signed the beam which was hoisted into place after lunch. The beam was deposited next to an evergreen tree placed upon the structure to bring growth and good luck.  Workers were also treated to a raffle with gifts from Gerdau – Tampa Reinforcing Steel, Lotspeich Company, Inc., Meisner Electric, Inc., Maxim Crane, Sun Belt Rental, J & J Caulking and the UM.

The new complex is located amid the thriving science community on Virginia Key, Fla. Funded in part through a $15 million U.S. Department of Commerce American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) grant awarded by the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST), the project will be completed in late 2013.

The Surge-Structure-Atmosphere Interaction (SUSTAIN) research laboratory occupying one of the two buildings will be the only facility in the world with a wind-wave-storm surge simulator capable of generating Category 5 hurricane force winds in a 3D environment. The 28,000 gallons of filtered seawater pumped into the building will allow scientists to directly observe and quantify critical storm factors such as sea spray and momentum transfers across the ocean’s surface in extreme wind conditions. A sophisticated wave generator will enable simulation of realistic storm surge impacts.

The Marine Life Sciences Center, occupying the other building, will provide a dedicated space for maintaining and studying living marine animals including fish, corals and sea hares. Coral reef research will focus on helping to assess and measure the effects of climate change and ocean acidification on critical reef-building processes.  Scientists will also conduct fisheries and biological oceanography research to generate models of the biological and physical processes that affect the distribution of marine organisms.  They will also study the impacts of environmental toxicants including heavy metals, pharmaceuticals and toxins on fishes and invertebrates, and use marine genomics to better understand how gene expression changes in marine populations chronically exposed to pollution.

Congratulations to everyone who has been working so hard to make this building a reality! Check out the photo gallery below for a few photos from the event.