As more people and societal infrastructure concentrate along coastal areas, humans are becoming more vulnerable to hurricanes. Crisis managers and emergency planners tasked with relocating coastal populations from the path of destructive weather require increasingly accurate prediction skills — most notably in understanding hurricane intensity and rapid intensification. A better understanding of building structures exposed to wind, wave, and surge forces is also important in designing and erecting safer structures that are more wind- and water-resistant.
A one-of-a-kind SUSTAIN (SUrge-STructure-Atmosphere INteraction) research facility will be a major component of this complex. This will be the only place in the world with a wind-wave-storm surge simulator capable of generating Category 5 hurricane-force winds in a 3D test environment. Designed by the world’s leading aquarium architects, the new seawater tank will provide scientists and engineers with access to critical observations within a realistic, but scaled and controlled environment. SUSTAIN will enable the development and testing of building envelopes to protect critical structures during hazardous conditions, and will also be used to innovate advanced sensor technologies, including remote and optical imaging systems that can be deployed in hurricanes.
Marine Life Science
Few facilities exist in the world where marine research is being conducted on such a wide range of aquatic organisms. The Marine Life Sciences Center, located within the new seawater complex, will provide a dedicated space for the study of marine animals with foci on the critical connections between oceans and human health and the impacts of climate change on marine organisms and ecosystems. Research projects planed for the Center include studies of:
• Responses of corals to climate change and vulnerability of corals to environmental stresses
• The impacts of environmental toxicants including heavy metals, pharmaceuticals and toxins from harmful algal blooms on fishes and invertebrates
• Genomics of marine organisms and how gene expression changes in marine populations chronically exposed to pollution
• Cancer in fish as a model to understand novel pathways in carcinogenesis
• Early life history of marine fish and invertebrate larvae - how they sense and move through oceanic environments
The Marine Life Sciences Center will also house the National Resource for Aplysia, the only facility in the world that cultures and raises sea hares, Aplysia californica, for scientific research. The relatively simple nervous system of Aplysia offers an ideal model for research on neurophysiology, brain function, memory and learning, and aging. Funded through the National Institutes of Health for the last 17 years, the programs ships more than 20,000 animals annually to scientists around the globe and conducts ongoing research to improve the utility of this important animal model.