JU, OCEARCH receive state funding for Mayport research facility

June 16, 2023

Jacksonville University and its world-renowned ocean research partner, OCEARCH, announced the designation of $5 million in funding from the state of Florida for the OCEARCH Global Headquarters in Mayport, Fla. 

Located on 1.18 acres of waterfront property at the mouth of the St. Johns River, the facility will serve as the hub for OCEARCH’s collaborative research efforts, experiential education programs and vessel operations. Jacksonville University and OCEARCH expect to break ground on the project by 2024.

“Right now, and for many years to come, Jacksonville University believes exploration, education and scientific discovery are the key ingredients to achieving real progress in tackling massive challenges of our time, such as climate change and healthy oceans,” said Jacksonville University President Tim Cost. “For the past two years, Jacksonville University and OCEARCH have been working with the City of Jacksonville, Mayport community groups and our local delegation on this important project, and we are honored to receive this generous support from the state to advance our plans."The OCEARCH research vessel sets sail on the open ocean.

OCEARCH Founder and Jacksonville University Explorer in Residence Chris Fischer added: “Our mission at OCEARCH is to accelerate the oceans' return to balance and abundance through fearless innovations in scientific research, while using a unique collaborative approach to solve critical problems in the waters around the globe. It’s inspiring to see the State of Florida, City of Jacksonville, and Jacksonville University stepping up to support our non-profit work on the water. Together we will fearlessly pioneer the vital research necessary to deliver an abundant ocean to future generations. This is a dream come true for me.”

Plans for the OCEARCH Global Headquarters consist of spaces for public education and meetings, OCEARCH ship operations, dockage for various research vessels, a state-of-the-art marine life research laboratory with data and academic resource management, and basic housing for researchers and crew members. A concrete dock funded by the City of Jacksonville is currently under construction at the site. The facility plans to host visitors from around the world by offering interactive and educational community programming, especially for young, aspiring scientists. 

“Our goal is to educate visitors on why marine organisms, including sharks, are so important for the health of the world’s oceans and for our global climate, while also promoting more data-centric public policy at the state and federal level,” said Dr. Quint White, executive director of Jacksonville University’s Marine Science Research Institute. “On a deeper level, we also want to inspire the next generation of scientists to continue exploring and discovering our vast oceans.”

Dr. Bryan Franks tags a white shark.

Since 2017, Jacksonville University has served as the academic home of OCEARCH, the largest shark-tagging and oceanic research organization in the world. To date, OCEARCH has conducted  45 ocean research expeditions, helping advance research projects involving more than a dozen public and private institutions in Florida. The expeditions have resulted in more than 80 peer-reviewed scientific publications, including one of the largest studies ever published on white sharks, authored by Jacksonville University researcher Dr. Bryan Franks and his OCEARCH colleagues. Jacksonville University students and faculty have joined OCEARCH and its coalition of independent scientists on 11 research expeditions. 

OCEARCH is committed to life-long education and ocean literacy through its K-12 STEM curriculum, internship opportunities, graduate and postdoctoral student research, ship tours, community programming and the free Global Shark Tracker® and app. 

For more information, visit www.ju.edu/ocearch or OCEARCH.org.



Laura Phelps


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