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Miami Breaks Ground on Marine Life Sciences Lab

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The University of Miami broke ground Thursday on a new marine research complex that will include one building focused on marine life sciences research projects and another that will house oceanographic, meteorological, and marine physics-related studies.

The two buildings in the Marine Technology and Life Sciences Seawater Complex, part of the UM Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, will consist of two buildings connected through an open atrium that will be located on Virginia Key.

The research center was funded in part through a $15 million American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grant from the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and it is expected to be completed in late 2013.

"These laboratories will help researchers study coastal structures, weather phenomena, and marine life, all of which have a profound effect on the health and well-being of people and the planet," UM President Donna Shalala said in a statement.

The 47,942 square-foot Marine Life Sciences Center building will be a space for studying living marine animals including fish, corals, and sea hares.

The research will involve using genomics to learn how gene expression changes in marine populations that are exposed to pollution, and will study the impacts of environmental toxicants on marine life. The projects also will include studies of the effects of algal blooms, and will seek to assess the effects of climate change on marine ecosystems.

"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 will provide a dedicated space for the study of marine animals with special attention on the critical connections between oceans and human health and the impacts of climate change on marine organisms and ecosystems," Michael Schmale, co-principal investigator at the Rosenstiel School and Professor of Marine Biology and Fisheries, said in the statement.

The center also will be home to a National Resource for Aplysia, which will be the only facility in the world that cultures and raises sea hares.

"The relatively simple nervous system of Aplysia offers an ideal model for research on neurophysiology, brain function, memory and learning, and aging, which also have implications for human diseases such as Alzheimer's," added Schmale, who will direct the Aplysia center.