Friday, May 8, 2009

Perry Marine Research Institute

It’s Thursday, May 7. The Research Institute announced on the VHF radio that the tour would begin at 11:30 today. They require at least 6 people and we had 10—so we are on for the tour. Todd and Brenda picked us up in their dink and as Poncho (Cisco the Kid’s riding buddy) used to say, “Let’s went”.

What a place—well worth the wait. It’s a nonprofit institute that hosts research scientists and grad students from various universities in the U.S. Peak research time is summer when the universities are on summer break. The institute has a full-time staff of 4 people and up to 30 researchers at any time in the summer months. We saw experiments on the effect of water temperature on coral bleaching, the effect of nutrient runoff on the growth of sponges and algae, and the effect of pollution on the gender of gobe fish. Experiments are done in labs and outdoor tanks on the institute grounds and also in the waters off the surrounding cays. Lots of air tanks for diving, including nitrox and re-breathers for dives up to 300 feet. The institute has a hyperbaric chamber for treating divers afflicted with the ‘bends’. It’s one of the sites that Divers’ Alert Network can use – divers can be helicoptered or flown into the landing strip or helipad on the island.

The institute makes its own water, generates its own electricity, and has a dump where the garbage is burned. Fuel for the generator and the 11 boats is delivered by a fuel barge and pumped into their tanks. A large order of groceries for the busy summer season is delivered by ship. Guest students/scientists are evacuated to Atlanta if any hurricane threatens. But, the staff says put up to Level 2. They have a shelter to use is such cases. Pretty cool.

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