Advancing Marine Conservation Research

The Brinn-Heithaus Aquaculture Project, led by principal investigators Heather Bracken-Grissom and Richard Brinn, will be integral to aligning sustainable fisheries, food security and conservation. This pilot program will implement a state-of-the-art aquaculture facility at FIU’s Biscayne Bay Campus to research ecological enhancement and remediation using endemic keystone species such as herbivorous sea urchins. The project will also support research and education opportunities for undergraduate, graduate and high school students, as well as outreach to K-12 schools and the local community.

Sea urchins have been a food source in the United States for well over 40 years. Although they are used as a prolific fishery in many areas, sea urchins have been overharvested, and their population has declined dramatically.

Major disease outbreaks in 1983-84 caused significant deaths of sea urchins throughout Florida, the Bahamas and the Caribbean, wiping out 95-99% of some local populations (Carpenter, 1988). Using grazer stock enhancement could be a viable way to save our coral reefs and keep them healthy for future generations.

Student Research Opportunities

The aquaculture project will provide opportunities for students in relevant programs to assist in critical research, education and outreach. Biscayne Bay Campus students in Marine Biology, Biology, Earth and Environment, and Hospitality are encouraged to apply.

The aquaculture project will offer 10 undergraduates research intern positions each semester with Dr. Brinn and graduate students in the lab. There is limited funding for internship stipends to be granted based on merit and need.

For more information about interning, please contact Dr. Richard Brinn.

Improving Aquaculture Facilities

The aquaculture pilot project will be established at the existing Coastal Conservation and Restoration Laboratory on the Biscayne Bay Campus. Facilities are being retrofitted to provide improved areas for students and researchers to study aquaculture.

FIU's Biscayne Bay Campus is an ideal location to develop a program to grow and care for sea urchins. BBC sits on 200 mostly undeveloped acres on the bay, with bay and ocean access, docks, boat ramps, and a boat storage facility with some aquaculture capacity already installed.


K-12 Outreach

The College of Arts, Science & Education's Education Outreach team will use the Aquaculture Program to introduce K-12 students to marine science concepts and activities.

Students can explore the aquaculture facility and the Biscayne Bay Campus through a variety of experiences:

  • MAST@FIU high school in-class activities and field trips
  • Virtual and in-person lab experiences tied to Miami-Dade County Public Schools K-12 curricula
  • Family science nights
  • Summer camp and mini-camp activities