Ft. Pierce is Home of Smithsonian Marine Station
Planning a trip to the Smithsonian but worried about the high cost of travel? It might come as a surprise to learn that the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C. operates a marine research station in Ft. Pierce specializing in the ecosystems and marine biodiversity of south Florida.
The Station offers in-the-field capabilities to more than 100 top scientists and students from around the world each year with specialized laboratories for histology, electron microscopy, electrophoresis, DNA studies, a photographic darkroom, industrial shop, and office and laboratories for individual scientists. The Marine station also owns a fleet of six boats for field studies ranging in size from two 11’ sea kayaks to a 39’ foot lobster boat converted into a research vessel.
Ft. Pierce’s location in a transitional zone between temperate and tropical habitats is one reason the area supports such a high diversity of marine plants and animals. Scientists at the Smithsonian Marine Station engage in a broad spectrum of research projects in the biodiversity, ecology and life histories of marine and estuarine organisms extending from the intertidal and shallow waters of the Indian River Lagoon to the offshore waters of the Continental Shelf and Florida Current. Scientists who can’t make it to the field station still share information gained from studying our unique habitat.
Scientific findings are published in scholarly journals and presented in public presentations contributing to the mission of the Smithsonian Institution to increase and diffuse knowledge. Work at the Marine Station has also been featured in Discover, Popular Science and Smithsonian magazines, and on network and public television both in the US and abroad.
Beyond the noble quest for knowledge for the enlightenment of mankind, the information gathered at the field station has impacts on our daily lives. Research results can influence environmental decisions regarding conservation and provide a basis for innovative applications in medicine, aquaculture and the effective balance of growth and nature.
Inspiring the Future
Each year the Smithsonian Marine Station promotes the education of future scientists by offering research fellowships at the graduate and post graduate levels. To reach students at an even younger level, the Smithsonian scientists occasionally host lab tours for students, serve as judges in science fairs, present lectures at local schools, and otherwise maintain an active involvement as members of the community. For over 35 years, the Smithsonian Marine Station has been a reliable and available resource on marine science to St. Lucie County, the Treasure Coast, and beyond.
The depth of the Smithsonian Marine Station’s commitment to bringing its work to the public, however, is ultimately found across the street at the Smithsonian Marine Ecosystems Exhibit.
The Smithsonian Marine Ecosystems Exhibit
The Smithsonian Marine Ecosystems Exhibit staff hosts visiting school groups and the public for a close view of our local diverse ecosystem with hands-on science programs, self-guided tours and behind the scenes tours.
The 2500-gallon Caribbean Coral Reef Ecosystem, originally displayed in the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington D.C., is the first thing that visitors see. This tank houses more than 15 species of fish and over 20 species of coral.
The south side of the exhibit features three living models of Indian River Lagoon habitats providing a look at the Seagrass beds, the Mangrove Ecosystem and the Lagoon Hardbottom Ecosystem. The north side of the exhibit features habitats of Florida’s east coast including The Nearshore Reef Ecosystem and the threatened Oculina Reef Ecosystem.
Stop by the touch tank where you can touch animals found locally in the Indian River Lagoon and near-shore waters, including sea cucumbers, sea urchins, sea stars, horseshoe crabs and tiny peppermint shrimp!
Call 772-462-FISH for information about Indian River Lagoon boat tours operating from the Exhibit and special behind the scenes tours. The Exhibit is open Tuesday - Saturday from 10am to 4pm. Admission is only $3 for adults and $2 for seniors & children. The first Tuesday of each month is free! For additional information about educational programs for marine-life lovers of all ages, call 772-465-3271 or visit www.sms.si.edu/SMEE.