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Federal Budget Cuts To End UNCW Aquarius Operation

The Aquarius undersea lab, owned by NOAA and operated by UNCW.
Photo courtesy NOAA and UNC Wilmington
The Aquarius undersea lab, owned by NOAA and operated by UNCW.

Federal budget cuts will soon terminate UNC Wilmington’s involvement in the world’s only undersea research laboratory. 

For more than two decades, UNC Wilmington has managed and operated Aquarius Reef Base, an undersea lab located off the Florida Keys.  The Aquarius Foundation, a recently formed organization, is trying to raise funds for the lab.  However, the foundation is independent and not affiliated with UNCW.  Regardless of the foundation’s success, the university will no longer run the facility beyond the end of the year.  Dr. Daniel Baden, director of Marine Science at UNC Wilmington, says the program was cut in the President’s budget and that cut was upheld by Congress:  

". . . so we have the President’s budget, the house and the senate, all three saying that Aquarius Reef Base is not a budget element this next year and that, of course, is the funding mechanism.   Without that two to three million dollars a year to operate Aquarius Reef base and do the research, UNCW is not in the position to be able to operate it.”

                      Dr. Daniel Baden, Director of Marine Science, UNCW

Aquarius has been involved in hundreds of research projects and more than 120 of its missions have resulted in new technology and products benefiting NASA, the EPA, coral reef societies and other environmental organizations.  Baden says it’s a tremendous loss for the undersea community and UNCW.