In 1972, the Marine Science Institute became the Department of Marine Science within the USF College of Natural Sciences and in 1978 the Florida Board of Regents awarded the Department of Marine Science a Center of Excellence designation and doubled the number of faculty members.In the 50 years since this modest beginning, CMS has expanded in size and capability, and is now internationally recognized as a leader in ocean science. There are presently 26 faculty, about 100 graduate students, 47 full-time support personnel, and 48 temporary staff. CMS researchers currently attract about $15M in annual research expenditures and there is a total endowment of about $18M.
The CMS impact on the local economy goes beyond our research expenditures and our endowment. The CMS has served as the nucleus for the development of the St. Petersburg Marine Science Cluster. The Florida Institute of Oceanography was established at the same time that we began.In 2000, we became the College of Marine Science and Peter Betzer was named Dean. With Peter’s leadership and later with Bill Hogarth (2008 to 2011) and Jackie Dixon (2011 to present) leading the way, the pieces fell into place. The USGS Office of Coastal Geology made St. Pete its home in the renovated the Studebaker Building in 1989, USF and FWC celebrated the groundbreaking of the joint-use Knight Oceanographic Research Center in the Congressman Bill Young Marine Science Complex in 1994, NOAA NMFS moved to their Bayboro Building in 2005, and SRI St. Petersburg was recruited in 2008.
CMS faculty and students have led the creation of a number of innovative private companies. For example, CMS graduates created the highly successful and internationally known Ocean Optics and Blue Water Recoveries companies, and SRI was born from the CMS Center for Ocean Technology. Several faculty members have created successful businesses. For example, one of our faculty created PureMolecular to market the “grouper detector” that you might have seen on the news.This technology is also being expanded to detect red tide. Another faculty member has partnered with the USGS to develop a novel pH detector that is accurate, inexpensive and portable, and will enable citizen scientists to contribute to ocean acidification studies.
And our basic research enables future innovative applications. Our scientists were first responders to the Deep Water Horizon disaster and continue to study the event in order that we will be better prepared for the next one. We have developed state of the art computer models of Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico that will be applied to storm surge warning, red tide prediction, fisheries management and many other problems. Our people are leading the way in studies of environmental issues from the global to the local scale and providing tools and knowledge that allows our leaders to plan for a sustainable and resilient future for all of us.