Aquarius Reef Base, the world’s only undersea research station, is located within Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Aquarius is home to scientists for missions up to 10 days long and is made to withstand the pressure of ocean depths to 120 feet deep
In operation since 1993, Aquarius Reef Base ceased operations in July 2012 with it’s 117th federally funded undersea mission. Over time, it’s budget dropped from 7.4 million in 2011 to 3.4 million in 2012 before its final cut in funding this year effective December 31, 2012. As Aquarius’ mission is highly important for undersea research, the Aquarius Foundation has undertaken a $750,000 funding drive to keep Aquarius in operation for 2013 and they have turned to crowd-sourced funding to help. Their goal is to raise $100,000 in funds using Indiegogo, a Kickstarter-like crowd-sourced funding website.
In an effort to make funding inexpensive for backers, the Aquarius Foundation has come up with modestly priced tiers for funding:
- $25 – A picture postcard of the “Mission Aquarius” aquanauts inside the habitat
- $50 – High quality Aquarius Reef Base “Mission Aquarius” T-shirt
- $100 – NASA photographer Mark Widick’s autographed photo poster
- $500 – Signed by all four Mission Aquarius aquanauts inside the habitat
Why is Aquarius Reef Base important?
Here are some examples of what research scientists have learned using Aquarius:
- A team of scientists discovered that internal waves bring as much as 20-40 times more nitrogen and phosphorus to the upper Florida Keys outer reef tract than estimates of nutrient pollution from sewage and storm water runoff.
- Collaborative research on coral reefs revealed surprisingly high pumping
- rates and rates of nitrogen exchange in reef sponges. A ‘denitrifying effect’ of some sponges, which may counteract other sponge nitrification to help maintain the health of a reef system, has also been identified.
- Coral restoration and resilience experiments have been conducted since 2007 to increase understanding of the factors that affect the survival of coral transplants as a way to begin restore damaged reefs.
- Experiments to determine how herbivore diversity may be most productively managed to restore damaged reefs to desired states of health and ecosystem function.
- Scientists have begun to zero in on the causes of ocean acidification, which is contributing to the degradation of coral reefs. Of particular interest: whether some acidification might be caused by respiration of bottom-dwelling creatures like sponges, or whether most can be attributed to carbon emissions from an industrialized world.
NASA has also used Aquarius for astronaut training for extravehicular activities, isolated and constrained quarters for extended periods of time, and how a pressurized environment affects sleep and the body’s immune system.
If you would like to help, head over to Aquarius’ Indiegogo campaign and fund it. As of today, they have raised $2,620 of their $100,000 goal and they have 60 days left in their campaign.