ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (Feb. 25, 2009) – The University of South Florida’s College of Marine Science debuted Florida’s newest ocean-going research tool Wednesday with the presentation of the R/V WeatherBird II, a 115-foot, 194-ton vessel equipped for a new era of scientific teaching and research.
The R/V WeatherBird II was purchased by USF for $2.1 million for use through the Florida Institute of Oceanography, a consortium of Florida’s public universities, private higher education institutions and state agencies involved in marine research.
The R/V WeatherBird II will be equipped with state-of-the art oceanographic devices and sensor technology designed to enable scientists and students to study and learn about various aspects of the ocean’s biological, chemical, geological and physical characteristics. Researchers will use the vessel to support advanced studies on myriad of complex issues impacting global and coastal oceans, as well as life in the sea.
The R/V WeatherBird II will make its first voyage in March.
“Given our community’s historical ties to the water we know our future depends on our ability to build sustainable communities that both protect and promote the oceans around us,” USF President Judy Genshaft said in remarks delivered to state and local leaders on hand for the debut. “We see the College of Marine Science as a centerpiece in that effort and the WeatherBird II as the vehicle that will carry us to those exciting days of discovery ahead.”
Joining in the dedication was Florida Board of Governors Chair Sheila McDevitt, who played a pivotal role in the acquisition of the vessel.
The R/V WeatherBird II replaces a 40-year-old vessel that was smaller and not able to fully support the advanced marine sensor technology being developed by the College of Marine Science. “This research vessel is critical to the education and research mission of the college” said Bill Hogarth, dean of USF’s College of Marine Science, said of the R/V WeatherBird II. “In addition to facilitating our world-class oceanographic studies, it will be an important tool in attracting the best graduate students, post doctoral candidates and faculty members to the campus.”
Accompanying the introduction of the vessel was a screening of a new film, “Guardians of the Gulf,” featuring College of Marine Science researchers. The 60-minute, high-definition documentary explores scientists’ work to unravel the mysteries of severe red tide outbreaks in the Gulf of Mexico. The movie was produced by documentary filmmaker Susan Sember of The Essential Image Source Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to raising public awareness of important environmental and cultural causes.
The University of South Florida is one of the nation's top 63 public research universities and one of 39 community-engaged, four-year public universities as designated by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. USF was awarded more than $360 million in research contracts and grants in FY 2007/2008. The university offers 219 degree programs at the undergraduate, graduate, specialist and doctoral levels, including the doctor of medicine. The university has a $1.8 billion annual budget, an annual economic impact of $3.2 billion, and serves more than 46,000 students on institutions/campuses in Tampa, St. Petersburg, Sarasota-Manatee and Lakeland. USF is a member of the Big East Athletic Conference.