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FGCU’s marine research center benefits from a surprise grant

 FGCU's Vester Marine and Environmental Science Research Field  on Little Hickory Island
FGCU's Vester Marine and Environmental Science Research Field on Little Hickory Island

LITTLE HICKORY ISLAND – Florida Gulf Coast University’s marine research center on Fish Trap Bay is on the receiving end of a $10,000 grant, one for which nobody ever applied.

The Vester Marine and Environmental Science Research Field Station in Bonita Springs received $10,000 grant earlier this month from an environmental foundation in Maine.

Michael Parsons, director of Vester Station and a marine science professor at FGCU, has not yet said for what he is going to use the gift. One possibility is for improvements at Kimberley’s Reef, FGCU’s underwater laboratory 30 feet deep in the Gulf of Mexico offshore of Lee and Collier counties.

The reef provides students and professional researchers opportunities to study in a wide range of disciplines including environmental sciences, engineering, education, and even art. The reef is also a training site for FGCU scientists pursuing scuba diving certification for groups like the American Academy of Underwater Sciences.

Sensors on the buoy floating above the reef collect meteorological and oceanographic data from the area and sends it back to Vester Station for analysis. The structure below provides habitat for fish, coral, and sponges.

The $10,000 grant was given to Vester Station by the Woodard & Curren Foundation in Portland, which is focused on water issues and the environment. FCGU fundraisers were unaware Vester Station was in the running for the grant as it has no application process. Environmental groups are nominated by the foundation’s donors.

Vester Station was one of 11 environmental nonprofits to receive a grant this year out of 35 nominated.

Vester Station houses laboratories, a hatchery, seawater holding tanks, classrooms, and conference space. The station has six powerboats for research in Estero Bay and the Gulf of Mexico, nearly two dozen canoes and kayaks, and eight apartments for those needing to stay onsite for longer research projects.

The three-building research station had been an Old Florida resort, and before that the complex was a commercial fish house.

Environmental reporting for WGCU is funded in part by VoLo Foundation, accelerating change and global impact by supporting science-based climate solutions, enhancing education, and improving health.