New College students and faculty conduct marine research in Sarasota Bay
New College students and faculty conduct marine research in Sarasota Bay

Starting this week, a marine science research and sailing dock will be constructed on the New College Caples campus. Designed to enhance environmental studies, education and recreational programs on Sarasota Bay, the project will tentatively be completed by September 3.

“This will greatly enhance New College’s traditionally strong and popular programs in marine biology and environmental studies, and its summer marine biology education programs for underprivileged students from Sarasota and Manatee counties,” said New College President Donal O’Shea.

New College professors and students are currently studying the effects of red tide; monitoring the health of sharks, dolphins, manatees and other marine life; and conducting research to improve the sustainability of mangroves and various native plants.

This dock will serve the marine biology program’s 32-foot pontoon research boat, Limbatus; a smaller research skiff; and a rigid inflatable rescue vessel. It will also provide boat slips for the College’s sailing team and waterfront recreation program, and two boat lifts for individuals with mobility issues.

The six-foot-wide, L-shaped construction will extend 294 feet west from the shore of the Caples campus and then 144 feet to the southwest. The dock site is about 50 feet south of The Ringling museum sea wall, and it was selected for its environmental compatibility and proximity to deep water.

New College has worked closely with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Southwest Florida Water Management District to ensure full compliance with the stringent permitting requirements governing Sarasota Bay.

“The bay is one of Sarasota’s greatest natural assets,” says Jayne Gardiner, Ph.D., the director of the Pritzker Marine Biology Research Center and an associate professor of biology at New College. “With a dock that expands access to the bay, we can conduct more environmental and marine science research into this natural ecosystem, which benefits both our students and the bay itself.”

The dock is also being constructed with environmentally-friendly materials: Surestep PVC open deck grating, designed for maximum sunlight penetration to underwater aquatic life; and high-density polyethylene piling wraps, which protect the water from any chemicals in the treated wood pilings.

“The dock will accelerate our understanding of the local environment and the effects of climate change and our warming waters,” O’Shea said. “More immediately, it will be a tremendous resource for the entire community and provide environmentally safe access to the bay for our sailing and waterfront program.”

New College’s location on Sarasota Bay has inspired a strong tradition of research and learning in marine biology and environmental studies. The data that student and faculty researchers have collected and analyzed over the years has positively impacted the local community and the world.

“Our students and faculty have done work on the bay (as well as in other sites abroad, such as Costa Rico, the Caribbean and Hawaii) for more than a half-century,” O’Shea said. “They want to help heal the world we have handed them, and our futures depend on them.”

Founded in Sarasota in 1960, New College of Florida is a top-ranked public liberal arts college and the state’s Honors College of Florida. New College prepares intellectually curious students for lives of great achievement by providing a highly individualized education that integrates academic rigor with career-building experiences. New College offers 45 undergraduate majors in arts, humanities and sciences, a master’s degree program in applied data science, and certificates in technology, finance, and business skills.

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