President Okker unveils New College’s new marine research and sailing dock to the community during a ribbon-cutting ceremony
President Okker unveils New College’s new marine research and sailing dock to the community during a ribbon-cutting ceremony

From SRQ on 11-13-21:

By Patricia Okker, Ph.D.

I am thrilled to announce that, after a full summer of on-campus construction, our dock on the New College bayfront is now complete.

This incredible resource for marine science research and waterfront recreation will serve the College, our entire community, and our beautiful Sarasota Bay, for years to come.

I am especially grateful to the state, and to our Florida legislators, for making this project possible. Because Sarasota Bay is so often our classroom at New College, this new dock will tremendously help our faculty and students conduct research to enhance the health of our local waters.

The dock will bolster New College’s traditionally strong and popular programs in marine biology and environmental studies, as well as our summer marine biology education programs for teens in Sarasota and Manatee counties. And it will be the home port for our sailing and waterfront recreation program.

New College professors and students regularly study the effects of red tide; monitor the health of sharks, manatees, dolphins and other marine life; and collect data to improve the sustainability of mangroves and various native plants in the region. Because of this dock, our researchers can conduct their work much more easily and efficiently. The dock is also ADA compliant, with a boat lift for individuals with mobility issues.

But where exactly is this dock and what does it look like? The L-shaped dock is six feet wide and extends 294 feet west from the shore of the New College Caples campus and then 144 feet to the southwest. The 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.

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

Our dock construction team, headed by New College Project Manager Itza Frisco, 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. Our construction partners at the Tignor Group, ATP Engineering South, Willis Smith Construction, Custom Dock & Davit, and Hall Darling Design Studio did a remarkable job of building the dock.

The dock now serves the New College marine biology program’s 32-foot pontoon research boat, Limbatus; a smaller research skiff; and a rigid inflatable rescue vessel.

We look forward to this dock enabling our students and faculty to devote more time and energy to their environmental research. Every one of our professional and emerging scientists at New College has shown a resolute commitment to preserving this natural ecosystem, and we honor their hard work.

For example, New College Associate Professor of Biology Jayne Gardiner, Ph.D. and her colleagues recently received a $165,111 grant from the Tampa Bay Environmental Restoration Fund for the study of blacknose and great hammerhead sharks in the bay. New College thesis student Cecilia Hampton was just awarded a Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation scholarship for her research with Professor Gardiner into bull shark movements in the Manatee River. This groundbreaking research will have lasting effects on our Florida waters and our planet as a whole, and our dock will only generate more efforts like these.

Our list of supporters for the construction of this dock is lengthy, and it includes individuals like Florida Representatives James Buchanan, Fiona McFarland and Tommy Gregory; Senators Jim Boyd and Joe Gruters; Congressman Vern Buchanan; and officials from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

We couldn’t be more appreciative of everyone who helped make this dock a reality—for believing in New College, and for prioritizing and championing scientific research. We are so grateful.

Patricia Okker, Ph.D. is the president of New College of Florida.


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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