Duval County

Shark research group to build new global headquarters in Jacksonville with big boost from state fund

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Jacksonville University and OCEARCH received a $5 million grant from the state to build a new world-class marine research facility at Mayport.


Dr. Quinton White is the executive director of the Marine Science Research Center, and he said that this will be a transformation in their research.

“Mayport is an ideal spot to launch a research vessel into the Atlantic to look for great white sharks,” Quinton said.

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Since 2017, JU has served as the academic home of OCEARCH, which is the largest shark-tagging and oceanic research organization in the world. To date, it has conducted 45 research expeditions studying many different topics.

“Everything from the diet of these animals, during particular times of year, where they go and when they go there, and ultimately why they’re going there,” Dr. Bryan Franks, the assistant director of the Marine Science Research Institute at JU said.

Franks participates in the expeditions. As an ecologist, he focuses on movements and migration.

“And as our climates are changing and as our waters are warming, you know, we may see some shifts in kind of the ranges of some species,” Franks said.

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The OCEARCH technology allows people to track the sharks they’ve tagged.

This revitalization effort at Mayport will help capitalize on their marine research. Through its collaboration with JU, the city of Jacksonville started the first installment a few years ago and invested $6 million to create a dock at its waterfront property in Mayport.

Now, with the new state funds, the plan is to build a research lab, an educational outreach facility, housing for scientists and students and a ship repair facility. The goal is to create

The current OCEARCH vessel is docked in Brunswick, Georgia because there hasn’t been a place for it to go in Jacksonville.

“So, the idea we’re sitting here a mile from the jetties and offshore is huge,” White said.

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White also said this facility has the potential to be a source of economy for Jacksonville. The city is already planning on it.

“They want to build additional docks,” White said about the city’s plans. “They would like to see shrimp boats return of their seafood processors, things like that.”

However, the funding doesn’t stop at the state or city level, JU and OCEARCH anticipate creating fundraisers in the future to help continue the important research.

The two groups expect to break ground in 2024.

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