University of North Florida to research marine life from 78-foot boat

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — University of North Florida students and staff will now be calling a 78-foot boat a floating laboratory.

“It’s amazing because you actually get to be hands-on with animals,” said student Samantha Ehnerts.

UNF and 13 other schools partnered with the state Legislature to contribute to the boat’s $6 million construction cost.

UNF’s Dr. Jim Gelsleichter said there are some specific trips they’ll be taking.

“Trying to identify novel compounds produced by microorganisms that may be used as drugs,” Gelsleichter said.

They’ll also be doing some research on sharks and look into how pollution and climate change affect coral reefs.

The boat has a lot of cool technology on board to help

“This system is designed to be deployed down to 3,000 or 4,000 feet and can collect samples of the sediments,” said Dr. Philip Kramer, director of the Florida Institute of Oceanography.

There’s also a system that can collect 12 different water samples.

“You can trigger water samples to be collected when you want as it's going down,” Kramer said.

Students and staff members will be going out on trips during the spring and summer.