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Above: Researchers setting up recruitment tiles for coral larvae at the Coral Gardens on the oceanside of Lower Matecumbe Key.

Support Marine Research and Education in the Florida Keys!

Tax Deductable DONATIONSKML Modernization & Improvement Fund (please designate "KML" in the Leave a Comment box)).
PURCHASE KML APPAREL HERE (link to the Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida gift shop)
Do you enjoy snorkeling with angel fish, rays, and turtles over the coral reefs in the clear, warm waters of the Florida Keys? Or perhaps you would rather spend your time fishing for bonefish, permit, or tarpon over the flats in Florida Bay. Or are you one of the thousands who travel to the Keys for spiny lobster season every year? Regardless of how you enjoy the marine environment, there is no argument that the waters of the Florida Keys are a pretty fantastic place to spend your time. It is important to remember though, that the Keys are also a delicate and vulnerable place, where threats come from all sides: pollution and water flow in Florida Bay; acidification, warming, and disease on the reefs; and intense fishing pressure on lobsters and fish, just to name a few. In order to assure the continued health of the Florida Keys Ecosystem, we first must understand how it works.

Marine scientists have long recognized this and have been working at KML for years to do just that. However, the Florida Keys is a vast and complicated environment and we are just beginning to understand many important aspects of how the system works. While continued research will unravel the many of its remaining mysteries – for some of the most vulnerable areas of the Keys this knowledge may come too late.

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Divers aboard the R/V Diodon prepare to get into the water during research on coral spawning and recruitment.
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A newly recruited Montastrea faveolata, a major reef-building coral, on a settlement tile.
Field work is simultaneously one of the most important and most difficult aspects of Marine Science. Working underwater creates challenges that are simply not applicable in terrestrial systems. This is part of the reason that, before the development of the first practical and affordable SCUBA gear in the 1940’s, very little research was done below the surface. While we have come a long way since then, marine science is still one of the most logistically difficult of scientific disciplines. Add to that the costs of working in a place like the Florida Keys and you have a very large hurdle that scientists must overcome to conduct research in these crucially important systems. It is not only researchers that have to overcome the difficulties of working in the Keys. Educators have just as many challenges, if not more, in teaching the next generation of scientists about marine systems. Few things are as important for young marine scientists as hands-on experiences in the marine environment. However, few things are more difficult for educators than taking groups of students into the field. At KML we facilitate both research and education efforts by providing critical and affordable logistical support.

Our proximity to the only shallow water coral reef system in the continental United States, as well as Florida Bay, Everglades National Park, and the Gulf Stream makes KML one of only a few locations which can serve nearly any marine researcher or educator working on tropical organisms and ecosystems without having to leave the continental United States. Consequently, over the past 20 years, KML has become a vital component of research and education programs which rely on the easy access to these habitats and organisms that KML provides. However, due to the high demand for our services, particularly during the summer months, we can only support as many researchers and educators as our facilities allow. While the lab receives funding from the State of Florida to maintain the facility in its current form, these monies can only go so far. In order to expand and improve our capacity to fulfill our mission of providing affordable logistical support for our visitors, we must receive support from other sources as well.

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Researchers from the University of Miami-RSMAS tagging sharks in Everglades National Park.
Since the inception of KML back in the late 1980’s, the dormitories and laboratories have remained largely unchanged beyond some cosmetic improvements. Although the labs and dorms in their current configuration are still relatively functional, some twenty years of use by visiting groups has afforded us some important insights into more effective space utilization and flexibility. In this context, both the dormitories and laboratories, as currently configured, create limitations which prevent maximizing their use.

Consequently, we need to reconfigure the existing space we have dedicated to dormitories in order to both improve flexibility and increase availability so we can accommodate as many visiting groups as possible during each field season. To do this, we will need to move bedrooms and bathrooms around so that smaller groups can more easily co-exist in the current dormitory space while still maintaining our capacity to merge this space as is necessary for larger groups. Such improvements will enable us to comfortably accommodate a broader number of groups at the same time. With the addition of more visitors to the dorms, use of our laboratories and seawater system will also increase. It is important that our laboratory spaces are flexible enough to accommodate diverse research and education groups of a variety of sizes. Consequently, we need to increase our wet and dry laboratory space in existing structures as well as in new facilities made possible by the recent reconstruction of the physical grounds (new seawall, etc.) after Hurricane Wilma .

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Keys Marine Lab apparel.
We have therefore established a means for you to join us in achieving our goals for the improvement of KML. All tax-deductible “KML Modernization and Improvement Fund” contributions will go directly to fund improvements to the Keys Marine Laboratory – not for administrative costs or other overhead. By helping us improve and expand our capacity to help researchers overcome the logistical difficulties inherent in marine research, your contribution will have the broadest possible impact and will do so for years to come.

KML Apparel is also available through the Foundation, demonstrating your support for marine research in the Florida Keys. Long and short-sleeved T-shirts, commemorating 20 Years of KML, may be purchased, as well as ball caps with the KML logo. Make your purchase online, print your reciept and pick up your KML apparel at the Lab. Or your purchases can be mailed to you for a nominal shipping fee.
Secure, tax-deductible contributions and purchases can be made online at the Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida (link goes to Foundation gift shop).

Thank you for supporting the Keys Marine Lab! 

**New item** KML 16 oz Tervis Tumblers with Travel Lid.