When Florida Atlantic University merged with the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute in 2007, the organization had gone from private to public and accepted a newfound responsibility to educate the community at large. Located on a parcel of 146 acres in Fort Pierce along the Indian River Lagoon, HBOI opened its lab in 1971 as a research nonprofit. Now, as part of the university system, HBOI has received not only more financial backing but also mandate to uphold the organization’s long-held mission: “Explore, protect and wisely use the oceans’ resources.” Its goal is to share findings and help find solutions to some of the most pressing matters affecting the sea.
From uniting with FAU, HBOI has been endowed with an $8.5 million annual operating fund to help more than 160 scientists, engineers and support staff make the next great advancement in oceanographic research. As part of the stipulation behind the partnership, HBOI, along with staff, researchers, FAU colleagues and outside partners, developed a unified mission and strategic plan for 2012-2017: "Our Living Oceans: Research, Partnership and Stewardship for the Future." The plan is, in part, an extension of FAU’s larger strategic plan, "Making Waves: Celebrating and Cultivating Discovery, Diversity, and Distinction," which identifies three signature themes and emphasis: marine and coastal issues; biotechnology; and contemporary social challenges.
Holding the banner for marine and costal issues, in partnership with sister campus SeaTech, the Institute for Ocean and Systems Engineering in Dania Beach, HBOI is helping lead all FAU’s campuses—a system covering 150 miles of coastline—in tackling this plan and implementing the solutions for the future. HBOI’s strategic/research plan is separated into two branches of targeted themes, each containing multiple areas of study and commitment, all of which stem from the organization's original mission established in 1971.
The first branch, dubbed Our Living Oceans, relies on hard science and research taken up by researchers, engineers and staff within the FAU family. The core of the plan is the “abundance of life in the oceans, and the interdependence between life on Earth and the health of the oceans,” which is broken into four subthemes: ocean exploration, understanding marine ecosystem function, wise use of marine resources and innovative technology development. These points of emphasis lay out the next decade of research HBOI scientists will undertake in an effort to stem, resolve and learn from the “contemporary and emerging challenges and opportunities faced by our oceans.”
The second portion of the strategic plan, "Stewardship of Our Living Oceans through Partnerships," is devoted to maintaining and growing partnerships HBOI and FAU have developed in the academic and scientific community as well as educating and sharing with the public at large. The more public aspects of the plan, these six subthemes target the future of stewardship and HBOI as a whole: training the next generation of ocean scientists and engineers, partnering in informal education and public outreach, cultivating partnerships for research and development, accelerating university integration, enhancing Harbor Branch community and wise use of Harbor Branch resources. The core of HBOI’s foundational mission is to convey knowledge to the greater community and, as a marine institute, conservation and stewardship are natural inclinations. Creating programs that share and impart knowledge, forming partnerships to broaden the mission and teaching the future leaders of stewardship are the ultimate end-goals of HBOI.