Contributed By CappSci.org
The Miami Science Barge is a self-sustaining floating laboratory, innovation test bed, and environmental education center that provides an urban link to marine conservation and sustainability on Miami’s Biscayne Bay.
Its programming encompasses four themes:
Interaction with local species via the restoration program fosters a sense of understanding and stewardship of Miami’s ecosystems. Native endangered organisms such as mangroves, seagrasses, and corals are cultivated on the Barge using traditional and new methods in order to investigate best practices. Dr. Dan Bennetti and Josh Grubman from the University of Miami RSMAS have provided expertise in the build out of aquaculture hatching tanks and aquaponic plant systems which provide additional opportunities to learn about Miami native species. Exhibits are dynamic and growing which encourage continued visitor interaction.
Innovation in sustainable technologies is presented on the Barge through its renewable energy systems, hydroponics, and showcases. Fully powered by renewable energy, the Barge utilizes solar, wind and biofuel energy to power all of its onboard processes to minimize carbon emissions. Making renewable energy systems tangible is essential to the acceptance and implementation of these technologies in the long term.
Plants are grown using hydroponics and aquaponics, which provides the opportunity to learn about engineering and biomimicry. Lastly, innovations from the CappSci Inventors program, as well as technologies from other marine innovation competitions, will be exhibited on the Barge to engage visitors in cutting-edge sustainable alternatives.
The Barge’s ecological programs display the integrated nature of Earth’s natural cycles as well as sustainable resource conservation. Different methods of urban agriculture cultivation are tested onboard in order to increase yield and sustainability. Instead of using harmful chemicals, the Barge eliminates crop pests using integrated pest management, which utilizes natural predator-prey relationships.
The importance of water conservation is stressed through scarcity demonstrations and the use of water-saving hydroponic farming and harvesting up to 1,200 gallons of freshwater in rainwater cisterns.
The Barge’s closed-water-loop mimics the earth’s ability to reuse nutrients and the chemistry necessary to make it happen. In addition, plant excess and food scraps are composted which provides a live demonstration of the nitrogen cycle and decomposition. Programs focused on urban gardening are enhanced through the partnership with Health in the Hood, and Urban Greenworks.
4. CITIZEN SCIENCE
The Barge activates the under-utilized waterfront, providing a unique teaching platform for learning about the conservation of Miami’s underwater ecosystems. Hands-on activities, designed with the help of University of Miami Abess Center‘s Dr. Kenny Broad, include water quality testing, microorganism investigation via microscopes, growing barnacles, and seagrass, and more.
Students can observe underwater activity with live video from underwater robots and learn about Biscayne Bay’s native species. Partners from local research institutions facilitate research projects and use student collected data to publish updated reports.
Biscayne Bay Waterkeeper collects water quality data for their Swim Guide App as well as provides a forum for educated discussion through evening and weekend programming.
Development of the Barge is ongoing but is anticipated to be ready for public admission in early 2016. Curriculum development is enhanced by the aid of Frost Science, specifically Karlisa Callwood. Students from Miami Northwestern High School‘s welding program will contribute to Barge construction and students from the environmental science program will lead weekend tours once the Barge opens.
The Miami Science Barge was inspired by the original Science Barge designed by Ted Caplow, built and launched in Manhattan by SunWorks, and currently operated in Yonkers, NY by Groundwork Hudson Valley.
Overall, the Miami Science Barge aims to stimulate the sustainable development of Miami. A City that can generate its own power, grow its own food, and recycle its own waste, helps secure our common future and sets the standard for cities around the world.