Research island acquired in Florida Keys

Courtesy Evan D'Alessandro

The University of Miami’s footprint in South Florida is expanding with the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science’s (RSMAS) acquisition of  a 63-acre research island in the northern Keys.

The Broad Key research station, which includes a five-bedroom house, will be used as a research and education facility for scientists and students, providing direct access to Florida’s sub-tropical marine ecosystem.

“I want this to be a facility where educators and researchers can go and be really comfortable,” said Evan D’Alessandro, a visiting assistant professor for the division of marine biology and fisheries, who is overseeing and managing Broad Key operations. “The facility will have the amenities of home, but also the laboratory and field support that they need to do their work.”

Roni Avissar, dean of the RSMAS, said Broad Key will be an advantage for the university and for scientists.

“The use of Broad Key is going to provide our renowned marine and climate scientists with an ideal platform from which to launch field courses that will help us to better understand Florida’s complex marine ecosystems,” he said.

Native species to Broad Key include cardinals, finches, herons, ibis and osprey, as well as bonefish, sharks and lobster in the water surrounding the island.

“The rest of the 63 acres is low-lying mangrove forest,” D’Alessandro said. “This is an ideal location for people doing mangrove research.

Chris Langdon, who holds a doctorate in biological oceanography, is an associate professor in the marine biology and fisheries division at RSMAS.

“I would love to take a class out for a research weekend and nighttime dive, which doesn’t happen regularly,” Langdon said.

A weather station, atmospheric sensing system and a water sampling system will also be added to Broad Key in the future. These technologies will provide a continuous time series of data for researchers.

“I hope this is a place that people look forward to coming back to, not a place they have to endure to get through their work,” D’Alessandro said.

Nick Bissel may be contacted at