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Jacksonville University And OCEARCH Announce Marine Research Partnership

shark on board ship
OCEARCH tracked Mary Lee the great white shark off the First Coast in 2013.

Internationally renowned research organization OCEARCH is making Jacksonville University its academic home. The two organizations are partnering to allow students to participate in real-world marine science research.

OCEARCH tracks sharks through oceans all over the world aboard the at-sea laboratory M/V OCEARCH. Once the crew captures a shark, they have 15 minutes to take blood and tissue samples and attach satellite and acoustic transmitters for future tracking. Special expeditions have taken the research vessel to many places including South Africa, the Galapagos Islands and Australia.

In 2013, the crew arrived on the First Coast to track the great white shark Mary Lee. Researchers fell in love with the welcoming Jacksonville community, they said, and decided to find an academic partner in the area.

OCEARCH founding Chairman and expedition leader  Chris Fischer will now serve as the “Explorer in Residence” at JU. He believes an academic collaboration is critical for creating policy change from oceanic data.

“There needs to be a thousand OCEARCHes pursuing a thousand different things that are fundamental to the future of the planet, and if we can turn students on on how we do it and share that model, then they can go out and create the future for the planet,” he said.

OCEARCH will welcome students from many different disciplines, including marketing, public policy, film, engineering, aviation, communications, business and environmental sciences.

JU’s Marine Science Research Institute, based along the St. Johns River, already offers research opportunities for students, but this partnership will bring more value to that experience, says  President Tim Cost.

“We expect it will attract worldwide recognition to the Northeast Florida region as an academic and research hub,” he said.  

Jacksonville City Council President Lori Boyer attended the program’s unveiling Thursday and said she hopes the international exposure will have a positive impact on the city.

“People all over the world are going to be watching us and knowing us for this relationship,” she said.

OCEARCH will continue its missions around the world and dock its research ship at JU when it returns.

Contact Amy Hadden at or on Twitter at @AmyNHadden.