The University of South Florida is seeking support from the Florida Legislature and the local community to advance a bold new plan for an interdisciplinary center of excellence that will harness the collective power of colleges and departments from throughout the university to address the existential challenges created by climate change, including sea level rise, high tide flooding events and other coastal hazards.
The center will be located on USF’s St. Petersburg campus and will build on the world-class reputation of the College of Marine Science. It will bring a variety of new undergraduate and graduate programs to the St. Petersburg campus and is envisioned as a national destination for students and researchers studying issues related to the environment, oceanography and sustainability.
“What this innovative, groundbreaking center of excellence will achieve can be summed up in a single word – impact,” USF President Rhea Law said. “It will make an enormous difference for our students, our faculty and our community, and is poised to make waves both nationally and internationally.”
Environmental & Oceanographic Sciences Research & Teaching Facility
At the heart of the plan is a proposed new building, called the Environmental & Oceanographic Sciences Research & Teaching Facility. The $80-million project would provide state-of-the-art research and instructional space for both graduate and undergraduate students from the colleges of Marine Science, Arts and Sciences, and Engineering.
The facility will also house the Florida Flood Hub for Applied Research and Innovation, which was proposed by Florida House Speaker Chris Sprowls and approved by the legislature in 2020. The Flood Hub will establish a home base of expertise in coastal resiliency that will serve the entire state of Florida, with scalable impact for other coastal communities nationwide.
The building would serve as a hub for researchers studying the effects of sea level rise, high-tide flooding events and other environmental issues in ways that are accessible to policymakers, planners, elected officials and the general public. In addition, a new data visualization center is envisioned to provide information that improves forecasting models, helps identify flooding hazards, and assesses their economic impact.
USF is seeking public education capital outlay (PECO) funds during the upcoming Florida legislative session to start immediate construction on the building. The total cost of the project is estimated at $80.3 million. Of that total, $60.3 million will come from the state and $20 million will come from USF, as recommended by the Florida Board of Governors.
“Our vision is to build upon St. Petersburg’s reputation as a vibrant cultural center of thought leadership, businesses, STEM, and the arts and become a global destination on the leading edge of the blue-green economy.”
Dr. Martin Tadlock, former Regional Chancellor, USF. St. Petersburg campus
“The building is the springboard we need to launch a constellation of cross-cutting programs that empower USF to face today’s grand challenges with innovation, dialogue, and resiliency.”
Dr. Thomas Frazer, Dean, USF College of Marine Science
The center will provide:
- The opportunity to launch an array of new interdisciplinary baccalaureate, master’s and doctoral programs
- The ability to recruit excellent students and world-class professors
- A national destination for researchers and students focused on the blue/green issues and economy
- Strategic investments by USF and the state of Florida in areas of global and national importance, such as coastal resilience, that will serve the state of Florida and beyond
- A globally recognized center that will be of service to the St. Petersburg business and residential communities through engagement and outreach
Funds will be used to:
- Demolish the northwest wing of the Marine Science Complex
- Replace wing with a new four-story addition
- Remodel remainder of the 80-year-old Marine Science Complex to accommodate research labs, teaching labs, and classrooms for graduate and undergraduate programming