Jacksonville University art student Arelis Resto (Graduating in Spring 2014) just finished up a great wall mural here in the Marine Science Research Institute of a "Mosasaur", a brackish marine predator living 90-75 million years ago. The replica fossils on our wall indicate the creature was more than 36 feet long.

                                                     MARINE SCIENCE RESEARCH INSTITUTE

Under construction

Competed construction


WC & Susan Gentry Boardwalk and Nature Preserve connects the mulch parking area lot H behind the apartments to the front entrance of the Marine Science Research Institute, made from recycled plastics. Enjoy the breeze of the boardwalk and comfort of the gazebo as you make your way to the MSRI or sit with amazement in nature that surrounds you. Fieldguide Gentry Boardwalk_10Oct2011.pdfFieldguide Gentry Boardwalk_10Oct2011.pdf


Jacksonville University (JU) has just constructed a new LEED GOLD-certified Marine Science Research Institute (MSRI) as part of a planned complex focusing on the St. Johns River estuary and coastal marine ecosystems. The University's goal is to provide a premier biological and marine environmental research and educational facility for northeast Florida. JU has offered a marine science major for over 30 years, and plans to offer a Masters level degree in marine science beginning fall 2010. The MSRI is a multidiscipline facility which also houses the St. Johns Riverkeeper, the Millar Wilson Laboratory for Chemical Research, and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission laboratory for Northeast Florida. The Institute has also partnered with Terry Parker High School to offer a career academy focused on marine environmental sciences and has joint use facility with Duval County Public Schools..

The Institute occupies an approximated 32,000 sq. ft. two-story building on the riverfront portion of the campus with a screened area on the ground level for work with live specimens in ambient temperatures. The second level will have teaching and research laboratories, classrooms, faculty offices and administrative space along with a small kitchen, conference rooms and media/library with a screened observation deck. The marine science laboratories also convert into a larger river education suite. The river front location allows for easy access to the St. Johns River estuary. Some of the sustainable features include rain water harvesting for wastewater processing and boat wash down, an innovative wetlands for storm water treatment, energy efficient design, and extensive use of recycled building materials.


The Institute provides research opportunities for JU students, visiting high school and college students, scholars, scientists and engineers engaged in research involving local, state, and national ecosystems. All these individuals and groups now have opportunities for hands-on research on environmental and ecological issues confronting the St. Johns River as well as for gathering information on the life, history and current condition of the river itself. Since the St. Johns River, the adjacent wetlands and the nearby Atlantic coastal waters share a kinship of marine science concerns and issues with similar ecosystems nationwide, the knowledge gained from the research work accomplished at JU will have a national benefit.


Marine Science, Biology and various other classes are held in either MSC-214 room (holds 25pers), MSRI-243 lab room (holds 60pers), MSRI-244 lab room (holds 60pers), Perry McCall Outdoor Classroom (holds 25pers), Dolphin Conference room (holds 15pers) or the Schultz Conference room (holds 15pers). If you would like to reserve one of these rooms, please contact our Facilities Coordinator Debbie Guy at dguy@ju.edu or call (904) 256-7024.


Relationship between the City of Jacksonville and Jacksonville University

From its beginning as a small port city to its present day status as one of the largest ports in the western hemisphere, Jacksonville's economic and cultural vitality is directly tied to the ecological health of the St. Johns River. The city's historical role in leading the development of northern Florida has also increased awareness of the community's responsibilities to this river resource so critical to the region's well being. It is in this context that the Marine Science Research Institute at Jacksonville University will play an important role in the ecological, environmental and economic health of the region.

There is a harmonious relationship between the commercial use of the river and its ecology. There are eleven oil off-loading facilities along the river, which serves as the transportation corridor to central Florida for oil barges supplying electric power plants. Over 2400 ships call at Jacksonville's three public and 20 privately owned marine terminals each year to load and unload a combined 17 million tons of cargo. Despite this commercial use, the river is a haven for numerous diverse species including the Florida manatee and the bald eagle, and has a vast expanse of fresh water wetlands and salt marshes.

The Marine Science Research Institute is an integral part of the University's plan to create a direct link between education and the environment. The city and the University have partnered on a number of exceptional programs to ensure the well being of the aquatic inhabitants as well as the ecological and environmental health of the St Johns. Foremost among these is the Duval County Manatee Protection Plan, originally funded by the City of Jacksonville in 1993 and continuing today, for the monitoring of the manatee population of the St. Johns River. This annual program has ensured that one of Florida's most identifiable symbols has flourished in the St. Johns River.

In the summer of 1999, the Riverkeeper position for the St. Johns River was established and, at the invitation of the President of JU, is housed on campus. The mission of the Riverkeeper, a full-time, privately funded, non-governmental ombudsman is to protect, preserve and restore the ecological integrity of the St. Johns River watershed.

Why Jacksonville University for the establishment of a Marine Sciences Research Institute?

Few institutions of higher learning have such a beautiful and natural waterfront campus on one of the nation's most historic and beautiful rivers. In September, 1997, the St. Johns was designated as one of the American Heritage Rivers. Like many other estuaries in the southeast, the river has numerous pristine areas. Commercial development has been largely restricted to the area immediately around the downtown Jacksonville area, upriver and near its mouth at Mayport. A large section of the river between downtown and the Intracoastal Waterway is dominated by tidal marshes. These vast wetlands serve as nursery areas for juvenile marine life, commercially important fish and shellfish. They also play a vital role in maintaining the water quality of the St. Johns and other estuaries in Jacksonville by acting as a filtration system for pollutant-laden urban runoff. Wetlands are vital to the well being of all rivers and the importance is even more pronounced with urban rivers.

As the population of Jacksonville grows, the wetlands are the most likely areas to be impacted as increased surface runoff from development and roadways cause changes to this ecosystem. Relatively few rivers in urban areas have the type of ecological resource as the St. Johns. It is with judicious planning and appropriate care during development that an expanding population can coexist with the environmental bounty present in Northeast Florida. This vision can only be possible through the concerted effort of a dedicated research community working in alliance with local governments and citizens to insure good stewardship of the St. Johns River. In this way, Jacksonville would become a model for city growth in sensitive ecological areas and a city with "best practices" experience.

National Role of Jacksonville University

Since the terrorist events of September 11, it is critically important for members of the scientific community to be positioned for immediate and knowledgeable response to any act of terrorism. In addition to the eleven oil off-loading facilities in Jacksonville, there are approximately 10,000 aboveground petroleum storage tanks located in the city. An act of terrorism involving any of these facilities would be catastrophic for Jacksonville and the State of Florida with far-reaching effects for the nation. Faculty from the Departments of Biology and Marine Science have been actively involved in hydrocarbon pollution research for over twenty years and produced the first comprehensive study of oil pollution in the St. Johns River. These scientists are frequently called upon as consultants and experts on oil pollution issues. Jacksonville University recently partnered with the University of North Florida to complete the first River Report, which was a comprehensive analysis of the ecology and water quality of the lower portion of St. Johns River. The goal is to expand that report to include the entire watershed.

Departments of Biology and Marine Science

The professional personnel of the Departments of Biology and Marine Science have received recognition in the form of honors, awards, grants and fellowships for their research and program achievements from agencies of the federal government: National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, US Park Service, US Fish and Wildlife Service, National Weather Service and NOAA. Similar recognition has come from the State of Florida, City and Port of Jacksonville, JEA and numerous national organizations.

Boardwalk and Natural Area

The Marine Science Research Institute has endeavored to avoid wetland impacts. One way to do so has been to limit the amount of impervious parking near the actual building. Parking for the facility will be on the east side of natural wetlands with a boardwalk as the approach to the building. A map with the approximate location of the nature preserve and boardwalk is attached.

The Susan and W.C. Gentry Nature Preserve and Boardwalk is 8' wide and about 250' long with a 16' x 16' roofed gazebo about midway. The gazebo has benches and horizontal railings. Everything is made out of pressure treated wood except the walk boards which would be a composite (green) 2"x6" material. Pilings are 8" marine treated 8' on center and with 8' to 10' of penetration. Signage is visible to all visitors as they approach the facility. There are series of educational signs at various locations along the boardwalk that gives information on species and wetland habitat. Each sign has the Susan and W.C. Gentry Preserve name and MSRI logo displayed. Signage are similar to the example below from Bellingrath Gardens. Field guide for exploration  >  Fieldguide Gentry Boardwalk_10Oct2011.pdfFieldguide Gentry Boardwalk_10Oct2011.pdf

Map of W.C. and Susan Gentry Boardwalk (Bold Black line indicates location of the Boardwalk through the Nature Preserve)


Please report any incidents, accidents, or injuries caused on boat ramp & deck to Campus Security at (904) 256-7585. Preceed with caution when walking on floating docks. Proper foot wear is required; NO flip flops, open toed shoes or barefeet are authorized in this area.


Below is a link to the building dashboard for the MSRI, which is also displayed in the lobby. Using the data, we have already adjusted the temperature and
reduced our energy consumption by about 10%. Using this real time link to view what is happening in the building.


Floor plans to the building can be view by clicking on the highlighted areas
MSRI Plan 1st Floor
MSRI Plan 2nd Floor

Discover Marine Science at Jacksonville University! Explore the natural laboratory provided by the St. Johns River and conduct extensive fieldwork as a JU marine science student in the new Marine Science Research Institute (MSRI).

You'll be wading through diverse marine environments with your professors and classmates. From the fresh water of the river to the brackish salt marshes of the Intracoastal Waterway system and all the way to the Atlantic Ocean, these habitats combine to allow for the perfect learning environment.

The new MSRI is designed to be a "Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design" (LEED)-certified facility that provides a direct link between education and environment. At the MSRI, we strive to identify problems and solutions in our various local aquatic environments.

At every turn, the MSRI was planned as a SUSTAINABLE, ENVIRONMENTALLY-FRIENDLY STRUCTURE. Some of the "green" elements of the facility include:

• East-west oriented building to reduce solar heat load • Solar Hot Water • Harvesting Rainwater to use on toilets, boat wash down & irrigation • Waterless urinals • Natural light through most of the occupied space in the building • Low volatile organic compound (VOC) paints used • Limited paved parking near building to avoid runoff into river • Native drought tolerant plants used for landscaping • High-efficiency HVAC system • Low-energy lighting • Showers available to encourage biking to work or class • Recycled more than 80% of construction waste

Also housed in the MSRI are the St. Johns Riverkeeper and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Northeast Florida Field Lab. Both organizations offer internship opportunities.

Preserving North Florida's Waterways through research and education, the MSRI at JU coordinates academics, research, public awareness and education.

Jacksonville's history and future as a community are largely based on a healthy river, dynamic waterway and beautiful oceanfront. To continue to protect and preserve these significant natural assets, JU has established the MSRI. Our faculty have active, grant-funded research projects that provide ample opportunities for you to combine field work with your laboratory research to enhance your total educational experience.

To learn more about earning your degree in marine science, call 904.256.7000 or visit http://marine science.ju.edu.

With so many ecosystems at our doorstep, the Jacksonville area is an ideal setting for an environmental learning center such as the MSRI. Centrally located in Duval County on the shore of the St. Johns River and just 12 miles from the Atlantic Ocean, Jacksonville University is the perfect setting for such a center, a veritable outdoor classroom.

Latest development with actual construction - Rink Design will be the architect for the building and Perry-McCall will be the contractor with CMS Group and JU overseeing each step of the way. Our plan is to break ground in early 2009 with a completion date of August 2010. The MSRI will be JU's first 'green building." We are seeking Silver Certification by the US Green Building Councils Leadership and Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Standards. JU's mission is "to prepare each student for life-long success in learning, achieving, leading and serving." We measure our success through the success of our students and looking around at our successful alumni, we know we are fulfilling our mission.

The two-story building will be energy efficient, utilizing solar panels and a rainwater drainage system - a LEED Certified Facility. Just outside the planned 30,000-square-foot facility will be an amphitheater serving as an outdoor classroom and teaching laboratories, along with a 40-foot pontoon boat as a floating classroom, complete with bow thrusters and a hydraulic anchoring system. The Millar Wilson Laboratory for Chemical Research will also move into the new facility.

The heart and soul of Jacksonville and Duval County is the St. Johns River. Our history and future as a community are based on a healthy river, dynamic waterway, and beautiful oceanfront. In order to protect and preserve these most significant natural assets, Jacksonville University has established a new Marine Science Research Institute (MSRI).

This project will consist of providing a direct link between education and the environment, identify problems and solutions of the various local aquatic environments and coordinate academics, research, public awareness and education.

MSRI Groundbreaking Ceremony, February 27, 2009


(From Left to Right)
Indira Brown, Dr. Quinton White, Rep. Ander Crenshaw, Mayor John Peyton, Mike Shad, Chairman, Trustees Chair, Representative Corrine Brown, Clay Yarborough, City Council, President Kerry Romesburg,
and Nicole Beth Martin


(From Left to Right)
Dr. Daniel McCarthy, Director, Marine Science Program, Assistant Professor of Biology & Marine Science
Nicole Beth Martin, Student
Dr. Quinton White, Executive Director, Marine Science Research Institute, Professor of Biology & Marine Science
Indira Brown, Student


Building Plans

Click below for an image :


Site Plan North Elevation
First Floor South Elevation
Second Floor East Elevation
Roof West Elevation



JU's Department of Biology and Marine Science has been nationally recognized and has conducted extensive research on the St. Johns River and local Marine Environments. The Marine Science Program has a multi-disciplinary approach, valuable hands-on experience through internships and research, students involvement with field trips and clubs.


The fresh water of the river,
the brackish salt marshes of the Intracoastal Waterway system,
and the saltiness of the Atlantic Ocean combine
as the perfect learning environment.


See draft research vessel plans (PDF)