Included under the executive director's direct supervision is the Fish and Wildlife Research Institute (FWRI) with headquarters in St. Petersburg. FWRI's statewide research programs focus on obtaining data and information needed by natural resource managers and stakeholders. The legislatively approved agency-wide reorganization of the FWC in 2004 integrated parts of the Division of Wildlife, Division of Freshwater Fisheries, and the Florida Marine Research Institute to create the FWRI. In addition to fulfilling the functions previously provided by three groups, FWRI has added focus areas in spatial analysis, biostatistics and modeling, wildlife forensics, and socioeconomic research.
Florida Statute charges the Fish and Wildlife Research Institute with these responsibilities:
Monitoring marine and freshwater resources, wildlife, and habitats
Developing and implementing techniques for restoring plant and animal species and their habitats
Providing technical support when oil spills and human-related or natural disasters occur
Monitoring red tides and providing technical support for state and local government public health concerns
Providing fish and wildlife research technical result to state and local governments
FWRI programs are diversely funded from user fees, grants, state general revenue, and specialty license plates. User fees include charges from items such as hunting and fishing licenses. Over half of the more than 600 FWRI staff members work at the downtown St. Petersburg headquarters. The other employees operate out of field laboratories at key inland and coastal locations throughout the state. The largest concentration of freshwater fisheries staff is located in Eustis, and most wildlife research staff are located in Gainesville. The institute's annual operating budget of approximately $50 million supports about 300 research projects.
Although FWRI is a new part of the FWC, the groups that form the institute have been generating quality science in support of resource management for over 50 years. The Florida Marine Research Institute was founded in 1955; the Division of Wildlife's research-oriented programs date from the 1940s, as do the research efforts of the Division of Freshwater Fisheries. FWRI continues the ongoing collaborative partnerships these groups have established with other government, academic, non-profit, and private fish and wildlife research institutions.
As Florida's human population and the associated environmental stresses have increased, the need for information about our natural resources has become urgent. FWRI strives to fill that need by providing the scientific foundation for management of Florida's fish and wildlife resources. FWRI is organized into five broad, interrelated science sections: Marine Fisheries Research, Freshwater Fisheries Research, Ecosystem Assessment and Restoration, Wildlife Research, and Information Science and Management. The principal liaison between the Institute and the public is our Outreach Coordination office.