New nature center upgrade raises its profile
Boca Raton —
Some of the inhabitants of Gumbo Limbo Nature Center have gotten their accommodations upgraded — and it's giving research efforts to save their natural habitat a higher profile.

Money from the Fort Lauderdale-based National Save the Sea Turtle Foundation and the Friends at Gumbo Limbo went to improve a nature center building where five Florida Atlantic University professors work on answering various research questions, including how the ocean's increased acidity is going to affect living creatures.

Now, the viewing gallery that overlooks bubbling research vats has been outfitted with new aquariums, carpeting, lights and panels that explain what's going on.

The retrofit now getting its finishing touches also took out the wood of the balcony railing and replaced it with tempered glass so that even the smallest science geeks can peer down without needing a parental hoist.

"There are so many things going on, we wanted to make the science more accessible," said Jeanette Wyneken, an FAU biology professor, who is working in the lab.

Now known as the FAU Marine Research Laboratory, it's a far cry from when the structure was simply used for storage, Wyneken said. Nearly 15 years ago, Boca Raton, which runs Gumbo Limbo, and FAU entered into an agreement that allows professors to take advantage of the nature center's proximity to a crucial research tool: seawater.

In the past year, the National Save the Sea Turtle Foundation has given $40,000 for refurbishments to the gallery and scholarships for the research assistants. The Friends of Gumbo Limbo gave about $4,000 for the aquarium upgrades.

Now, from the gallery, you can see stingrays below partially buried in sand — they are part of an effort to better understand how the creatures stalk their prey using electricity. Turtles can also be seen wiggling in their individual compartments. Reading the panels along the railing, it explains that turtles are better kept separately. These reptiles are part of an effort that involves discovering what factors determine the gender of turtles as they incubate in their eggs.

"I love this place," said Kevin Clinton, 11, of Boca Raton, peering at the sea horses floating in an aquarium, now fitted in a new stand that holds three other tanks with better lighting and new aquatic furniture.
By Anne Geggis, Sun Sentinel
“Sun-Sentinel 2014”
New nature center upgrade raises its profile
Jim Miller, president of the Friends of Gumbo Limbo, said that the nature center is hoping to increase the ties between FAU and Gumbo Limbo, which last year broke all records with more than 140,000 visitors. New internships that put more FAU students working at the center could be in the works shortly, he said.

"The opportunity for the people to look down and see what's going on at an FAU lab is a big plus for us and FAU research endeavors too," he said.
Published with the permission of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel

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