Just in time for Earth Day, a buoyant lab is officially on the surface of Biscayne Bay at Museum Park. Everyone is welcome aboard. The Miami Science Barge, which has been in the works since early 2015, is a floating classroom and ecological experience designed to help support a more sustainable city. It is equipped with a marine science lab and an onboard farm that generates food, water, and power.
Dreamed up by Ted Caplow (CEO of CappSci and designer of the barge), the project won $298,633 in the Knight Cities Challenge last year. Since then, work has been nonstop. The ten-person barge staff has put in arduous hours to make it all happen — and the effort has finally paid off.
The flat-bottomed boat will officially open during a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 9:30 a.m. Friday, April 22 —Earth Day — at Museum Park. Attendees will hear from Caplow, Miami Science Barge director Nathalie Manzano-Smith, local politicos, and others.
The ten-person Miami Science Barge team.
Ana Leiva Photography.
"It’s been a wild ride, getting us through all the legislative approvals that were required. But we finally got through everything, and we’re totally ready for passengers!" Manzano-Smith says excitedly.
The barge will buzz with activity as soon as it opens. "We hope to fill our calendar with lots of lectures and workshops in the evenings and on weekends," she continues. The first lecture will happen May 6."
Students learn about aquaculture on the Miami Science Barge.
Courtesy of the Miami Science Barge
The floating lab is a model of sustainability — one that the rest of the city could stand to learn from. "We’re completely off-grid, powered by solar generating panels. We have a capacity of 75 kilowatts, and we’re using about 25 per day, so we have the ability to keep ourselves running for three days if we were to get really bad weather."
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As far as what's onboard, there's a coral frag tank, a seagrass and mangrove restoration system, aquaculture efforts, and a hydroponic garden complete with tomatoes, eggplants, leafy greens, and peppers. "It's really impressive when you see it all working together. It's one self-sustaining ecosystem," Manzano-Smith says.
"It all feels like a dream," she adds. "I can’t believe a year ago it was an idea, and now it’s built and ready to go. It's kind of mind-boggling, and still feels a little surreal."
The Miami Science Barge
Ribbon-cutting ceremony at 9:30 a.m. Friday, April 22, in Museum Park. The barge will be open to the public beginning Saturday, April 23, and tours (by donation) will be conducted from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Visit miamisciencebarge.org.