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Science Barge Aims to Bring a Floating Laboratory to Biscayne Bay

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Back in 2007, New York City launched a remarkable project: The Science Barge. The 115-long, steel deck barge became a floating classroom, laboratory and tourist attraction, drawing students and visitors from near and far to learn firsthand from the ecological experiments and sustainability research happening on board.

Miami might be getting its own version of the buoyant landmark. Ted Caplow (creator of NYC's barge and Miami resident) and his team want to build one in Miami, and their idea earned a finalist nod in the Knight Cities Challenge.

Miami's version would be dedicated to helping our city set the standard for sustainability.

See also: Tiffany Noe Wants to Transform Miami Into an Edible Park

Nathalie Manzano-Smith, Director of Innovation with CappSci, was the project submitter. CappSci was founded a few years ago by Caplow, and is dedicated to innovation in applied science. A granting foundation, they held prize competitions in 2013 and 2014 and awarded funds to multiple organizations working to reduce infant mortality in at-risk regions.

The Science Barge is in line with their commitment to scientific advancement, and makes sense given Caplow's heavy involvement with the New York project.

"Given all the climate change issues in South Florida and the interest around Biscayne Bay, to make it really focused on the ecology here would be an amazing opportunity," Manzano-Smith said.

They're partnered with the Frost Museum of Science to help bring many of the barge's projects to fruition. "They'll be handling the education and curriculum component," says Manzano-Smith. "They have expertise in a lot of the systems we're going to be putting into place," she adds, from mangrove restoration to seagrass programs.

The barge would focus on health of the local and global environment, sustainable food supply and monitoring and data collection.

Within the on-site marine innovation lab, they'd have programs including restoration, ecological systems, citizen science and technology. These would include endeavors like tracking local population trends, growing food with hydroponic systems, water testing within Biscayne Bay and a whole host of other hands-on opportunities for students and interns.

Visitors would also have a chance to tour the barge, Manzano-Smith added. "Saturday and Sunday, if you're walking past it and want to come on we'll have either scheduled tours throughout the day or the option to walk through at your own leisure."

They hope to get a barge donated or offered at a reduced rate, to help defray costs. As an added bonus (both financially and environmentally), the barge will be equipped with renewable energy sources, including passive-tracking photovoltaic arrays and wind turbines.

"There are very few opportunities for students to get onto the bay in a very inexpensive or low cost way," she said. They hope to launch the barge in early 2016, and its exact location will be determined at a later date.

"It's something South Florida really lacks, and it's something that everybody can enjoy."

Follow Hannah on Twitter @hannahgetshappy.

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