The Salt River Bay Marine Research and Education Center (MREC) is the product of a multidisciplinary partnership of academic, government, and civic institutions working together to understand how to best protect, conserve and sustain tropical and subtropical marine ecosystems within the United States Virgin Islands (USVI) and the eastern Caribbean.
The MREC, operated in partnership with the National Park Service (NPS) by a consortium of four public universities, will (1) provide the means for researchers, resource managers, educators and students to collaborate on issues affecting tropical and subtropical marine ecosystems — focusing on the coral reef; (2) enhance the research and educational capacity of the partners within the USVI; and (3) research and educate the public about natural and cultural resources through scientific study, educational programming and science-based resource management. The university consortium — the Joint Institute for Caribbean Marine Studies (JICMS) composed of the University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW); University of the Virgin Islands (UVI), Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey; and University of South Carolina (USC) — will fundraise to construct the facility, operate, and maintain it under a cooperative agreement with the NPS. The MREC also is being developed in cooperation with the U.S. Department of the Interior's Office of Insular Affairs (OIA) and the Government of the Virgin Islands (GVI).
The MREC campus will occupy no more than eight acres of the 96-acre NPS property on Hemer's Peninsula on the east side of Salt River Bay. NPS will own the structures but JICMS will occupy, use, and maintain the MREC through the terms of a cooperative agreement. In addition to the educational program offered by the universities, NPS and JICMS will collaborate on park critical research and resource management needs and provide education programs for park visitors and K-12 students through a "science-in-the-park" program.
The MREC will comprise 61,000 square feet of high-quality laboratories, classrooms and lecture spaces, boat dock and diving operations, a museum collections/archive annex, living accommodations, and related support facilities. The total cost to design and construct the MREC is estimated at $64 million. JICMS will raise the funds required for the construction and maintenance of the MREC; the buildings will be constructed by NPS with the funds raised by JICMS and become NPS property.