Established in 1967 by the Florida Board of Regents to place Florida scientists at the forefront of efforts to understand and protect the oceans, FIO became an Academic Infrastructure Support Organization (AISO) in 2009 with the University of South Florida designated as its host institution.
FIO currently operates three large research vessels-the R/V Weatherbird II (115’), the R/V W.T. Hogarth (78’), and the R/V Western Flyer; as well as a full-service field laboratory in the Florida Keys Keys Marine Laboratory (KML).
Financial support comes from funds allocated by the state legislature, fees charged for use of vessels and facilities, and charges to administer contracts and grants awarded through FIO. The University Marine Consortium that make up FIO’s membership is currently comprised of 21 full members, including the Florida State University System (SUS), private universities and institutes, state agencies (FDEP, FWC), and 10 other associate and affiliate member organizations that collectively unite more than 800 marine scientists across the State.
With the largest coastline/shelf area in the continental United States and over 70% of its residents living within 50 miles of the sea, Florida’s quality of life, economy, and future depend on understanding and managing its marine waters. The advanced infrastructure and programs managed by FIO provide access and promote marine research and education by its members. More than 10,000 undergraduates and 2,000 graduate students have used FIO facilities during their academic careers and more than 3,000 of them have gone on to careers in STEM fields.
In 2015, FIO established the Florida RESTORE Act Centers of Excellence Program (FLRACEP) which provides competitive grants for fish and wildlife research along Florida’s Gulf coast.