With hundreds of hatchlings squirming in the tanks below, dignitaries from Florida Atlantic , the city of Boca Raton and the Gumbo Limbo Nature Center celebrated an improvement in their accommodations.
"It is our hope that some of the many kids peering down from the gallery through the new glass on the observation deck may one day become aspiring marine biologists," said Frank Wojcik, director of the National Save the Sea Turtle Foundation, which is based in Fort Lauderdale.
The annex was originally the home of FAU engineering department's research into how metal rusts, with the aim of building better oil platforms. Salt water would drip from the ceiling. The engineering scientists left years ago, but some of the aftereffects of their research remained: rusty door knobs and hinges and lights too far gone to turn on.
"Because of rotting lights, we had rust dropping into our tanks," said Jeanette Wynecken, an FAU biology who works in the lab. "We don't have to worry about that anymore. Part of doing good science is being able to control your environment."
The National Save the Sea Turtle Foundation donated $80,000 for the renovations to the research lab and scholarships for the FAU who work there. Mayor Susan Haynie had high praise for the collaboration that made the lab annex and its research possible, between the foundation, the city and Gumbo Limbo.
"The Gumbo Limbo Nature Center is one of the jewels in the crown of our world-class city," Haynie said, calling it one of her favorite places in Boca.
Later, tours were given for attendees to get a close look at the research now in progress. Stingrays are there for a study of their mysterious electrical powers. And, as hatchling season is in full tilt, the lab's bubbling vats are filled with them.
FAU's Wynecken is studying how the temperature of the turtle nests determines the subsequent turtles' gender. And, since that doesn't become apparent for two to three months after hatching, these critters are going to be staying awhile.