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Press Release for Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Professor, Students Conduct First-Ever Marine Mammal Necropsy in New Building

Media Contact: Joanna Norris, Associate Director 

Department of Public Relations 

(904) 620-2102 


The Coastal Biology Flagship Program at the University of North Florida, along with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), recently conducted its first-ever large marine mammal necropsy in its brand-new Biological Sciences Building. 


The new state-of-the-art Biological Sciences Building houses a unique necropsy facility that allows dissection of large marine animals up to 10 feet long and 2000 pounds. The first specimen was a 9-foot-long Atlantic bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncates) that washed up Feb. 16 on Ponte Vedra Beach. The FWC, the state agency responsible for responding to and conducting necropsies on all marine mammals found in the Jacksonville area, picked up the 600-pound dolphin carcass and brought it to UNF. 


FWC generously agreed to conduct the necropsy at UNF’s new Biological Sciences Building, the only facility of its kind in Jacksonville, to provide the University’s biology students with an extraordinary hands-on learning opportunity. The necropsy was a part of the new Marine Mammal Biology course taught at UNF by Dr. Julie Richmond, assistant professor of Biology, who assisted FWC biologist Rachel Cimino in the necropsy, along with about 15 of her students.  


“Examining this carcass provided an extraordinary opportunity for UNF students to obtain a unique hands-on experience,” said Richmond. “It further provided students with the opportunity to work closely with an FWC biologist and to learn more about careers in wildlife biology.” 


UNF will hold a dedication ceremony for its Biological Sciences Building at 10:30 a.m. Friday, March 30, in Darwin’s Garden, Building 59, Biological Sciences Building, situated between the Social Sciences Building, Building 51, and Parking Lot 7. 


Construction of the four-story facility cost $39.4 million, which was paid for 100 percent by Public Education Capital Outlay Funds, or PECO, specifically for construction. The 116,500-square-foot Biological Sciences Building houses the Department of Biology, comprising 17 teaching labs and 28 faculty research labs for aquatics, virology, ecology, genetics, physiology, molecular biology and molecular cell biology as well as the Coastal Biology Flagship Program. 


The Coastal Biology Flagship Program was established in October 2006. The geographic location of UNF and the current areas of faculty expertise make the Flagship Program well suited to be a center of excellence in the study of coastal ecosystems, which encompass a broad range of habitats from oceanic and marine habitats to freshwater lakes and rivers. 


The UNF campus is uniquely situated near the Atlantic Ocean, the St. Johns River, and the Intracoastal Waterway. All of these bodies of water and their associated coastal habitats lie within 15 miles of campus. No other University in the country has all of these coastal habitats in such close proximity.