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Undersea lab’s uncertain fate cause of concern for VIMS professor

Professor Mark Patterson of the Virginia Institute of Marine Science recently completed his eighth—and possibly final—mission aboard the Aquarius Undersea Laboratory, the world’s only underwater research station.

It’s not that Patterson doesn’t want to go on other missions to the underwater facility, located eight miles off Key Largo, Fla. But he said the project has been "zeroed out" with no federal funds now available to operate the facility.

The lack of funding for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Aquarius comes, Patterson said, as the Chinese are planning to construct their own undersea laboratory. Instead of taking the lead, the U.S. will fall behind in undersea research, he said.

As a researcher, Patterson said that if he cannot utilize Aquarius, then a grant-funded project he is working on can continue but in a different format. That project deals with effects of global warming on coral.

Patterson hoped to stay o...

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