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Reef Hope Project

PBSC contributes to Smithsonian global study of marine biodiversity

Palm Beach State is the first college in South Florida to participate in the work of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History Global ARMS Program. Professor Jessica Miles, Ph.D., with the help of two dive teams, recently retrieved three ARMS, or autonomous reef monitoring structures, that were submerged five years ago in and just outside the Jupiter Inlet, at 8 feet and 50-60 feet respectively. After retrieval, the ARMS were taken to the Smithsonian Marine Station in Fort Pierce, where Miles and her students trained with Smithsonian scientists to analyze the marine life living on the structures. ARMS help scientists study changes in marine biodiversity and plan strategies for healthier oceans.

Read more about the project in the PBSC News Center

PBSC Students Create Artificial Reef Sculpture

Local marine species have a new habitat in the Lake Worth Inlet. The Reef Hope Project Artificial Reef Sculpture reflects the talents of more than 60 students and five faculty members from PBSC’s Environmental Science, Welding Technology, Art and Engineering Technology departments.

Weighing 10 tons and measuring 13 feet long, 8 feet wide and 11 feet tall, the sculpture resides at a depth of 40 feet about 1 mile southeast of the Lake Worth Inlet, approximately 3,000 feet from the shore. Scuba divers and anglers can take note of the GPS coordinates: 26 45.31, -80 01.581.

Read more about the sculpture in the PBSC News Center.



Executive Summary

Project Scope

This project focuses on the development of STEAM initiatives related to the marine environment in south Florida.

The project includes curriculum development, skill training and research studies integrated into Palm Beach State College Environmental Science Engineering, Biotechnology, Art departments achieving biological and ecological sustainability goals for the marine environment.

There are numerous departmentally-specific and interdisciplinary learning goals for this project.

Environmental Science Technology students learn scientific skills by monitoring the data collected and analyzing for specific reef characteristics and biological and ecological community functions, interactions, coastal health, and conservation goals.

These students also utilize cutting-edge underwater GIS mapping skills to create base-maps for data analysis, story maps for sharing the scientific results with the community, and full-motion video samples.


Project Goals

The Reef Hope Project aims to:

  • Study natural and artificial reef habitats
  • Support the conservation of marine biodiversity over time amidst ongoing threats
  • Provide project-based learning opportunities and scientific data collection opportunities
  • Provide educational outreach
  • Offer Science Technology Engineering Art Math (STEAM) career skill building opportunities
  • Improve reef conservation and management plans
  • Stimulate interest in reef protection through inspired beauty, creativity, and interaction with natural marine wonders

Project Map Journal

The Reef Hope Project, headed by Dr. Jessica Miles, Chair of the Environmental Science Department at Palm Beach State College, began as part of her sabbatical work.

The project has evolved to include the development of several Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math (STEAM) initiatives related to the marine environment in south Florida.

Explore more in the Project Map Journal


Hard Coral Species on Palm Beach County Reef Sites

Hard Coral Species on PBCPalm Beach County is home to many species of hard corals, reef-building organisms that not only protect our coastlines by breaking up wave activity but that create habitat, adding to a greater diversity and abundance of marine organisms off our shores.

Identifying which hard coral species are present here, and knowing where they are, is the first step in understanding their role in our environment and their impact on our local economy, but this knowledge is likewise a necessary step in assessing the coral’s health and in establishing management goals and plans.

Palm Beach State College’s Reef Hope Project is participating in this effort through the creation of this interactive GIS map that is based on data collected by the Palm Beach

County Reef Research Team from 2007-2014. Select or de-select specific hard coral species layers and observe their locations on natural and artificial reefs in Palm Beach County along with reef attributes such as latitude, longitude, and depth.

It is our hope that this information can continue to be used for the protection, preservation, and monitoring of our precious Palm Beach County hard coral species.

Interactive Map View


Our Students

Engineering Students

PBSC Engineering students develop marine technology skill sets as they create ways to electrify the reef to encourage a faster rate of accretion and more rapid species settlement, growth, and survivorship.

These students also apply 3-D printing skills to the creation of research tags for the reef.

Art Students

Art students design and create sculptures to be deployed on a county reef, making the artificial reef environment beautiful, intricate, and attractive for marine biodiversity and recreational activities that garner interest and support of marine habitat sustainability.

Environmental Science, Technology and Biotechnology Students

PBSC Environmental Science Technology and Biotechnology students collaborate on growing and studying reef organisms, such as corals for later deployment onto a reef.

Students a first-hand look at saving threatened and endangered species, learning the aquarium trade and marine veterinarian techniques, and studying various aspects of species abilities to survive in a changing marine environment as a result of climate change and human impacts.

These students study marine species DNA, directed by specific research and permitting objectives, and prepare samples for mass sequencing for our contribution to the Smithsonian Global Marine Biodiversity Project and NOAA's National Coral Reef Monitoring Program.

This is the first time ever that Jupiter's inshore and offshore communities will be included in these global biodiversity monitoring efforts. All these learning objectives lead to the creation of an engaging curriculum, the development of needed marine workforce skills, and active engagement of students in their community and in marine ecosystem conservation.


Photo Gallery

Share your pictures of Palm Beach County Reefs through our interactive crowdsourced map.

Think of this map as a way to support citizen science efforts, to inspire each other to get out and see the local underwater diversity, and to document this ever-changing marine environment.   Interactive Map


Photos by David Snyder and Dr. Charlie Gregory.


Our Collaborators

This project involves collaboration with various agencies, non-profits, and foundations, and it incorporates several field sites that may fluctuate as opportunities arise.

Jupiter Lighthouse Outstanding Natural Area

Will host three Autonomous Reef Monitoring Structures, and will involve student work in biodiversity assessments, shoreline enhancement and protection projects, and oyster reef electrification projects.

Andrew "Red" Harris artificial reef

1.5 miles NE of the Jupiter Inlet, is the location for select curriculum and research projects.

The Andrew "Red" Harris Foundation built and deployed 234 artificial reef modules and additional boulder piles and donated them to Palm Beach County.

Scientific equipment deployed on the artificial reef adds to our understanding of the ocean environment and its health and provides opportunities to explore ways to make the artificial reef environment more successful in supporting biodiversity and sustainable marine populations.

Additional projects take place in the field and laboratories of south Florida.


Sponsor the Reef Hope Project

Be a part of this inspiring project as Palm Beach State College does its part to save the reef ecosystem. The Reef Hope Project is currently seeking financial support at the $10,000, $15,000, and $20,000 levels. Corporations, foundations, and individuals interested in pursuing opportunities should contact the The Foundation at Palm Beach State College :

David Rutherford, M.A., CFRE
Vice President, Institutional Advancement
CEO, The Foundation for Palm Beach State College
Palm Beach State College
4200 Congress Avenue, MS#20
Lake Worth, FL 33461


Media Highlights

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