Miami Science Museum facility coming to FIU

Rebeca Piccardo/News Director

A partnership between the University and a science museum is to bring a new environmental building for the crowd at Biscayne Bay Campus.

The University Board of Trustees approved a new partnership with the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science three months ago to build a new facility on campus. Here, animals will be cared for when not on display at the museum downtown.

“FIU is a great partner for us,” said museum President and CEO Gillian Thomas.

The museum received a $5 million donation from the Batchelor Foundation to build the on-campus center, the Batchelor Environmental Center at FIU.

Operation and maintenance costs will be covered by the museum, while any academic programming will be financed by the University.

The structure will take up 75,000 square feet of the north side of campus, according to Provost Emeritus Douglas Wartzok.

The museum will consider FIU its primary academic partner, with the chance of applying for joint research grants, offering internships to FIU students and coordinating classes for students at the BBC facility and the new downtown Miami location, scheduled to open 2016.

The museum intends to use the proposed two-story facility to care for their animals as they rotate them between exhibits. It will house large fish tanks and hold hawks, falcons, owls and vultures for their Falcon Batchelor Bird of Prey Center there.

The Bird of Prey Center, Thomas said, is where museum staff rehabilitate rare predatory birds that are ill or injured, and then release them back into the wild.

Michael Heithaus, executive director of the College of Arts and Sciences, said he thinks this will be a unique facility to have at a college campus and will make BBC an exciting place for students.

With access to “exotic animals that are rarely available on college campuses,” according to the contract, the University hopes to attract students interested in preveterinary studies.

The contract grants the museum four parking spaces and museum staff can buy an administrative decal from the Department of Parking and Transportation. If the project site includes the construction of new parking spaces, these would be exclusive to the museum.

The contract also outlines possible programs between the University and the museum at both locations.

One plan mentioned is the use of a 24-seat classroom for undergraduate lab courses, for science and nonscience majors at the BBC facility.

Another possibility is to enroll 12 undergraduate students in an animal care intern program.

The University also plans for 20 undergraduate students to intern at the museum downtown, with half interacting with museum visitors as science communication interns and the other half placed in other departments of the museum.

The museum can use the on-campus facility for 30 years, and may renew their contract.

In the long term, the University intends to use this partnership to create new professional science master’s programs at the School of Environment, Art and Society and a professional master’s in science communication program in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

“It’s an open canvas for collaboration,” Thomas said. “We are looking to have as many crossovers as we can.”


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