Competition Project


The U.S. Virgin Islands Public Television System highlighted the MREC project during its Newsline 340 show.

Watch the video
Note: Select the November 13, 2011, edition. The MREC segment starts at 18:10 into the program.

Screen shot of first slide of presentation

View a Marine Research and Education Center webinar to learn more about the competition project.

I2SL partnered with the Joint Institute for Caribbean Marine Studies (JICMS) to provide the project for this competition, the proposed Salt River Bay Marine Research and Education Center (MREC), to be located in Salt River Bay National Historical Park and Ecological Preserve, a National Park unit on the island of St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI).

The real-life MREC project will be a marine laboratory, education center, and museum collections complex built on a 96-acre site on the north central coast of St. Croix. The campus will include research laboratories, classrooms, a lecture hall, teaching aquaria, boats and diving equipment, and housing for students, staff, and visiting researchers.

Goals for this project included building it to be accessible to people with disabilities; relying on renewable energy resources, such as wind and solar power; and designing the facility to minimize impacts to the surrounding viewshed, historic landscape, and the National Park's sensitive coastal habitats, cultural resources, and adjacent marine areas. The MREC will serve as a green energy and design demonstration project to encourage the use of these technologies in the USVI and Caribbean basin.

Competition Sponsor

The MREC will occupy a parcel along the north central coast of St. Croix, on the eastern edge of Salt River Bay, which extends from ridge to reef surrounded by intact red mangroves and sheltered by coral barrier reef. Salt River Bay has extensive cultural and archeological significance, featuring the remains of two pre-historic Taino villages and a ball court established more than 2,000 years ago. On November 14, 1493, Christopher Columbus's party came ashore at Salt River Bay, the only site now in U.S. territory visited by Columbus's party. For the last 40 years Salt River Bay has been the site of long term marine research including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association's (NOAA) National Undersea Research Program saturation diving habitats, Hydrolab and Aquarius. This parcel of land was also extensively altered during the late 1960s to support a proposed hotel resort project that failed. The MREC concept seeks to minimize the amount of land developed for the MREC and to restore the remaining land area to more natural conditions while protecting archeological resources.

The MREC will provide for student education, support science-based management for the marine parks on St. Croix, promote public awareness of the economic and cultural heritage of the tropical oceans, provide economic development opportunities for the USVI, and allow for long-term applied marine research in support of U.S. National Parks.

Given the laboratory use and research and education components, the JICMS believes that this is an ideal project for a student design competition.

Map of MREC Project Site
Map of site of MREC project in U.S. Virgin Islands


JICMS consists of representatives from Rutgers University; the University of North Carolina, Wilmington; the University of South Carolina; the University of the Virgin Islands; and the U.S. Department of the Interior's National Park Service and Office of Insular Affairs. Together these partners have been working together for more than 10 years to make the Salt River Bay Marine Research and Education Center a reality. As the project moves forward, the JICMS is creating opportunities for research and education partnerships and views the student design competition as a way to engage students in the development and implementation of this facility.