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Funding pulled from undersea lab

A lack of federal support and local funding has forced the University of North Carolina Wilmington to stop operations at Aquarius, the world's only permanent undersea laboratory — a loss that will take away a key component of the school's marine science program, a school official said.

"Aquarius is unique. It's the only asset like this in the world," Aquarius director Tom Potts said of the facility based in the Florida Keys. "UNCW does lose a little of what makes it unique by losing this program."

But the program is not completely lost. It will soon be operated by Miami-based Florida International University.

Aquarius sits in about 60 feet of water about four miles from shore off Key Largo. With about 400 square feet of living and research space, it allows scientists to live and work underwater 24 hours a day for one or two week missions.

The facility costs about $1.5 million a year for basic operations, but the cost jumps to about $3 million when funding research projects

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