Shedd is unique among U.S. aquariums in operating an 80-foot research vessel, the R/V Coral Reef II. The custom-designed floating field station and laboratory is indispensable to Shedd’s conservation research, education programs and collecting expeditions.
Shedd’s seagoing satellite is based in Miami, but for much of the year it’s a familiar sight throughout the Caribbean. For two decades, the R/V Coral Reef II has given Shedd researchers and teams of volunteer citizen scientists access to far-flung cays in the Bahamas to study critically endangered rock iguanas.
The recognizable boat is also a symbol of Shedd as a conservation ambassador: When the R/V Coral Reef II docks at local settlements, the school kids look forward to a classroom visit from Shedd experts, who’ve inspired them to protect their unique wildlife.
Every year the boat also transports Chicago-area teens in Shedd’s high school marine biology program to nature’s classroom in the Bahamas, where they study reef and island ecology in the water and in a lab on deck.
In addition to accommodating 11 passengers and a crew of three, the R/V Coral Reef II was designed especially to carry the fishes acquired on Shedd’s annual collecting trips. Large live wells with life-support systems ensure the health of new additions to Shedd’s Caribbean Reef exhibit.
This remarkable resource is also available to other aquariums, conservation organizations and institutions of higher learning for their collecting, research and educational programs. Among other trips, the boat was chartered to search for the sunken remains of the Santa Maria.