Kewalo Basin Lab Wins Millions In Fed Funds

Published On: Sep 11 2009 05:45:39 AM HST   Updated On: Sep 12 2009 07:45:17 AM HST

An established marine laboratory at Kewalo Basin recently raked in about $4.5 million in federal funding, but scientists still fear it may not be enough to secure their future.

The building at Point Panic is a unique one, since its plumbing pumps seawater into the building at a rate of 250 gallons each minute -- and researchers say that's the beauty of it.

"It moves 1,000 feet out," said Mark Martindale, director of Kewalo Laboratories. "It takes seawater right from the edge of the living coral reef and it is pumped through the roof and is distributed through the rest of the building, and it's the best quality seawater for studying coral reef available today."

Elaine Seaver studies microscopic marine worms. This summer alone, she has brought in $350,000 to expand her studies.

"We are looking at structures of individual cells, very fine little structures that you could never see unaided," Seaver said.

Scientists hope the basic research -- aided by high-tech microscopes -- will lead to biomedical breakthroughs, as it is similar to using an MRI on a microscopic organism.

The urban marine lab is also internationally recognized for its work with sea slugs. These simple life forms may potentially help unlock some medical mysteries.

The lab is headed by four professors, and together they bring in millions in federal funding, but the location of the lab -- while part of its success -- may also be its downfall.

The University of Hawaii is considering swapping the parcel in a plan to develop a new cancer center.

Martindale has said he thinks it is shortsighted to bulldoze the center, and said now is the time to build on the facility's success.

"Maintaining a footprint of modern biomedical research in conjunction with maintaining a marine environment is probably more important now than it was 20 or 30 years ago," said Martindale.


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