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coral in the ocean

2nd Annual International Ocean Film Festival
June 8, 2024

Virtual Resources

Virtual Resources for teachers, students and ocean lovers of all ages

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Dennis Hanisak

With great sadness, we share the news of the passing of Dr. M. Dennis Hanisak, a beloved and renowned member of the FAU Harbor Branch research faculty. Dr. Hanisak was a research professor, director of the Marine Ecosystems Health program, director of education at FAU Harbor Branch, and principal investigator of numerous research projects. He is remembered as an eminent marine scientist, a devoted teacher and mentor, and a pioneering conservationist for the Indian River Lagoon (IRL).

Dr. Hanisak joined the research team at Harbor Branch in 1977, conducting research on marine plants (seaweed and seagrass) in the IRL and other parts of Florida, the Bahamas and the Caribbean. He authored more than 70 scientific publications and co-authored the book “Submersed Plants of the Indian River Lagoon: A Floristic Inventory & Field Guide,” a comprehensive floristic compendium of Florida’s remarkable Indian River Lagoon. His contributions to marine biology and ecology – particularly for understanding the health and stressors on the Indian River Lagoon – are innumerable.

Importantly, Dr. Hanisak was an educator. His leadership was paramount to establishing FAU Harbor Branch as a destination for training the next generation of scientists. He was instrumental in developing programs for students of all ages, from grade school through doctorates. He inspired generations of new marine scientists, and his legacy lives on through their work.

“This is an overwhelming loss for his family, friends and the Institute, and a sad time for us all,” said Dr. James M. Sullivan, executive director of FAU Harbor Branch. “As we move forward through this difficult time, we take comfort in knowing that we are able to honor his legacy by continuing the great work he started.”

Dr. Hanisak is a true icon of FAU Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute. His passion was infectious, and his work made an indelible impact on the world.

For inquiries related to Dr. Hanisak’s professional work through FAU Harbor Branch, please contact James Sullivan at or Patrick Boles at

For media inquiries, contact Chelsey Matheson at

Celebration of Life

Sunday, June 23
1 to 3 p.m.
Johnson Education Center at FAU Harbor Branch

Join us to honor the life and legacy of Dr. M. Dennis Hanisak. Space is limited and advanced registration is required for in-person attendance. A livestream of the event will be available for those who can't attend in person. IMPORTANT: Only registered guests will be admitted on the day of the event. There will not be day-of registration available.
Click here for event details, in-person registration and access to the livestream link.

Dr. M. Dennis Hanisak Memorial Fund

To honor Dr. Hanisak’s remarkable legacy at FAU Harbor Branch, the Institute has established a memorial fund to support Semester by the Sea, a premier marine science education program he founded over 20 years ago. If you would like to leave a gift in Dr. Hanisak's memory, and support a program he was truly passionate about, please visit the link below.


FAU Harbor Branch prioritizes solution-oriented research that addresses critical issues affecting coastal zone, oceans, and human well-being. Research scientists take a global approach, conducting studies around the world in varying climates, ecosystems, and cultures.
Harbor Branch campus building

Harbor Branch

5600 US 1 North, Fort Pierce, FL 34946 772.242.2400
Florida Atlantic University (FAU) Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute is a world class research organization with a focus on exploring the marine environments, studying key species and understanding the connection between humans and the ocean. Founded in 1971 as Harbor Branch Oceanographic Foundation, Inc., the Institute expanded its reach to over 100 miles along Florida’s east coast when it joined Florida Atlantic University in 2007. Located in St. Lucie County, our 144-acre campus along the Indian River Lagoon employs over 200 scientists, engineers, educators, staff and students. To this day, the Institute actively pursues solution-oriented research that addresses some of the most critical issues affecting coastal zones, oceans and human well-being.
FAU Experts for the 2024 Hurricane Season
Forecasts indicate a highly active 2024 Atlantic hurricane season. Several FAU faculty experts are available to discuss various issues surrounding hurricane preparedness, evacuation and aftermath.
After Hundreds of Years, Study Confirms Bermuda Home to Cownose Rays
Using citizen science and morphological and genetic data, FAU Harbor Branch researchers are the first to provide evidence that the Atlantic cownose ray has recently made a new home in Bermuda.
FAU Researcher Earns Top Award for Marine Natural Products
Amy Wright, Ph.D., research professor at FAU Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, received the Paul J. Scheuer Award in Marine Natural Products, considered the foremost accolade in the field.
FAU Lands $1.3 Million Grant to Clean Up Stinky Seaweed in Florida
FAU Harbor Branch researchers will assess if it is better to harvest Sargassum in water as opposed to on the beach to better plan for removing vast amounts of seaweed from beaches and preventing aggregations.

HBOI ocean fish