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FAU Harbor Branch: In Remembrance of Dr. M. Dennis Hanisak

Treasure Coast - Sunday May 10, 2024: 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 IRL. His contributions to marine biology and ecology – particularly for understanding the health and stressors on the IRL – are innumerable. 

[Dr. Hanisak was recently a guest on the WQCS community affairs program In FOCUS. That program can be heard here.]

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. A memorial celebration for Dr. Hanisak to be held at FAU Harbor Branch is currently being planned. Details will be shared as they are finalized. 

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