HOLLYWOOD, Fla. -

Nova Southeastern University opened its $50 million coral reef research center on Thursday, hoping it takes the university's marine biology program to the next level.

NSU's Center of Excellence for Coral Reef Ecosystems Research is located at the tip of John U. Lloyd Beach State Park in Hollywood.

"Eighty-six thousand square feet and it more than quadruples our laboratory area that we have," said Richard Dodge, the Dean of NSU's Oceanographic Center. "It is the largest such facility in the United States dedicated only to coral reefs."

Even former Vice President Al Gore showed up for the dedication.

"It is an example of how education and research work hand in hand," said Gore.

From studying shrimp and crustaceans caught in the vicinity of the BP deep horizon oil spill to tagging and tracking the migration patterns of tiger sharks, this center is focused on research.

"So, they are able to navigate to the same spot after being in the middle of the Atlantic thousands of miles away for months," said Mahmood Shivji, who researches sharks.

The center also boasts the largest salt water filtration system in the U.S. Several 5,000 gallon tanks create fresh, clean salt water for use in the laboratories.

In video provided by NSU, George Hanbury, the president of NSU, helped researchers check on the growth of stag horn coral colonies just off Fort Lauderdale.

WATCH: Underwater video 1 | Video 2 | Video 3 |

"Florida's coast has 84 percent of the nation's coral," said Hanbury. "So, the protection of the coral is extremely important."

"It has been very, very successful. Just in the couple years, our nursery has been active. We have already out planted a thousand colonies," said assistant professor David Gilliam.

With an estimated $6 billion of the economy and 71,000 for South Florida centered around our coral reefs, this research facility is poised for the future.