URI Oceanographers Receive $2.9 Million Grant to develop
better water sampling technology
NARRAGANSETT, R.I. -- July 8, 1999 -- University of Rhode Island Graduate
School of Oceanography (GSO) Marine Research Scientists Percy Donaghay of
Saunderstown, R.I. and Margaret Dekshenieks of Middletown, R.I.
have been awarded a $2.9 million grant by the National Ocean Partnership
Program (NOPP) to develop and test a new technology for sampling coastal
waters. The award will be shared with two commercial and three federal partners,
with URI receiving $1.1 million over three years. The highly competitive
grant was awarded to fund only one of five proposals submitted this year.
The partnership is centered around the development of the Ocean Response
Coastal Analysis System (ORCAS), a new system of automated oceanographic
profilers and sensors that will monitor biological, physical, chemical,
and optical parameters within the ocean, in three-dimensional space, over
time. The profilers are designed to determine how the coastal environment
responds to environmental events such as harmful algal blooms, low oxygen,
and storms, among others.
"The partners are very excited about this project. It represents
a unique opportunity to make a quantum leap in our ability to observe the
coastal ocean while simultaneously transitioning research discoveries into
commercial products with broad application," said Donaghay.
"We're extremely proud of the work of these scientists. Their efforts
to provide the sophisticated tools needed to monitor our coastal waters
are crucial to enhancing our understanding of both the human and natural
impacts on this precious environment," said URI President Robert L.
Carothers. "This partnership award is also just one more example of
how URI's Graduate School of Oceanography and the Ocean Technology Center
are at the forefront, bridging the gap between scientific endeavors and
creating rich economic development opportunities."
A key component of the profiler design is a novel underwater winch that
was developed by Donaghay, with funding from the URI Ocean Technology Center
(URI-OTC) and the Navy.
One of the commercial partners, SubChem Systems Inc., of Jamestown, R.I.,
will receive $.6 million to apply a new submersible technology that allows
nutrients to be measured in real time at higher spatial resolution and lower
concentrations than is currently possible. SubChem Systems will also assist
GSO with project coordination. SubChem Systems is a small environmental
company that was founded in 1996 by GSO marine research scientist, Alfred
K. Hanson of Jamestown, R.I.,. The company also has received funding
from the URI-OTC and the RI Economic Policy Council to develop new technology
for submersible chemical monitoring in marine waters. Hanson stated that
"the technology development funding, received from the State of Rhode
Island, was essential to our success in obtaining this award."
The other commercial partner is WET Labs, Inc., of Philomath, Ore. WET
Labs will develop the next generation of underwater optical systems. These
systems will have sufficient on board computer power to control the profilers
and process the data in real time. The federal partners, who will be involved
in the design and evaluation of the systems, include the Naval Research
Laboratory and the Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command, both in Stennis
Space Center, Miss.; and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in Gulf
Breeze, Fla. All the partners are contributing internal matching funds,
raising the total level of research funding to $4.4 million.
In the first year of the grant, field testing will take place in Narragansett
Bay. Subsequent field testing is planned in concert with the federal partners
in the Gulf of Mexico.
At the close of the three-year grant period, the partners anticipate
that the new profiling technology will aid in the development of early warning
capabilities and predictive models for episodic events in the marine environment
that could be used by federal, state and local agencies.
For More Information: Lisa Cugini, (401) 874-6642
Jhodi Redlich, (401) 874-2116