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Scenes from The University of Rhode Island

URI breakfast lecture explores how scientists measure water quality in our bays and rivers

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Narragansett, R.I. -- April 12, 2004 -- Characterizing how nutrients are distributed in water is critically important because, depending upon their concentrations, these biologically essential chemicals may greatly enhance or limit the growth of microscopic plants in aquatic waters.

Natural and man-made environmental events can lead to dramatic changes in nutrient concentrations in aquatic waters. Such episodic changes in nutrient concentrations can drastically influence algal growth rates leading to troublesome eutrophication of lakes and estuaries, harmful algal blooms, oxygen depletion, and fishery problems.

The public is invited to attend a lecture on "What’s in the Water?: The Next Generation of Submersible Instruments to Monitor Water Quality" on Tuesday, April 20, at 9 a.m. in the Coastal Institute Auditorium on the URI Bay Campus in Narragansett. The lecture is part of a series featuring the research of URI Graduate School of Oceanography (GSO) students. The speaker will be chemical oceanography Ph.D. candidate Richard Sweetman.

Sweetman’s lecture will focus on studies that have been conducted on local waters using a rapid-response, submersible chemical analyzer suited for mapping chemical distributions in 3-D space and time and for testing hydrodynamic models for chemical transport within rivers, estuaries, coastal and off shore waters. The SubChemPak Analyzer, developed by GSO marine scientist Dr. Alfred Hanson, president of SubChem Systems of Jamestown, transforms underwater optical instruments into sensitive chemical analyzers for rapid measurements of nutrients and other environmentally important chemicals. A family of multi-chemical analyzers has been developed for selected nutrients, including nitrate, nitrite, ammonia, urea, phosphate, silicate, and iron, and for defense applications for explosives such as TNT.

A resident of Bristol, Sweetman received a B.S. in marine resources development from URI. His research interests include nutrients and in-situ chemical detection. He is working on his Ph.D. in oceanography under the guidance of chemical oceanographers Drs. Brian Heikes and Alfred K. Hanson.

The lecture is free and open to the public. Coffee and muffins will be served. For more information, call Friends of Oceanography at (401) 874-6642.

Friends of Oceanography is a community-based membership organization established in 1986 to support the educational and public programs of the URI Graduate School of Oceanography. Friends provides financial support of fellowships for GSO students, and other research, education, and outreach activities. The organization also helps sponsor a variety of special events such as oceanography lecture series, open houses at the Bay Campus, The JASON Project, and the National Ocean Sciences Bowl.