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Scenes from The University of Rhode Island

Hendricken senior has uplifting experience at URI Bay Campus

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Narragansett, RI -- May 17, 2004 -- Bishop Hendricken High School senior Ryan Kelly spent part of his last months as a high school student learning what scientists do for a living. As part of a Hendricken internship program, he was assigned to work with URI Graduate School of Oceanography (GSO) atmospheric chemist Dr. John Merrill, and for the last 8 weeks Kelly has come to Narragansett every Monday to work in the lab, input data, create a web site, and help launch balloons that measure ozone in the atmosphere.

A resident of Warwick, Kelly is part of Hendrickenís Senior Experience Program, which allows seniors to select a placement based on their interests and goals. This year 245 seniors are spending their Mondays at various locations around the state, including businesses, service organizations, soup kitchens and shelters, and academic institutions.

The opening at the GSO came about when Merrill received funding from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to analyze and interpret ozone data collected from weekly balloon launches from the URI Bay Campus. In addition to Kelly, GSO graduate student John Wendelbo is assisting Merrill in the project.

Beginning in March 2004 Merrill began a year-long program to launch an instrument package on a weekly basis to measure ozone in the atmosphere.
The balloons are released from the Bay Campus and travel in the direction of the wind at the time of release (generally toward the east). The balloons can reach a height of 115,000 feet before dropping to the ground. The balloons and the instruments attached to them have Merrillís name, address, phone, and email address on them so that anyone who finds the balloon can return it to the Bay Campus.

Based on past experience, Merrill did not expect to get any balloons back and was surprised to get calls about two of them within the first six weeks. The first balloon washed up with the tide and was found by a Nantucket town official. Merrillís second call came from an ornithologist who found a balloon on dry land at the west end of Marthaís Vineyard.

Kelly now looks forward to college beginning in September. And with Kellyís help, Merrill looks forward to creating an ozone measurement project that will serve as the basis of a graduate studentís thesis research.

The URI Graduate School of Oceanography is one of the country's largest marine science education programs, and one of the world's foremost marine research institutions. Founded in 1961 in Narragansett, RI, GSO serves a community of scientists who are researching the causes of and solutions to such problems as acid rain, harmful algal blooms, global warming, air and water pollution, oil spills, overfishing, and coastal erosion. GSO is home to the Coastal Institute, the Coastal Resources Center, Rhode Island Sea Grant, the Institute for Archaeological Oceanography, and the National Sea Grant Library.