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URI and Greek Scientists Collaborate on First Joint Oceanographic Study

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Narragansett, RI -- August 11, 2004 -- In 2002 University of Rhode Island President Dr. Robert L. Carothers signed a memorandum of understanding with Dr. George Chronis, President of the Helenic Centre for Marine Research (HCMR) in Anavyssos, Greece, to foster collaboration on marine science research. That document paved the way for the first joint oceanographic research program earlier this year for the two institutions to study carbon flux in the Mediterranean Sea.

The project, entitled FACTS (Fluxes in the Aegean of Carbon and Thorium Study), is part of a National Science Foundation funded study of carbon flux in the Mediterranean Sea (Aegean and Tyrrhenian Seas), the Arctic Ocean, and the Atlantic Ocean.

"This project gives new life to the collaborative agreement signed in 2002 and holds great promise for further joint expeditions in the future. We are grateful to Dr. Moran for his leadership," said Carothers.

Participating in the study were Professor S. Bradley Moran and Research Associate Roger P. Kelly of the URI Graduate School of Oceanography (GSO) and Spyros Stavrakakis, Eleni Kaberi, Vassilis Zervakis and colleagues from the HCMR. The scientific team conducted a study of carbon fluxes in the South Aegean Sea (Cretan Sea) with the goal of producing a comparative study of the sinking rate of particulate organic carbon using sediment trap and radioisotopic methods.

The FACTS project was initiated when Dr. Evangelos Papathanassiou, Director of Oceanography at HCMR, invited Moran to present his research ideas in September 2003. A second cruise is being planned for the spring of 2005. The Greek scientists will also sail with Moran’s group aboard the URI research vessel Endeavor in 2005 on a leg between Narragansett, Rhode Island, and Bermuda.

"The collaboration between HCMR and the Hellenic Institute of Oceanography, in particular, and URI is the first of a series with universities and research institutes in the United States,” said Papathanassiou. “Following the success of this first expedition and the overall planning, we can certainly say that this initiative provides greater possibility of joint research between the two institutions in the future. We feel that this collaboration has much more to offer both of us working together for a common cause."

The scientific team is experimenting with new and existing measurements of Th-234 combined with organic carbon and specific organic compounds in the upper ocean to test models of carbon export, given the chemical, physical and biological differences that exist in different parts of the world ocean.

“This research has an important bearing on a number of national and international carbon cycle research programs,” said Moran, who will return to HCMR this fall to work on the data and plan the next field experiments. “It is a pleasure to work with such an enthusiastic and professional group of scientists.”

This first collaboration has already expanded beyond the carbon flux project. Moran is currently a co-PI on a multinational European Union project entitled IASON (International Conference on the Sustainable Development of the Mediterranean and Black Sea Environment). Headed by Papathanassiou, IASON refers to the Greek name iasthai “to heal” (Jason, or Iason, was leader of the Argonauts who went in search of the Golden Fleece in order to win back his kingdom from his uncle Pelias). The IASON initiative was launched in the spring, 2003, under the Greek Presidency and aims to establish transnational and multidisciplinary co-operation networks to treat and protect the Mediterranean and Black Sea maritime basins.