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Scenes from The University of Rhode Island

Oceanography professor named UNESCO-Cousteau chair

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NARRAGANSETT, R.I. -- October 18, 2004 -- The University of Rhode Island Graduate School of Oceanography has been honored by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) with the establishment of a UNESCO-Cousteau Chair as part of an initiative that will combine the talents of the GSO, The Cousteau Society, and other UNESCO chairs located throughout the world.

URI biological oceanographer Scott Nixon has been appointed as the first chairholder.

The director-general of UNESCO, Koïchiro Matsuura, established the UNESCO-Cousteau Chair in Global Coastal Assessment at URI during a signing ceremony held at UNESCO headquarters in Paris recently.

The ceremony was attended by URI President Robert L. Carothers, Louise V. Oliver, ambassador and permanent U.S. delegate to UNESCO, and Francine Cousteau, president of Equipe Cousteau.

"I am pleased to sign this agreement one year to the day after the flag-raising ceremony that marked the United States' return to UNESCO," said Matsuura. "It is important for UNESCO to strengthen cooperation with the United States in all of the fields in which we work."

The UNESCO-Cousteau chair program, named after legendary marine adventurer and environmentalist Jacques-Yves Cousteau, was launched in 1992 to promote interdisciplinary education, research, and policy-making in the field of the environment and sustainability science and research. There are 500 UNESCO chairs in 113 member countries. The position at URI is one of only two in the United States. The other is located at Rutgers University in New Jersey.

"This new chair will join a global network of UNESCO-Cousteau chairs working on effective coastal management. This program is a fitting tribute and continuation of the work to which Jacques-Yves Cousteau devoted his life,” the director-general said.

URI involvement in the UNESCO/Cousteau Chair program has been spearheaded by Gail Scowcroft, associate director of the Office of Marine Programs. She chairs an advisory committee of URI and Cousteau Society scientists and ocean engineers formed to support the Chair activities.

"We are thrilled that Dr. Nixon will hold the chair in Global Coastal Assessment here at URI,” said Scowcroft. “His expertise is an invaluable intellectual resource that can now be widely shared across the world.” Programs associated with the UNESCO/Cousteau Chair will provide Nixon the opportunity to interact with the Cousteau Chair network. He will be able to share his extensive expertise in coastal ocean science with an international group of colleagues.

"Professor Nixon has achieved international recognition for his research on fundamental processes determining the productivity of estuaries and the impacts of human activities on coastal ecosystems, work which recently led to the Odum Lifetime Achievement Award of the Estuarine Research Federation,” said GSO Dean David Farmer. “He is exceptionally well qualified for leading a program under the auspices of this chair."

The URI Development Office is working with the Cousteau Society to raise the funds to establish an endowment to support additional activities of this exciting program, including graduate student support for conducting research in the coastal environment.

UNESCO was established as a specialized United Nations agency in 1945 to work as a laboratory of ideas and a standard-setter to forge universal agreements on emerging ethical issues. The organization also serves as a clearinghouse for the dissemination and sharing of information and knowledge, while helping member countries build their human and institutional capacities in diverse fields.