Visit to URI by West Virginia senator may lead to research partnerships

NARRAGANSETT, R.I. – October 27, 2014 – When U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse brought his West Virginia colleague, Sen. Joseph Manchin, to the University of Rhode Island Graduate School of Oceanography this month to learn about climate change, no one expected that a land-locked state like West Virginia could be a resource for oceanographic research. But discussions among the senators, GSO Dean Bruce Corliss and several oceanography professors may result in some unconventional partnerships.

According to Corliss, the visit uncovered common research interests between the two states that could be an opportunity to leverage each state’s science and technology to provide new and innovative solutions to some of the more challenging global issues.

“This is an unexpected opportunity that we are very excited about, and we really appreciate Senator Whitehouse’s efforts to facilitate this visit and Senator Manchin’s active participation during our briefings,” said Corliss. “Collaborative research and applied science efforts have been proven to be most effective, and this concept fits in perfectly with GSO’s historical approach to addressing the complexities and sensitivities that surround issues that impact the economy, land/sea usage and individual livelihoods.”

Potential research collaborations include such issues as changing environmental conditions and their effects on local and regional economies, the siting of renewable energy facilities, and research and development on clean energy technologies.

During their visit to GSO, the senators heard brief updates from Coastal Resources Center Senior Manager Pam Rubinoff on wetlands conservation and sea level rise, Professor Jeremy Collie on climate change impacts on fisheries, and Professor John King on beach monitoring and erosion mitigation. Grover Fugate, executive director of the Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council also attended the meeting and discussed the Beach SAMP program.

Following his visit, Sen. Manchin said “I am pleased that Sen. Whitehouse and I have continued these important discussions about how we can establish an all-of-the-above energy policy that acknowledges the reality of climate change while also understanding that fossil fuels, including coal, will be a vital part of our energy mix for decades to come. It was a pleasure to travel around Rhode Island’s beautiful coastline and meet with the great people of Rhode Island.”

“America is still a beacon to the world because we have the ability to work through disagreements to find common ground on a shared platform of fact,” added Whitehouse. “With the commitment of serious leaders like Sen. Manchin, I am confident that we can move forward on this issue in a way that preserves the economy and quality of life in West Virginia, in Rhode Island, and for all Americans.”

Pictured above: Bruce Corliss, dean of the URI Graduate School of Oceanography, is flanked by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (left) and Senator Joseph Manchin during the senators’ visit to GSO on Oct. 10.