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Thursday, April 26, 2018

Keeping Endeavor afloat

URI teams up with Woods Hole and UNH for marine research 
Elizabeth Rau 

Image result for uri research vesselThe University of Rhode Island’s Graduate School of Oceanography has created a consortium with two major institutions to operate the research vessel Endeavor for its final years and to jointly submit a proposal to operate a new ship, which would also be based at URI’s Narragansett Bay Campus. 

GSO Dean Bruce Corliss says establishing the East Coast Oceanographic Consortium with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts and the University of New Hampshire—in collaboration with 11 associate members—creates new and exciting research, educational and outreach opportunities in ocean science and exploration. 

Formally created in January with the signing of a partnership, the consortium is the culmination of five years of discussion with marine science institutions along the Eastern seaboard and builds on GSO’s reputation as one of the world’s premier academic institutions of oceanography and ocean exploration. 

On behalf of the consortium, URI will submit a proposal to host and operate a new ship in mid-April to the National Science Foundation. 


The NSF, owner of the Endeavor and the new ship, is expected to announce its decision later this year. 

Associate members of the consortium are: Bermuda Institute for Ocean Sciences; Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences in Maine; Brown University; Columbia University; Harvard University; Ocean Exploration Trust; University of Maine; University of Miami; University of Puerto Rico; the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth; and the University of Massachusetts, Boston. 

“The objective of the consortium is to enhance and promote research and education among its members,” says Corliss. “With decades of cumulative scientific experience and participation from dozens of the world’s preeminent oceanographers, the consortium has the expertise, resources and commitment to safely and effectively manage a new research vessel to address critical scientific questions worldwide.” 

“The consortium creates a powerful model for collaboration among leading New England oceanographic institutions,” says Robert Munier, vice president at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. “The consortium will create synergies of marine operational expertise and facilities with the goal of providing best-in-class access to the sea for our scientists and engineers.” 

“The consortium offers the opportunity for an already dynamic community of East Coast marine scientists to work more closely together,” says Larry Mayer, professor and director of the School of Marine Science and Ocean Engineering and The Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping at UNH. 

“The efficiencies gained through this collaboration will have long-term impact on our ability to better understand our oceans and their impact on our lives.” 

As head of the group, Corliss is responsible for the leadership, management and oversight of the entire consortium. GSO Director of Administration James Patti is the consortium’s director; GSO Director of Facilities and Operations David Palazzetti is responsible for the management and planning of the ship’s operations; and GSO Director of Marine Operations Thomas Glennon is responsible for the overall operation of the ship. 

The group’s policy board sets long-range goals and ensures that they are achieved. It also promotes collaborative and innovative research initiatives. 

Two scientists from each of the major institutions will serve on the board. The consortium’s program advisory committee provides guidance on science, technology, equipment and instrumentation. 

The committee also implements strategy for supporting ocean research and education activities on board the vessel and explores opportunities for promoting relationships among consortium members, as well as the broader ocean science community. 

In addition to ship operations, a major goal of the group is to collaborate with other institutions on research and educational programs. To achieve this, a scientific meeting will be held annually with researchers from throughout the world. 

The first meeting will be this fall at GSO. 

“The consortium is a great example of genuine collaboration across institutional boundaries,” says Patti. “Together, URI, UNH and Woods Hole have accounted for more than a billion dollars in ocean science research funding over the past five years. That record, combined with our extensive experience operating research vessels, will be a cornerstone of URI’s proposal to operate the new ship.” 

The National Science Foundation is planning three new ships for the academic fleet. Not only will the new ships have better science labs and workspace, they will feature improved technologies and more comfortable berthing. 

A positioning system that enables ships to remain in one place for long periods will also distinguish them. The Endeavor is scheduled for retirement in the next five years; a typical life span of a large commercial vessel is about 30 years, and the Endeavor has lasted more than four decades. 

This is a testament to URI’s outstanding record of vessel stewardship and maintenance. Built by Peterson Builders in Sturgeon Bay, Wis., the 185-foot Endeavor, retrofitted in 1993, carries a crew of 12 and up to 17 scientists. 

It is operated by GSO on behalf of the National Science Foundation. Since its christening in 1976, it has taken scientists, teachers and educators from URI and around the world on more than 600 expeditions throughout the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, to the Mediterranean and Black Seas, and even to the Arctic. 

Research, community outreach and public service are the ship’s hallmarks. On its first operational cruise, the Endeavor responded to the Argo Merchantoil spill near Nantucket in December 1976. 

Thirty-four years later, the ship was on the scene assessing environmental impacts after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. 

The ship surveyed the seafloor off Haiti following an earthquake, and even delivered tents to residents. 

The ship has traveled to Georges Bank to study ocean currents and test new marine instruments, and has gone on expeditions in Florida, Namibia and Cape Verde. 

The ship is also used as a floating classroom through its Teachers-at-Sea program, giving educators an opportunity to communicate with their students through telepresence technology. 

“As a floating laboratory and classroom, Endeavor has been a tremendous facility for the University and for the state and raised our national profile,” says Corliss. 

“Endeavor has made important contributions to the state’s economy, and the work conducted aboard the ship has advanced our understanding of oceanographic processes. Our consortium will ensure that groundbreaking oceanographic research continues throughout the world.”