Marine explorer Ballard to discuss ‘Last Great Frontier’ at URI lecture series on oceans, Mar. 29

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KINGSTON, R.I. – March 15, 2011 – Robert Ballard, professor of oceanography at the University of Rhode Island who is most famous for his 1985 discovery of the remains of the Titanic, will discuss ocean exploration in a lecture entitled “The Last Great Frontier” on Mar. 29 at 7:30 p.m.

His presentation, in Edward’s Auditorium on the URI Kingston campus, is part of the University’s Vetlesen lecture series on “The State of the Oceans” in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of the Graduate School of Oceanography. The event is free and open to the public.

In his lecture, Ballard will share his passion for the deep ocean and his quest to better understand and preserve the marine environment for future generations.

“We completed a very comprehensive research cruise last fall that lasted almost five months, and I’ll be discussing the data from that expedition, including the search for ancient shipwrecks and studies of the geology in the Eastern Mediterranean,” Ballard said. “I’ll also preview our plans for a comparable research program this year to the Black Sea, the Aegean and areas off the coast of Israel, Tunisia, Spain and Sicily.”

A marine geologist who earned a Ph.D in oceanography from URI — one of many distinguished alumni who have studied at the Graduate School of Oceanography — Ballard serves as president of the Institute for Exploration in Mystic, Conn. He has conducted more than 100 deep-sea expeditions and has succeeded in tracking down numerous significant shipwrecks, including the German battleship Bismarck, the lost fleet of Guadalcanal, the American aircraft carrier Yorktown, sunk in World War II’s Battle of Midway, and John F. Kennedy’s WWII patrol ship PT-109.

Ballard spent 30 years at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, where he helped develop manned submersibles and remotely operated vehicles for marine research. He went on to develop telecommunications technology to allow scientists and schoolchildren to participate in undersea explorations from afar, which became the basis for the technology in the URI Inner Space Center.

A commander in the U.S. Naval Reserve, Ballard was awarded the National Humanities Medal by President George W. Bush in 2003 and the National Geographic Society’s Hubbard Medal in1996 for extraordinary accomplishments in coaxing secrets from the world’s oceans and engaging students in the wonder of science. He continues to lead scientific expeditions every year.

The lecture series is sponsored by the G. Unger Vetlesen Foundation, with individual lectures supported by the URI College of Arts & Sciences, the Harrington School of Communication and Media, and Rhode Island Sea Grant. The series is coordinated by Professors Steven D’Hondt, Arthur Spivack and Judith Swift, and Sunshine Menezes, director of the Metcalf Institute for Marine & Environmental Reporting.

The remaining speakers in the series are:

Apr. 5 – Norbert Wu, independent filmmaker and photographer of the marine environment, on “Exploring the World’s Notable and Threatened Underwater habitats.”

Apr. 12 – Deborah Kelley, professor of marine geology and geophysics at the University of Washington, on “Measuring Change Across the Global Ocean.”

Apr. 26 – Sheldon Whitehouse, U.S. senator, on “Steering a Course Toward a National Ocean Policy.”

For more information about the lecture series, visit or contact the URI Honors Center at 401-874-2381 or