URI associate dean, maritime lawyer to lead Rhode Island Sea Grant

Media Contact: Todd McLeish, 401-874-2116 |
KINGSTON, R.I. – July 15, 2013 – Dennis Nixon, associate dean of the University of Rhode Island’s Graduate School of Oceanography and a professor of marine affairs, has been named director of the Rhode Island Sea Grant Program, effective July 1. He succeeds Barry Costa-Pierce, who stepped down from the position last year after 12 years.

As director, Nixon will provide overall leadership for the research, education and outreach activities of the Sea Grant Program, which has a budget of approximately $3.1 million. Rhode Island Sea Grant is one of more than 30 federal-state partnerships that make up the National Sea Grant College Program. Its efforts address issues of importance to the marine environment in the state, including coastal management, fisheries, aquaculture and seafood safety and quality.

“Dennis has an intimate knowledge of Rhode Island’s coast and surrounding waters, and is uniquely qualified to bring together the academic and public communities to help solve emerging coastal problems in Rhode Island,” said Bruce Corliss, dean of the Graduate School of Oceanography. “I look forward to working with him as Sea Grant director to address significant scientific, policy, and management issues facing coastal Rhode Island.”

A resident of Jamestown and a practicing maritime attorney, Nixon has taught courses in marine and coastal law in URI’s Department of Marine Affairs for 37 years and has also served as associate dean for research and administration at GSO since 2009. He previously was associate dean of academic affairs for the URI College of the Environment and Life Sciences. He is the author of more than 50 articles and the casebook Marine and Coastal Law, first published in 1994 and released in a second edition in 2010. He has been a guest lecturer in 26 states and 27 countries.

Nixon was the co-founder of the joint-degree program in Marine Affairs and Law with the Roger Williams University Law School. He is also the legal advisor and risk manager for the University National Oceanographic Laboratory System, funded by the National Science Foundation, providing advice to all of the U.S. academic research vessel fleet for the past 26 years.

He has had a long association with Rhode Island Sea Grant, beginning in 1975 as a graduate student, and was later funded to carry out work in fishing vessel safety and insurance that culminated in the Commercial Fishing Industry Vessel Safety Act of 1988. In addition, he was instrumental in establishing the Rhode Island Sea Grant Marine Law Program and has served as a member of the Rhode Island Sea Grant Senior Advisory Council for more than a decade.

“I’m very excited about this opportunity to lead Rhode Island Sea Grant, one of the strongest programs in the country,” said Nixon. “Sea Grant’s mission of ‘providing solutions for America’s coasts’ couldn’t be more important here in the Ocean State. Narragansett Bay is the heart of our state’s identity, and I am committed to supporting research and outreach that will protect it for future generations of Rhode Islanders.”

He is the secretary and general counsel for the Point Club, a fishing vessel insurance cooperative he helped found over 20 years ago, and co-founder of the International Marina Institute, which provides educational programs and certification for professionals in the marine industry.

“I offer my warmest congratulations to my friend, Dennis Nixon, on his appointment as URI’s new Sea Grant Director,” said U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse. “Dennis is a top scholar in marine and coastal law and someone who has an intimate knowledge of Rhode Island’s coastal waters.

The program will benefit greatly from his leadership and expertise. I can’t think of a better person to continue Rhode Island Sea Grant’s excellent work to address the many issues facing our coasts today.”

Nixon earned a bachelor’s degree in history from Xavier University, a master’s of marine affairs from URI, and a law degree from the University of Cincinnati Law School.