URI celebrates 125th anniversary at Bay Campus with oceanography open house, Oct. 14

Research vessel tours, aquarium, science booths, lectures, food trucks during all-day event

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Adults, teens and children enjoy marine life touch tank at last year’s open house at URI’s Graduate School of Oceanography. Photo by Michael Salerno.

NARRAGANSETT, R.I., Sept. 26, 2017—Enjoy a day of family fun and learn about the important scientific work at the University of Rhode Island’s Narragansett Bay Campus during a free open house on Saturday, Oct. 14.

The event is a celebration of URI’s 125th anniversary and an opportunity for the public to view the groundbreaking work and outreach activities of URI’s Graduate School of Oceanography, a world-renowned oceanographic institution.

The open house from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the Bay Campus, 215 South Ferry Road in Narragansett, offers something for everyone: a campus aquarium; a marine life touch tank for kids; interactive ocean science exhibits; local food trucks; a maritime art exhibit by Rhode Island artist Eric Lutes; and tours of the Inner Space Center, Marine Geologic Samples Lab and Rhode Island Nuclear Science Center.

Visitors can go on a tour of the research vessel, Endeavor, which has carried scientists, students and teachers throughout the world’s oceans to conduct research since its launch 41 years ago.

Because of the popularity of last year’s open house—4,000 people attended—the public is required this year to register for the Endeavor tour in advance through www.gso.uri.edu. Visitors must also register for the nuclear reactor tour and a scientist-led field trip on the campus beach, also at www.gso.uri.edu.

“The Graduate School of Oceanography has played a critical role over the last 50 years contributing to an understanding of the ocean and coastal environments and has been an asset to our state and the nation,” said GSO Dean Bruce Corliss. “We appreciate the support we have received from Rhode Island and are delighted to have Rhode Islanders visit to learn more about our activities and the Endeavor.”

GSO faculty, graduate students and staff will offer booths with information about rocks from the ocean floor, pollutants in the oceans, zooplankton, hurricanes, oyster aquaculture, scuba diving, deep-sea ocean exploration, whale sightings, changes in local fisheries and climate change demonstration sites in Rhode Island, such as Napatree Point in Westerly.

There will also be demonstrations of remotely-operated vehicles, opportunities to use oceanographic sampling equipment, examples of the impact of pressure on deep-sea animals and a virtual reality visualization of oceanographic data. “Visitors will be able to put on a virtual reality headset to see microscopic plankton as they dive 1,000 meters below the surface,” said Melissa Omand, assistant professor at GSO.

New this year is the shoreline field trip, which will introduce visitors to marine life on the Narragansett Bay shore and shed light on how scientists interpret the beach while conducting research. Two 45-minute trips will be offered, one at 10 a.m. and the other at 11 a.m. Registration is required through www.gso.uri.edu.

Staff from the Coastal Resources Center and Rhode Island Sea Grant, both on the Bay Campus, will also help visitors predict storm damage and flooding on their property through the online service, StormTools.

Children—and adults—can go on two scavenger hunts, one on the Endeavor and the other covering the entire Bay Campus. The public can also visit an outdoor tank experimenting with lobsters, a low-profile wind turbine, and a tuna-raising facility. An Environmental Protection Agency research vessel will be on display, with staff demonstrating sampling techniques.

Also, local historian Wayne Durfee will talk about the history of the Bay Campus and “Bay Informed,” a new graduate student group, will give brief talks about student research, on topics such as climate change, pollution and wind farms.

One lab’s artist-in-residence, Cynthia Rubin, will lead a drawing workshop on live plankton. Her multimedia projections on plankton will also be on display.

“This year’s event highlights the significant and relevant work happening across the Bay Campus,” said Sarah Gaines, chair of the organizing committee. “The expanded event for the University’s 125th will include exhibits on the main quad as well as by the dock. It’s a great opportunity for the public to explore all corners of our campus.”

Guests can park their cars on the Bay Campus for free and take a short walk to the pier where the Endeavor is docked. Shuttle vans will be available, if needed. Closed-toe shoes are required for the Endeavor and nuclear reactor tours. The only costs are for food from the food trucks.

“This is going to be a fun and informative day,” said Gaines. “Come join us.”