URI coastal partnership with academia, federal agencies wins national award for excellence

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KINGSTON, R.I. – July 25, 2008 – A partnership among 10 universities and non-governmental organizations in the Northeast and four agencies of the federal government, coordinated by the University of Rhode Island’s Coastal Institute, has been recognized with a prestigious national award for excellence.

The North Atlantic Coast Cooperative Ecosystem Studies Unit, one of 17 regional partnerships between academia and government agencies that collaborate to solve environmental problems on federal lands, received the 2008 award as the top cooperative ecosystem study unit in the country.

“This award truly highlights the importance of engaging URI with national and regional partners for the management of coastal ecosystems,” said Peter August, director of the URI Coastal Institute and the leader of the North Atlantic Coast unit. “The research recognized by this award has benefited from the contributions of senior faculty, research associates, graduate students and federal scientists stationed at URI.”

The award recognizes work done by the partners to address coastal geology and shoreline erosion issues at national parks in the region, especially Fire Island National Seashore off Long Island and Gateway National Recreation Area in New Jersey and New York.

According to Charles Roman, a National Park Service biologist based at URI, the award honors a decade of work by 30 individuals who “contributed significantly to a long-term effort aimed at understanding barrier island coastal processes and applying that knowledge to management decision-making.”

Scientists and students working on the project examined historic changes to barrier beach shorelines as a means of predicting future changes; developed protocols for monitoring shorelines and dunes; provided spatial analysis and GIS mapping support; studied shoreline sediments and geomorphological processes; and advised park superintendents on management strategies.

“All of this work is aimed at examining the response of barrier islands to sea level rise, climate change, major storm events and human activities,” explained Roman. “The Park Service has to make a lot of management decisions in response to these events. We want those decisions to be science based, so we rely on our academic and agency partners, who have done a tremendous job and worked well together over the years.”

URI’s academic and non-governmental partners in the North Atlantic Coast Cooperative Ecosystem Studies Unit are the City University of New York, the College of the Atlantic, Rutgers University, Stony Brook University, University of Maine-Orono, University of Maryland-Eastern Shore, University of Massachusetts-Amherst, State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry, and the Maryland Coastal Bays Program. Federal government partners include the U.S. Geological Survey, the National Park Service, the Army Corps of Engineers, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.