URI researchers are partners on all six grants awarded to foster collaboration in Rhode Island

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KINGSTON, R.I. — June 13, 2013 — The Rhode Island Science and Technology Advisory Council has announced the recipients of the 2013 Research Alliance Collaborative Research Grants, and University of Rhode Island scientists are collaborators in all six funded projects.

The awards, totaling $810,541, will fund studies aimed at understanding and predicting the response of marine organisms and marine ecosystems to climate variability. Eighteen scientists from five research institutions in Rhode Island, including 10 from URI, are among the awardees. The grants are the seventh round of awards aimed at facilitating collaborative research in Rhode Island and supporting STAC’s partnership with the National Science Foundation’s Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR).

“One of Rhode Island’s greatest assets is our magnificent coastline and ocean access,” Governor Lincoln D. Chafee said. “Another is the great minds who, collaboratively, produce world-class ideas and research at our colleges and universities. These STAC grants, which will help maintain and protect our waters and marine life, represent the intersection of these two assets. I look forward to the next level of research and innovation that these grants will make possible.”

To date, STAC has invested $8.5 million in collaborative research projects that have yielded a return of $36 million back to the state in the form of grants for continued research, new federal programs, infrastructure improvements, commercialization of new products and venture funding for new companies.

This grant cycle called for proposals that addressed the research questions related to Rhode Island NSF EPSCoR. One such question was: What are the impacts of climate change on marine life? The 2013 award recipients include scientists pursuing research in aquaculture diseases, ocean acidification, fisheries management and electro-microbiology.

“Funding for the Collaborative Research Grant Awards represents the match requirement for the $20 million five-year NSF EPSCoR grant to Rhode Island, administered by the University of Rhode Island, that aims to understand better the effects of global climate change on marine life in the world’s oceans in general and Narragansett Bay in particular,” said Peter Alfonso, URI vice president for research and economic development and STAC co-chair. “Obviously, the good health of our waters is absolutely critical to the general and economic well-being of all of us who reside in or near the Ocean State.”

Further details on the research projects are as follows:

Project 1: Rhode Island Seaweed Biodiversity Project

Description: This team is using genomics to identify and catalogue invasive species of algal marine bio-invaders to improve coastal management and biosecurity in Narragansett Bay.

Collaborators: Christopher Lane, University of Rhode Island; and Brian Wysor, Roger Williams University

Project 2: Temperature-Mediated Changes in RI’s Benthic Community

Description: This team will work to return winter flounder to RI waters through better understanding the evolving population dynamics of the blue crab and summer flounder, two of its natural predators.

Collaborators: David Taylor, Roger Williams University; and Jeremy Collie, University of Rhode Island

Project 3: The Pathogenic Cause and Impact of the Local Sea Star Wasting Disease

Description: This collaboration will bring together six researchers with ecological, veterinary, molecular, microbial and aquaculture expertise to determine the mysterious cause of a deadly infectious disease attacking starfish from New Jersey to the Gulf of Maine.

Collaborators: Gary Wessel, Brown University; Roxanna Smolowitz, Roger Williams University; Marta Gomez-Chiarri, University of Rhode Island; Edward Baker, University of Rhode Island; and Niels-Viggo Hobbs, University of Rhode Island

Project 4: Estimating the Potential for Evolutionary Adaption of Marine Organisms to Climate Change

Description: This team will use native shrimp to study the evolutionary potential of marine species to adapt to warming waters

Collaborators: Jason Kolbe, University of Rhode Island; Carol Thornber, University of Rhode Island; and Jason Grear, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Project 5: Electric Microcable Bacteria in Narragansett Bay Sediments

Description: Working in the new area of electro-microbiology, this team will pursue their hypothesis that microbial bacteria are evolving to detoxify sediment in coastal dead zones.

Collaborators: Jeremy Rich, Brown University; and Bethany Jenkins, University of Rhode Island

Project 6: Ocean Acidification Effects on Plankton Community Composition and Food Web Energy Flow

Description: This team will look at how whole marine communities respond to ocean acidification.

Collaborators: Susanne Menden-Deuer, University of Rhode Island; Tatiana Rynearson, University of Rhode Island; Breea Govenar, Rhode Island College; and Jason Grear, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency