URI scientists are partners on five of six grants awarded for marine-based research in Rhode Island

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Science & Technology Advisory Council awards $814,000 in grants

KINGSTON, R.I. – February 20, 2015 – The Rhode Island Science & Technology Advisory Council (STAC) today announced the recipients of its 2015 Collaborative Research Grants, and University of Rhode Island researchers are partners on five of the six funded projects.

The grants, totaling more than $814,000, aim to make Rhode Island an international leader in understanding and predicting the response of marine organisms and marine ecosystems to climate variability. They will fund multi-disciplinary research teams with expertise in oceanography, supercomputing, environmental conservation, genetics, toxicology, and aquatic pathology to examine how marine life in Narragansett Bay is responding to climate change.

Data from these projects will lead to improved strategies for fisheries and aquaculture management, new tools for monitoring ecological change, and a 3D modeling system for coastal waterways that can enhance risk assessment, infrastructure planning and tracking of toxic spills.

“R&D, innovation and globally traded industries are job creators in the United States,” said Gov. Gina M. Raimondo. “Research is a critical component, and Rhode Island is in a unique position to take the research, data and findings from these six teams and turn it into jobs impacting our economy for generations to come.”

The grants are the ninth round of awards aimed at facilitating collaborative research in Rhode Island and support STAC’s partnership with the National Science Foundation’s Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR). To date, STAC has invested $10.6 million in collaborative research projects that have yielded a return of $43 million back to the state in the form of grants for continued research, new federal programs, infrastructure improvements, commercialization of new products and funding for new companies.

The projects featuring URI researchers are:

Diatom Community Composition as an Indicator of Coastal Ecosystem Change ($158,722) – This project will bring together four scientists from different fields to explore coastal biogeochemical responses to climate change and develop new assessment tools for monitoring ecological change. Collaborators are Rebecca Robinson and Tatiana Rynearson from the URI Graduate School of Oceanography and Warren Prell and David Murray of Brown University.

Canaries in Narragansett Bay? Untangling the Ecological Response of a Key Diatom Genus to Environmental Change ($118,895) – This project links an academic scientist with expertise in genetics and a federal agency scientist with expertise in predictive modeling to examine how the base of the food web in Narragansett Bay is changing in response to changes in environmental conditions. Collaborators are Tatiana Rynearson from the URI Graduate School of Oceanography and Jason Grear of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Marine Disturbance Disease and Climate Change in Rhode Island’s Coastal Waters: Merging Higher Trophic Level Population Dynamics Models/Datasets with Lower Trophic Level Climate Forecast Models ($139,952)

This team will use physical oceanography and aquatic pathology to integrate historic datasets to understand the relationship between physical and chemical changes in the ocean and various health issues affecting coastal fish and shellfish of commercial interest. Collaborators are Lewis Rothstein from the URI Graduate School of Oceanography, Kathleen Castro and Marta Gomez-Chiarri from the URI College of the Environment and Life Sciences, and Roxanna Smolowitz from Roger Williams University.

A Proteomics Approach to Analyzing Phenotypic Plasticity versus Adaptation in the Response of Marine Invertebrates to Climate Change ($131,799) – This team will study the proteins in a common invasive marine species to determine if it is adapting to local stress factors within one generation or going through genetic changes over multiple generations. The findings will be used to predict the impact on economically important fisheries and aquaculture. Collaborators are Steven Irvine and Niall Howlett of URI’s College of the Environment and Life Sciences, Thomas Meedel of Rhode Island College and James Clifton of Brown University.

Pushing to New Limits for Models of Rhode Island Bays and Sounds ($160,449) – This trans-disciplinary project combines expertise in coastal waterway modeling and supercomputing model development to create a new 3D modeling tool that extends our existing ability to understand coastal turbulence for such things as risk assessment, infrastructure planning, tracking of toxic spills and fisheries/aquaculture management. Collaborators are Lewis Rothstein, Christopher Kincaid, David Ullman and Edward Durbin of the URI Graduate School of Oceanography, Baylor Fox-Kemper of Brown University and Dale Leavitt and David Taylor of Roger Williams University.