Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Summer in Rhode Island, Part 2

One of the great treasures at the University of Rhode Island, as well as for the state and the nation, is the Graduate School of Oceanography. Not surprisingly, the GSO had a very busy and productive summer. I would like to highlight a couple of its activities.

URI scientists at the GSO have contributed in multiple ways to understanding the impacts of the BP/Deepwater Horizon Gulf oil spill – from predicting the spread of the oil (Dr. Malcolm Spaulding had a prominent role in this) to assessing strategies for mitigation.

In June, our research ship (the R/V Endeavor) was quickly outfitted in order to make critical measurements of subsurface oil in the Gulf. Dr. Christopher Reddy (URI 1997 Ph.D. in chemical oceanography from GSO) was a key member of the scientific team. Their characterization of a continuous plume of oil that was over 50 miles long, at a depth of greater than 3,000 feet, was published in the August issue of the prestigious journal Science.

Their findings have numerous important implications for understanding the consequences of the massive spill, and also are relevant to understanding the ultimate prospects for degradation of the oil by microorganisms. The results of the research have garnered worldwide coverage; Dr. Reddy and R/V Endeavor have certainly received (and earned) far more than 15 minutes of fame!

This has also been a hectic but enormously productive summer for URI/GSO scientist and explorer Dr. Bob Ballard, who is very familiar with the bright lights. Using the cutting-edge facilities of the Inner Space Center at the GSO, as well as command consoles located around the world, scientists, students, and kids of all ages can participate in ocean exploration – live and in real time. The capabilities are simply amazing! I had the benefit of a demonstration from Bob himself at the recent “Friends of the Graduate School of Oceanography” reception in the Ocean Science and Exploration Center. You can check this out yourself at Note that a lot of URI faculty and graduate students are part of the scientific research and exploration associated with this voyage of the E/V Nautilus (owned and operated by the Ocean Exploration Trust).

As the GSO looks forward to its 50th anniversary, it can look back with a great sense of accomplishment on a stellar record of achievement. Given the talent, dedication, and energy of the URI/GSO faculty, students, and staff, we can readily anticipate an even brighter future.