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New University vessel will strengthen
marine research, teaching

December 15, 1997

The University is preparing to receive a $2 million oceanographic research vessel that will boost marine education and research at the Avery Point campus.

Chancellor Mark A. Emmert says the vessel will be a critical part of marine sciences at UConn.

"The vessel will play a major role in enabling the University's Avery Point Campus, the state's only higher education institution directly on Long Island Sound, to provide a unique marine-oriented educational experience," he says.

The Marine Sciences & Technology Center, which will be housed in a new building at Avery Point under UConn 2000, will receive the 76-foot vessel by the end of next summer. The vessel is being funded through a $1.5 million grant from Connecticut Innovations Inc., with additional support from the University.

"This research vessel will elevate marine sciences to a new level and will greatly expand our research and teaching opportunities," says Richard Cooper, director of the center."It will become a unique and highly visible symbol for the University that will be seen by hundreds of people as it performs its science operations along our coastal waters.

"As set forth in the vessel's mission statement, the vessel will be the flagship of the University's research fleet and, as such, will be a critical component of the Marine Sciences & Technology Center's effort to maintain quality education and research programs for the people of Connecticut," he says.

The vessel will be used for undergraduate and graduate education as well as for supporting funded research projects. It will also be contracted out regionally to other educational, research and government organizations.

"The vessel, with the ability to accommodate more faculty and students and with advanced design and capability, will considerably increase the ability of the campus to place special emphasis on marine-oriented undergraduate and graduate curricula, as well as programs responsive to the needs of its significant corporate and industrial constituencies and its unique economic and cultural characteristics," says Emmert.

The vessel will be the first large research ship ever constructed by the University."This has been a unique opportunity to design and construct a ship to meet the specific needs of our seagoing operations," says Robert DeGoursey, operations manager at the Marine Sciences & Technology Center.

The center intends to employ the vessel predominantly in the coastal zone, reflecting the recent emphasis in marine sciences to address near-shore issues. The ship also has the capability to work offshore as far as the edge of the continental shelf, some 100 miles out.

The design of the vessel favors stability and precise low-speed handling, accomplished in part by having a relatively wide beam coupled with bow and stern jet thrusters, which supplement the main engine propulsion system.

"The system will enable us to propel the ship in any direction - even sideways," DeGoursey says."Few research vessels in this size class have such handling and positioning capability."

The new vessel will provide many advantages over the current vessel, the R/V UConn, including the ability to accommodate class sizes up to 42 students, 10 scientists on overnight trips and up to eight scientists on multi-day cruises. The R/V UConn can only accommodate four scientists on extended trips. The new ship will also extend the amount of continuous time scientists can spend at sea from three days on the R/V UConn to about seven days.

The vessel will have a wide range of December machinery capable of a variety of functions, enabling scientists to perform much more complex science operations with bigger and heavier instrumentation in rougher weather and at much greater depths than the current ship allows.

The science payload - the equipment and material brought aboard for each scientific mission - will increase from 2 tons to 10 tons. The payload is substantial for a vessel this size, DeGoursey says, and will allow accommodation for science vans up to 20 feet in length, such as the unit owned and operated by the National Undersea Research Center-North Atlantic and Great Lakes (NURC), based at the Marine Sciences & Technology Center. NURC's van is the largest component of its remotely operated vehicle system and will be supported routinely by the new vessel.

The shipboard communication system is still under development. The goal, however, is to develop a system that would permit rapid and economical transmission of large data files and would provide Internet access offshore.

Vessel construction began in October and is now 10 percent complete. The as yet unnamed new vessel replaces the 45-year-old R/V UConn, which the University has operated since 1969.

Renu Sehgal-Aldrich