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Marine Sciences expands
links with New Zealand
October 19, 1998

The Department of Marine Sciences at Avery Point is one of three American institutions collaborating with a New Zealand research agency responsible for dealing with that country's atmospheric, marine and freshwater systems.

"We are in a select group of institutions."

Robert Whitlach
Department Head
Marine Sciences

Robert B. Whitlatch, head of the marine sciences department, and Robert V. Smith, vice provost for research and graduate education, recently signed a formal agreement with New Zealand's National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research at the New Zealand embassy in Washington, D.C.

Under the agreement, UConn scientists will visit New Zealand next year and NIWA staff members will visit Connecticut. In their work with NIWA, UConn scholars will focus on marine environmental studies.

Smith said the agreement gives UConn a special opportunity for regional marine science projects in the South Pacific as well as projects of joint interest. "They're the premier research institution in New Zealand," he said.

"Bob Whitlatch has maintained a long-term relationship with NIWA," Smith said. "This was a splendid opportunity to build on that one-to-one relationship to develop a relationship with an important consortium of American institutions."

Whitlatch, who has been working with the New Zealand group for several years, said NIWA's goal is to facilitate the exchange of scientists, staff members and students with UConn and the other American institutions.

"They wanted to establish a formal relationship with institutions in the United States," he said. "We are in a select group of institutions."

Other American institutions collaborating with the New Zealand agency are the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center and the Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences at the College of William and Mary.

There is no money involved in the collaboration agreement, though it does provide a mechanism for UConn to apply for federal research funds.

While they were in Washington, Whitlatch and Smith attended a reception and dinner hosted by Jim Bolger, New Zealand's ambassador to the United States and former prime minister. They also met with Paul Hargreaves, chief executive of NIWA, and Richard Pridmore, NIWA's director of research, who visited Avery Point on their way to Washington.

NIWA was established in 1992 as one of nine New Zealand Crown Research Institutes. The Auckland-based agency has a staff of 600. It receives $60 million in annual revenues from commercial enterprises and research grants. The institute operates research campuses in Auckland, Hamilton, Nelson, Christchurch and Lauder, and operates five centers of excellence with New Zealand universities.

Noting that UConn is building a new marine sciences complex at Avery Point, scheduled to be completed in 2000, and will take delivery of a new research vessel later this month, Whitlatch said NIWA is "keen on our potential."

"With funding through UConn 2000, the state of Connecticut and the university are greatly supportive of marine sciences capital improvements," he said. "This collaboration with NIWA is timely and exciting in the international research and education opportunities it provides."

Ken Ross