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University celebrates decade
as Sea Grant college
November 9, 1998

UConn is celebrating its first decade as a full-fledged Sea Grant College, a designation from the U.S. Department of Commerce earned by significant accomplishments in marine and coastal research, outreach and education.

"The Sea Grant program has reached far beyond its geographic borders, carrying on international collaborations in many countries and carrying out regional research and education initiatives in the Northeast."

President Philip Austin

On November 23, At 4 p.m., brief talks on Connecticut Sea Grant activities at UConn will be presented at the Konover Auditorium in the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, as part of the anniversary celebration.

The Connecticut Sea Grant College Program, based at the Avery Point campus, has helped generate and disseminate marine science information on the local, state, national and international levels for nearly 20 years. Connecticut Sea Grant started up sporadically in the late 1970s and early 1980s with a modest extension effort and began to grow steadily once a comprehensive research program was instituted. Under the leadership of Edward C. Monahan, who became director in 1986, the program expanded considerably in scope, and has received $10 million in federal support since then. UConn earned the designation Sea Grant College in 1988.

The program has branch offices at The Maritime Aquarium in Norwalk and at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. Additional research and outreach activities are sponsored at 11 academic institutions and two aquaria within the state.

As Connecticut Sea Grant celebrates its 10th anniversary, the National Sea Grant Program is celebrating its 30th year. The national Sea Grant strategic plan emphasizes three areas: economic leadership, coastal ecosystem health and public safety, and education and human resources. Connecticut Sea Grant's activities tie into these themes, focusing on issues of importance to Connecticut and Long Island Sound. Both graduate and undergraduate students have benefitted from working with Sea Grant scientists.

"We are proud of UConn's accomplishments in the marine sciences over the past decade, and we salute the role of Sea Grant's visionary strategic planning, cutting-edge ocean research and outreach carried on by its principal investigators and its talented staff," said President Philip E. Austin in a congratulatory letter. "The Sea Grant program has reached far beyond its geographic borders, carrying on international collaborations in many countries and carrying out regional research and education initiatives in the Northeast. Our flagship university is proud to have spearheaded this effort."

Some of the activities currently sponsored at UConn by Connecticut Sea Grant include the following:

  • Thomas T. Chen, director of the University's Biotechnology Center, and his colleagues have, for the first time, successfully introduced a foreign gene into a crustacean. Results indicate that not only can transgenic crustaceans be produced successfully, but that the introduced gene can also be transmitted on to subsequent generations. This success makes it possible to engineer crustaceans that possess desirable characteristics for aquaculture.

  • Hans Laufer, professor of molecular and cell biology, discovered that the hormone methyl farnesoate is responsible for stimulating reproduction and growth in crustaceans. Using modern biotechnology, Laufer developed a patented process to synthesize the hormone and devised a procedure for incorporating it into crustaceans' natural diet that has nearly doubled the egg production of shrimp in the lab.

  • Connecticut Sea Grant has supported a collaborative, regional research effort investigating the feasibility of commercial nori aquaculture in the Northeast. Nori is a seaweed marketed as a health food, for biomedical applications and for sushi wrappers. Yarish also cultures nori samples in the laboratory under varying light and temperature levels, to determine the optimum conditions for nori "seed" growth and reproduction. UConn has entered into a licensing agreement with Phycogen Inc. for "seed" production.

  • NEMO (Nonpoint Education for Municipal Officials) is a joint Sea Grant/Cooperative Extension System activity that links town halls with technology in a nationally recognized outreach effort. NEMO educators apply Geographic Information Systems technology and other techniques to provide towns with scenarios that show impervious surface cover and its implications for water quality, due to accumulating nonpoint pollution. The project, led by Chester Arnold, a UConn Cooperative Extension System educator, is being used as a model in several other states.

Peg Van Patten