N.H. Sea Grant Receives $1.9 Million to Fund Marine Research

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March 2010

New Hampshire Sea Grant (NHSG) at the University of New Hampshire has received $1,954,000 from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for its 2010-11 activities, which will include funding for five local research projects and partial funding for two regional projects. The projects affect species from seaweed to whales in the Gulf of Maine and Great Bay ecosystems.

"The purpose of the Sea Grant College Program is to promote the wise use and conservation of our coastal and marine resources," says Jonathan Pennock, director of NHSG. "We work with local stakeholders to identify critical issues involved with the New Hampshire coastal environment, the economy and the surrounding communities, but with an eye towards the regional issues."

For the 2010-11 biennial funding cycle, five multiyear research projects totaling more than one million dollars were chosen from a competitive application process. The research includes a wide variety of topics that encompass local and regional issues of importance.

The following projects will receive NHSG funds:

Win Watson (UNH professor of zoology) is calibrating lobster catch in two different types of traps to develop methods to more accurately estimate the density of various-sized lobsters in the Gulf of Maine.

Christopher Neefus (UNH professor of biological sciences) and a researcher at the University of Connecticut will develop a seaweed culture system that will support integrated multi-nutrient aquaculture, thus maximizing harvest of aquaculture-raised fish and seaweed while minimizing potentially negative nutrient inputs in New England waters.

W. Jeffrey Bolster (UNH associate professor of history) and Andrew Rosenberg (UNH professor of marine sciences) will develop baselines for historical landings of Gulf of Maine anadromous fish species – those that migrate from salt water to spawn in fresh water -- in order to help rebuild fish populations and coastal marine ecosystems.

Rob Roseen (UNH research assistant professor of civil engineering) will evaluate the bacterial removal performance of stormwater treatment systems and, in collaboration with the N.H. Coastal Training Program, will develop guidelines to assist resource managers in their decision-making processes.

Linda Kalnejais (UNH assistant professor of oceanography and earth sciences) and Diane Foster (UNH associate professor of mechanical and ocean engineering) will study the release of nutrients and trace metals from sediments to determine if sediments and sediment resuspension are a significant source of contaminants to the Great Bay Estuary.

In a regional project, researchers at MIT, the University of Connecticut and the University of Maine will develop and test an optical sensor for detection of the invasive sea squirt Didemnum vexillum and will assess the impacts of this species on fisheries and ecosystems.

In a second regional project, researchers at the Woods Hole Marine Policy Center, the Institute for Broadening Participation, the New England Aquarium and the Maine Lobsterman's Association will develop a detailed model of right whale entanglement risk from lobster fishing in Maine.

NHSG also funds a few small development projects that allow researchers to conduct preliminary studies and may lead to a major marine-related research effort in the future, Pennock adds.

Each coastal and Great Lakes state, along with Puerto Rico, has a Sea Grant Program. In N.H., that program is located at UNH, which helps to match funds. Federal funding comes from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which is part of the Department of Commerce.

Although research receives about half of the federal funding given to NHSG, the combination of extension, research and communication is the program's greatest strength, Pennock says. Each component of NHSG complements the others to provide a well-rounded approach to marine conservation.

Extension educators are working to address issues in commercial fishing, aquaculture, coastal communities and water quality. The UNH Marine Docents and the Great Bay Coast Watch are two organizations developed by NHSG as a way for the community to become involved in water quality monitoring and marine education. Individuals associated with these groups often become leaders in their local community to help distribute information about the marine environment.

In addition, NHSG has a policy advisory committee composed of approximately 20 stakeholders to help advise and guide the program, Pennock explains. There are a wide variety of individuals on the committee, including local community representatives, university faculty, representatives from state agencies, fishermen, marine-oriented business people and marine educators. Members provide feedback about important local and regional topics.

Rebecca Zeiber, N.H. Sea Grant Science Writer