NHSG Receives $2 Million for Marine Research, Extension, Education

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February 2012

New Hampshire Sea Grant (NHSG), based at the University of New Hampshire, will receive $2 million from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) during the next two years (2012 and 2013) for five local research projects, marine education, and Cooperative Extension activities. The research projects affect species from lobsters to alewives 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 and the UNH marine program. "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 current funding cycle, five multiyear research projects 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) will conduct studies to determine whether or not the Great Bay Estuary supports a self-sustaining lobster population, and his research results will assist resource managers in developing more accurate lobster management plans for N.H. bays and estuaries.

• David Berlinsky (UNH associate professor of zoology) will conduct tagging studies of alewives — an important forage species in the Gulf of Maine — in streams within the Great Bay Estuary to provide more accurate population estimates. He will also establish a methodology for alewife aquaculture for stock enhancement.

• Vaughn Cooper and Cheryl Whistler (both UNH associate professors of molecular, cellular and biomedical science) will conduct genetic analyses to determine if the human pathogenic Vibrios species present in raw oysters is impacted by seasons, summer storm events or changes in salinity within the Great Bay Estuary.

• Wilfred Wollheim (UNH assistant professor of natural resources and the environment) and William McDowell (UNH professor of natural resources and the environment) will deploy continuous in situ sensors on the Lamprey River to monitor nitrogen and organic carbon fluxes across storms, seasons and years.

• Charlie French (UNH Cooperative Extension associate professor/specialist of community and economic development) will examine consumer surveys to identify the best practices for tapping into local and regional alternative markets for local, sustainably caught seafood, which will, in turn, help the N.H. commercial fishing industry to better deal with regulatory changes and competition by low-cost imports.

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.

Extension educators supported by this funding are working to address issues in commercial fishing, aquaculture, coastal communities and water quality. "NHSG makes every effort to align our Extension staff with the research projects that we fund. By doing this we hope to transfer the results of research to the communities that will directly benefit from it," said Ken La Valley, NHSG associate director and UNH Cooperative Extension program leader.

This funding also supports marine education and outreach initiatives. The UNH Marine Docents and the Coastal Research Volunteers 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.

Although research receives about 40 percent 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.

Each coastal and Great Lakes state, along with Puerto Rico, has a Sea Grant program. Federal funding comes from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which is part of the Department of Commerce, and it must be matched 1:2 by non-federal funds.

For more information on NHSG, please visit www.seagrant.unh.edu.

Rebecca Zeiber, N.H. Sea Grant Science Writer