Campus Currents

Ocean Interconnections
New school brings UNH's marine excellence to the forefront.

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Marine school at UNH
Lisa Nugent/UNH Photographic Services

In the ocean, everything is connected, from water columns and currents to geological formations and marine life. At UNH's new School of Marine Science and Ocean Engineering, that interconnectedness will serve as a model for the way in which graduate students take on problems ranging from oil spill mitigation to rising sea levels to the decline in fishing stocks. "The ocean is a multidisciplinary space," says Larry Mayer, an oceanographer and director of the new program, "so the way we study it must be as well."

Launched in September, the school will integrate existing marine-related research, graduate study, and outreach activities under one umbrella, and draw on faculty from every other college in the university. The school will be home to doctoral programs in ocean engineering, oceanography, and marine biology, and will offer graduate certificate programs that address timely subjects such as coastal planning and adaptation to climate change.

"The kind of thorny problems we are grappling with transcend single-discipline answers," Mayer explains. "We need to provide marine knowledge that brings together biology, chemistry, engineering, economics, policy, and other disciplines with oceanography to solve them."

Marine-related research brings in $25 million annually, comprising nearly a quarter of the university's research portfolio. Currently, nearly 70 faculty members from 14 departments in three colleges teach marine and ocean-engineering courses to hundreds of students. Mayer expects the new school will give UNH a "more public face" when it comes to its marine research and outreach activities. "Though we are a top-10 program for marine science and ocean engineering by a variety of metrics, we haven't, to this point, been recognized as a marine school," he notes. "By providing a focal point for all our marine efforts here, we will be better able to promote our work to the outside world."

Outreach efforts will include collaborations with local fishermen, facility tours for school-aged children and community members, and distribution of the school's webcast seminars on a range of marine subjects. Up next is likely a joint project with the UNH Carsey Institute to develop a marine policy program. Mayer also hopes to expand the university's estuarine research beyond Great Bay, generating information that could be beneficial locally, nationally, and even around the globe.

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