Oregon State to lead overhaul of marine research fleet

Oregon State University's Oceanus research vessel is scheduled to be retired around the same time as new National Science Foundation-sanctioned ships are ready to hit the water. OSU will lead the design and construction of the new ships.

Oregon State University's Oceanus research vessel is scheduled to be retired around the same time as new National Science Foundation-sanctioned ships are ready to hit the water. OSU will lead the design and construction of the new ships. 

Oregon State University could get as much as $290 million over the next decade to design and build three coastal research ships in partnership with the National Science Foundation.

The announcement — which includes an initial grant of $3 million to begin the design phase of the project — is a major win for the university's growing reputation as a leading institution in oceanography research.

The funding for the three vessels must receive congressional approval and the National Science Foundation will determine the final number that will be constructed and where they will be based — likely one each for the East Coast, West Coast and Gulf Coast.

A team let by OSU’s College of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences will finalize the design for the 175-foot ships — floating laboratories tailored for scientific marine research — select a shipyard, oversee construction and testing of shipboard systems.

Mark Abbott, dean of the OSU College of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences, said the ships would be designed to have a reduced environmental impact compared to previous research vessels.

"These ships will be used to address critical issues related to climate change, ocean circulation, natural hazards, human health, and marine ecosystems," Abbott said in a press release.

OSU's vice president for research, Rick Spinrad, led research for the U.S. Navy and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration prior to joining the university. He praised the new vessels' potential to "revitalize and transform" coastal ocean science in the U.S.

"Many of the most pressing issues facing our oceans are in these coastal regions, including acidification, hypoxia, tsunami prediction, declining fisheries, and harmful algal blooms,” Spinrad said. “Because of their flexibility, these new vessels will attract a broad range of users and will become ideal platforms to training early-career scientists and mariners.”

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