For marine scientists and policy experts, the number of challenges and opportunities needing research attention can seem as vast and endless as the ocean. Thanks to a new award, the University of Delaware is leading efforts to develop a research plan for the mid-Atlantic region.
Under the award, the Delaware Sea Grant College Program, which is housed at the University of Delaware’s College of Marine and Earth Studies (CMES), and UD’s Gerard J. Mangone Center for Marine Policy will lead Sea Grant programs from six mid-Atlantic states to identify priority regional coastal and ocean research needs. The $348,296 award is from the National Sea Grant College Program, which administers Sea Grant programs in every coastal and Great Lakes state in the United States. Additionally, Delaware Sea Grant will provide $186,471 in matching funds to support the project.
The four-year project will bring together Sea Grant partners from Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. The team will coordinate planning efforts on problems that have yet to be addressed through a regional approach. The effort complements similar regional efforts in the Pacific Northwest, Southwest, Insular Pacific, Great Lakes, Gulf of Mexico, South Atlantic, Alaska, Gulf of Maine, Greater New York Bight, and Caribbean.
“There are various resources and planning efforts already in place that are working to address management issues in the region, but most of these are focused at smaller scales,” said Biliana Cicin-Sain, professor and director of the Mangone Center. “This project will create an overall framework that will incorporate the full range of issues at the regional scale.”
As the researchers begin sifting through the ocean and coastal topics facing the region, they will encounter an assortment of pressing issues and unique opportunities needing research attention. Those issues include climate change impacts (such as sea level rise and increased frequency and intensity of coastal storms), water quality concerns, loss of wetlands due to development, and overfishing. Opportunities include alternative energy production from sources such as wind power.
The project organizers plan to collaborate with representatives from state and federal agencies, non-government organizations, industry, academia, and the public in compiling and analyzing the range of research needs on regional ocean and coastal issues. Using that input, the researchers will prepare an inclusive database on research plans and needs statements and develop a draft of the regional research plan that ranks priorities according to need.
Next, the researchers will get feedback on the draft from a broad range of stakeholders. That work will include the development of a survey based on the draft report findings. It also will involve the organization of four workshops bringing together key researchers and other representatives to discuss and refine the research priorities articulated and to note particular areas that need additional work.
The final result of the work will be the development of a mid-Atlantic regional ocean and coastal research plan based on an inclusive process involving a wide array of stakeholders. The group also will provide mechanisms to ensure the transfer of technology and information to end users, and it will create an ongoing platform for coordination, collaboration, and resource sharing among all the entities involved with the project.
“This process aims to address the major significant issues in the mid-Atlantic region through a collaborative process, bringing a cohesive response approach to the problems of the region and supporting the next stage of regional collaboration to address ocean and coastal issues,” Cicin-Sain said.
For more about Delaware Sea Grant, visit www.deseagrant.org.