Ocean science is undergoing a period of rapid evolution. Global changes, from the abundance and diversity of marine life to large-scale shifts in climate, are becoming more apparent. At the same time, our ability to measure and explore the ocean is developing rapidly. Opportunities are increasing in new observational platforms; remote sensing; innovative sensors; ways of using ships; underwater cables; and acoustic, optical and other techniques. Our ability to interpret our findings is changing fast, too, with advances in data handling, laboratory fluid dynamic modeling, computer modeling, molecular biology and numerous analytical techniques.
Society is coming to recognize that ocean science matters greatly. The decimation of fish stocks and the impact of human activities on climate are just two issues that have global ramifications. Such issues can only be tackled by bold political leadership informed by highly accomplished scientific analysis.
The University of Rhode Island's Graduate School of Oceanography (GSO) is playing a key role in the development of ocean science. As a leading institute of ocean education and research, our interests span the core disciplines of marine geology and geophysics, biology, atmospheric and ocean chemistry, and physics. Fascinating projects cut across these disciplines. One GSO program, for example, explores the distribution and sustenance of life far beneath the seafloor by drawing on ocean drilling, geology, geochemistry and microbiology.
We are situated on Narragansett Bay, a natural laboratory for studying ecology and its response to natural and human impacts. Increasingly, computer modeling is proving a powerful tool for integrating diverse measurements and exploring hypotheses. Our hurricane modeling was the first to fully incorporate both the local effects on the ocean and the dynamics of the atmosphere, leading to greatly improved forecasting.
The Graduate School of Oceanography is at the cutting edge of a wide range of technical developments. Our instrumentation developments include acoustic sensors to map ocean currents and determine their capacity for transporting heat by measuring the time it takes for a sound pulse to travel from the sea floor to the surface and back. Acoustic positioning of neutrally buoyant floats traces the motion of water parcels in their meandering motions across ocean basins. The same concept that led to float tracking is now being applied to track the migration of fish. Microphotography is shedding light on previously unexplored aspects of plankton. Chemical sensors are being developed to track pollutants at the parts-per-billion level; biosensors are being developed to detect particular microbiological species from an autonomous vehicle.
By monitoring earthquakes, we are uncovering secrets about the earth's deepest structures. GSO studies have played a crucial role in explaining the cause and consequences of one of the Earth's largest biological extinctions (the end of the Cretaceous extinction of the dinosaurs and many other organisms by the effects of a large asteroid impact). Analyses of ocean sediments from the Arctic Ocean to Rhode Island waters are shedding new insights on the ancient climate. A fluid dynamics laboratory with a rotating table and laser Doppler system allows detailed study of how ocean phenomena such as the response of ocean currents to topographic features. Molecular biological techniques are yielding new insights on plankton. Our scientists are deploying a wide range of sophisticated instrumentation to study ocean chemistry, including anthropogenic effects.
Our Coastal Resource Center contributes its expertise both around the U.S. and to many developing nations, from Tanzania to Indonesia. The Office of Marine Programs is renowned for its outreach and education directed towards schoolchildren and teachers, and for its training of the media in science reporting skills. As a founding Sea Grant institution, we recognize our responsibility to ensure that our science is not only intellectually rewarding, but also of long-term benefit to society. Ocean science belongs to all of us.
We invite you to participate, as scientists, as students, as interested observers.