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NOAA names University of Rhode Island to host new cooperative institute for ocean exploration
Monica Allen

NOAA names University of Rhode Island to host new cooperative institute for ocean exploration

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration today announced it has selected the University of Rhode Island to host NOAA’s Ocean Exploration Cooperative Institute.

The purpose of the new cooperative institute is to explore the three billion acres of submerged United States ocean territory to strengthen the Blue Economy, aid responsible resource management and promote a greater scientific understanding of our nation’s vast underwater ocean territory, known as the Exclusive Economic Zone.

Institute to help explore 3 billion undersea acres of U.S. territory

"With the Blue Economy expected to more than double its contribution to the U.S. economy and employ 40 million people by 2030, NOAA’s new cooperative institute will be on the front lines helping NOAA explore and characterize the three billion acres of U.S. ocean territory,” said retired Navy Rear Adm. Tim Gallaudet, Ph.D., assistant secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and deputy NOAA administrator. “The Blue Economy relies on data and information to inform science-based management and sustainable use of our ocean resources in support of economic growth, food security and our national security.”

The selection comes with an award of $94 million over the course of the five-year award, with the potential for renewal for another five years based on successful performance. NOAA selected the University of Rhode Island after an open, competitive evaluation.

The cooperative institute will work with NOAA’s Office of Ocean Exploration and Research on these four priorities:

— Explore unknown undersea areas;

— Develop and deploy new mobile, remotely-operated vehicles in both deeper and shallower waters than previously explored;

— Adopt and integrate surface, aerial and undersea autonomous vehicles for exploration operations;

— Improve the utility of exploration data for a wide variety of educational, commercial, scientific and public communities.

Renowned ocean explorer to lead new institute

Robert D. Ballard, Ph.D., renowned for his work in underwater archeology, including the discovery of the Titanic shipwreck, will lead the new institute. Ballard currently directs the URI Center for Ocean Exploration at the Graduate School of Oceanography and is president of Ocean Exploration Trust.

The University of Rhode Island will lead the unique consortium of four graduate degree-granting institutions, one ocean exploration non-profit, and several task-specific collaborating partners working together to support and technologically enhance core NOAA Ocean Exploration priorities. The other consortium institutions are the University of New Hampshire, the University of Southern Mississippi, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and the nonprofit Ocean Exploration Trust.

For NOAA, a primary aim of this partnership is to leverage science, technology and outreach/education capacities that align with our mission but that do not exist internal to the agency and to expand science and technology capacity in NOAA-relevant sciences.

NOAA supports 16 Cooperative Institutes consisting of 43 universities and research institutions in 20 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands. These research institutions provide strong educational programs that promote student and postdoctoral scientist involvement in NOAA-funded research.

For more information, please contact Monica Allen, director of public affairs for NOAA Research, at 202-379-6693 or by email at




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Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR) - or "NOAA Research" - provides the research foundation for understanding the complex systems that support our planet. Working in partnership with other organizational units of the NOAA, a bureau of the Department of Commerce, NOAA Research enables better forecasts, earlier warnings for natural disasters, and a greater understanding of the Earth. Our role is to provide unbiased science to better manage the environment, nationally, and globally.


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