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URI’s Graduate School of Oceanography turns 50

June 19, 2011

Photo Courtesy URI

University of Rhode Island’s Graduate School of Oceanography will be celebrating its 50 year anniversary on June 25 to 26, inviting all who wish to explore the facilities. Above, launching of the Hercules research vessel.

NARRAGANSETT—As one turns off of Old Boston Neck onto South Ferry Road, past the old Baptist Church, you drive along a thickly wooded road on both sides and come upon a village of modern buildings. The Environmental Research Laboratory, the Pell Marine Science and National Sea Grant Libraries, and at the very end the pier which docks the research vessel Endeavor before it journeys out into the world’s oceans, all of these buildings stand before you. This is the home of the University of Rhode Island’s Graduate School of Oceanography.

The GSO will be celebrating its 50 year anniversary on June 25 to 26, inviting all who wish to explore the facilities and discover the high quality of research and learning which has been consistently produced by the school’s professors and students.

“Science research can often appear mysterious and complicated, so this event is intended to bring it out into the open and make it more accessible,” said David Farmer, Dean of the GSO. “We will be opening the doors of the URI Narragansett Bay Campus to some of our wonderfully exciting facilities that few non-scientists ever get a chance to see.”
In 1961, the decision was made by biologists Charles and Marie Fish to transform the small science research facility at the end of South Ferry Road into a graduate school which could supply students and researchers with a research vessel and more modern scientific instruments. They appointed John Knauss, famous for his role on the Stratton Commission, the first federal review of U.S. ocean policy, as founding dean.
“Initially, the GSO was a sleepy seaside marine lab with modest funding and support from the university,” said Professor Theodore Smayda. “With the arrival of Dean John Knauss, the school has since mushroomed into a world-class marine center that has done great research globally and locally in Narragansett Bay.”

Smayda, whose research focuses on phytoplankton ecology, has been teaching at the University of Rhode Island since 1959, giving him a unique perspective on the evolution of the GSO’s student body and facilities.

“During Dean Knauss’s tenure, we kept bring in people, developing a marine complex jumping with activity,” he added. “It became evident that this was for real. ”

The GSO today is a bastion for high quality research. Many of the professors who teach at the graduate school have conducted ground-breaking work, bringing significant contributions to the global scientific community. Professor Kate Moran is famous for her studies on the ancient climate of the Arctic regions, and Haraldur Sigurdsson discovered the previously lost kingdom of Tambora, an Indonesian civilization that was buried under the ash of the worst volcanic eruption in recorded history.
“From the North to the South Pole, we conduct research on all levels and showcase the university,” said Smayda.

For more information pick up a copy of The Narragansett Times.

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