Sea Grant College Program

The MIT Sea Grant College Program provides funds for research, education, and technology transfer directed toward wise utilization of marine resources. MIT has been a leading participant in the national program since 1969. In 1976 the Institute was designated a Sea Grant College Program. Sea Grant College status offers the potential for greater funding and confers a responsibility to work with marine researchers throughout the Commonwealth.

Funds are distributed among the 30 Sea Grant Programs in a competing grant process by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration through its National Office of Sea Grant. Each program is required to match every two dollars of its federal grant with one from non-federal sources. Congress established this matching provision to ensure that Sea Grant universities would be responsive to public and industry needs. Sea Grant provides funds explicitly for technology transfer through its mandate for advisory services and education in addition to its research mandate.

In FY2002 the National Office of Sea Grant awarded MIT over $2.5 million. Additionally MIT, industry partners, the Commonwealth, and other federal agencies provided more than $1.8 million. In all, these funds provided partial support for faculty and students from MIT's Departments of Civil and Environmental, and Ocean Engineering, and the Department of Science, Technology and Society, as well as partial support for faculty, staff and students at UMASS/Amherst, UMASS/Dartmouth, UMASS/Boston, UMASS/Lowell, Boston University, Harvard University, Northeastern University, Temple University, Smith College, Tufts School of Medicine, Massachusetts Maritime Academy, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), the New England Aquarium, and the Boston, Quincy, and Cohasset Public Schools.

Core Research

Research at MIT Sea Grant is guided by the unique intellectual resources of colleges and universities in the Commonwealth and by the needs of the marine community. Our research is divided into two categories. The first category is our core research program, which reflects the ongoing MIT Sea Grant (MITSG) management process and the guidance provided by our two advisory bodies: the State Advisory Council and the Faculty Committee. Within the core research area, we have four theme areas, with quite specific concentrations: marine biotechnology; coastal management and utilization; coupled ocean observation and modeling; and technology development and management for ocean uses. The second research category is our focused research, intended to address major regional and/or national issues or needs. Projects under focused research are also called Marine Center projects. We continue to build upon advances made in these areas and have been able to compete successfully for other grants as a result.

Marine Biotechnology

Sea Grant's research objective in marine biotechnology is the advancement of technology that can contribute to better use of the biological resources of ocean and coastal ecosystems. Recently completed research has included studies of novel delivery systems for the vaccination of farmed fish and novel and potentially important research in seaweed as a source of compounds having commercial potential in food processing and pharmaceuticals.

Our annual solicitation in 1999 for new proposals resulted in a new research project in Marine Biotechnology, "Production of High Value Food Proteins from Low Value Underutilized Fish," submitted by Professor Herb Hultin of UMASS/Amherst. This project began in March of 2000 and reached its completion in February of 2002.

A new research project in this theme area began in March of this year. "Novel Biomaterials with Potential Antibacterial and Adhesive/structural Properties from Ascidians (tunicates)," a two year research program, was submitted by Professor Manickam Sugumaran of University of Massachusetts/Boston.

Coastal Management and Utilization

Research projects within the coastal management and utilization theme area seek to advance the science and engineering needed to more effectively utilize our coastal and ocean resources and, either as an integral component or separately, increase our understanding of the marine ecosystem and our ability to influence its sustainability.

Two projects in coastal management and utilization, "Combined Wave-Current Flows Over a MovableRippled Bed" led by Professor Ole Madsen of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at MIT, and "Quantitative PCR Combined with Constant Denaturant Capillary Electrophoresis for the Analysis of Naturally Occurring Pathogens in Coastal Environments" with Professor Martin Polz of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at MIT as the principal investigator, were completed in February of 2002.

Professor Robert Chen, Environmental, Coastal and Ocean Sciences at the University of Massachusetts/Boston, in collaboration with Professor Ana Soto of the Anatomy and Cellular Biology Department at Tufts School of Medicine continue in the second year of their research. Their proposal, "Identification of Endocrine Disrupters in Coastal Waters," represents timely research intended to establish sources and distributions of estrogen, and androgen activity in Boston Harbor.

Also in the second year of a two-year project is Dr. Michael Tlusty of the New England Aquarium. His proposal "Environmental Impacts of Lobster Pounds: Monitoring Impacts, Modeling Holding Capacity and Assessing Policy" concerns the annual and long-term accumulation of organic matter in lobster pounds, and the modeling of the loading and fate of wastes in these pounds.

Two new research projects in this theme area began in March of 2002. "Modeling Copper Complextion in Coastal Waters" submitted by Professor Bettina Voelker of the Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) Department at MIT is funded as a two-year project and "New Passive Samples (PEDs) for Assessing Bioaccumulation of Organic Substances from Contaminated Sediments and Overlying Seawater," led by Professor Philip Gschwend, also of CEE, will be funded for a single year.

Coupled Ocean Observation and Modeling

Our annual call (issued in February of each year) for new research and outreach proposals to begin in March of 1999 included a new theme area, coupled ocean observation and modeling, as the newest theme area in our core program.

In our solicitation for new research to begin in March of 2000 there were two additions in the coupled ocean observation and modeling theme area—both of which have reached completion in February of 2002. "Acoustic Sensing of Sediment Properties Using a WWW-Controlled Shallow Water Mooring," led by Professor Henrik Schmidt of the Ocean Engineering Department at MIT, combined the Poseidon distributed oceanographic information system (refer to the focused research/marine centers section for a description of Poseidon) with a new instrumentation mooring for littoral environments to provide a unique facility for remote small-scale sensing capabilities for sediment characterization.

The second just completed project in this thematic area represented an interesting melding of two separate activities—one being the continuing development of AUV technology and its applications; the other being the relatively new efforts to incorporate what we have developed as an Autonomous Surface Craft (ASC) for similar ocean related work. This proposal, "Autonomous Underwater Vehicle Navigation and Control Using an Autonomous Surface Craft," originally proposed and led by Dr. James Bellingham, principal research engineer, was completed under the direction of Professor Schmidt.

AUV Laboratory

During the July 1, 2001–June 30, 2002 period the AUV Lab continued its aggressive schedule of field programs in support of its research agenda. The later half of 2001 was dedicated to the development of a new core software suite for all the autonomous vehicles operated by Sea Grant and the Department of Ocean Engineering. This Mission Oriented Operating System (MOOS) is a powerful new tool for marine robotics research. The first preliminary trials of MOOS in the Charles River were conducted in October of 2001. The focus of the winter months was in arranging the delivery of a new AUV from Bluefin Robotics Corporation. By late February the vehicle was in house and equipped with the new software. Dubbed Caribou (a tribute to its MOOS lineage) the Odyssey III class vehicle was ready for trials.

In March the lab took advantage of the hospitality of RPM Nautical (a non-profit marine archaeology organization) in Key West, Florida. Caribou, and its older Odyssey IId ancestor Xanthos, were dispatched to Florida for 10 days of aggressive sea trials. These were a great success and MOOS was deemed mature enough for use in following scientific deployments. Other notable achievements during this cruise included the preliminary development of advanced navigation filters for the AUVs and the regular use of acoustic modem telemetry to monitor vehicle status.

Following the success in Florida the AUV Lab was prepared to support Ocean Engineering Professors Schmidt and Leonard in the third Generic Oceanographic Array Technology Sonar (GOATS) experiment. As in late 2000 two MIT AUVs were dispatched to participate in the joint research effort with the NATO SACLANT Undersea Research Centre in La Spezia Italy. Caribou, Xanthos and the MIT AUV operations team joined the faculty, graduate students and colleagues from Woods Hole on the R/V Alliance and successfully completed the experiment. New methods of acoustically imaging objects on and under the seafloor were tested. Advanced navigation techniques provided accurate location of targets and adaptive sampling and supervisory control techniques were developed.

Following the GOATS experiment in late May and early June the AUV Lab took a short time off before proceeding to the next expedition, also in Italy. July 3rd–14th saw the lab team, with a series of partners, perform archaeological remote sensing in the Arcipelago Toscano. The Italian Navy provided two vessels for the expedition, which also benefited from the archaological expertise of the American Academy in Rome, Pamela Gambogi—Soprintendenza Archeologica per la Toscana and the Ministero dei Beni e Attività Culturali. Technical partners from the Universities of Genoa and Pisa brought a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) to the expedition. Together, this interdisciplinary team, explored the waters off Tuscany for ancient shipwrecks. Known wrecks were carefully resurveyed and some new wrecks were discovered. The AUV Lab learned valuable lessons about the application of AUVs in marine archaeology and plans to develop an entirely new vehicle well suited to this mission.

The MIT AUV Lab continues to host numerous UROP students and currently provides facilities and guidance for five graduate students (Courses XIII and II).

Technology Development and Management for Ocean Uses

Lastly is a theme area we have traditionally included in our proposal solicitation that is deliberately broad in focus and title—technology development and management for ocean uses. This theme area is meant to serve as an avenue for new and exciting ideas, and has, on occasion, yielded successful proposals that have evolved into continuing research theme areas.

Completed in February of this year was a project lead by Professor Michael Triantafyllou of Ocean Engineering. "Robotic Virtual Simulation Platform for Ship Maneuvering and Control," continues to advance our understanding of what it takes to function in the ocean realm and the opportunities in robotic systems for ocean adaptability. The objectives of Professor Triantafyllou's most recent research in this area are to improve the maneuvering capability and marine safety of conventional merchant and naval ships by providing a robotic virtual testing platform—a combined simulation and experimental platform that can simulate realistically any prescribed unsteady ship motion, and test the effectiveness of novel control schemes.

In our solicitation for new research in this theme area for projects to start in 2001 there were three successful proposals—all of which support and enhance the overall AUV program.

Professor John Leonard of the Ocean Engineering Department at MIT submitted a proposal to expand the autonomous navigation capabilities of the AUV. His proposal, "In-water Validation of Concurrent Mapping and Localization Using Sonar," pursues the in-water validation and performance analysis of a new algorithm for feature-based navigation of autonomous underwater vehicles using sonar.

Professor David A. Mindell, Program in Science, Technology and Society at MIT, submitted a proposal that will apply autonomous robotic systems to an as yet untried task. His project, "Precision Sub-bottom Profiling for Deep Water Archaeology," has as its focus developing technology to collect high-resolution volumetric data below the sea floor for local areas such as shipwrecks, waste sites, or construction areas.

Lastly, Professor Harold F. Hemond of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at MIT submitted "Deployment of an Odyssey AUV Compatible In-Situ Mass Spectrometer." Hemond proposes to field a membrane inlet mass spectrometer (MIMS) capable of operating autonomously, or on board an Odyssey class autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) and providing the vehicle with a powerful new suite of measurement capabilities. The new instrument will be capable of real-time, in-situ, high-resolution measurement of dissolved gases and volatile organic compounds in the marine environment. The immediate objective of this project is a successful underwater demonstration of the functioning instrument packaged in a pressure sphere and compatible as an Odyssey payload.

These three new projects will reach completion in February 2003.

Two new research projects in this theme area began in March of this year. "A Lorentz Force Actuator for Skin Friction and Noise reduction in Turbulent Flows Past AUVs," submitted by Professor George Karniadakis of Ocean Engineering, continues efforts to incorporate fundamental physics principles into solving flow and maneuvering limitations of manned and unmanned aquatic hull forms.

Dr. Milica Stojanovic, who joined the MIT Sea Grant College Program scientific team this past year, submitted a proposal to address another one of the limitations of unmanned subsurface vehicles. "High Rate Communication Link for Video Transmission from Autonomous Underwater Vehicle" will focus on developing the messaging protocols of a network of subsurface and surface system elements for high data rate communication.

Completion of these two projects is scheduled for February 2004.

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Focused Research/Marine Centers

The objective of the focused research/marine center concept is to plan and conduct research programs in collaboration with, and jointly sponsored by, industry and government agencies in order to attack major problems of broad interest to the marine community, and to foster industrial competitiveness by transferring the resulting technology to users. Focused research projects have a six-year duration with the initial years heavily supported by Sea Grant Program funds. By the end of these multi-year projects the funding is expected to come entirely from non-Sea Grant sources.

As a consequence of the success of the focused research programs that addressed AUV technologies and applications we have been able to capture additional funding. This illustrates the intent of our Focused Research theme area and further demonstrates how early funding of well thought out research areas can establish the soundness of more specific research and development objectives.

On August 1, 1996 the initial, first year work began on the fourth focused research/marine center, "Behavior of Capped Contaminated Sediments," under the leadership of senior research associate, Dr. E. Eric Adams of MIT. This research is intended to address theoretical analysis and field studies to determine the processes occurring in a capped contaminated sediment site. This project was completed in July of 2002.

A more recent focused research/marine center, "Poseidon: A Coastal Zone Management System via the World Wide Web," initiated work in March of 1998. This project is a consequence of the high availability of raw ocean data, the various modeling approaches one can apply to large, multi-parameter data sets, and extensive uses such data derived knowledge make possible (weather forecasting, fisheries management, environmental impacts, etc.). Completion is scheduled for February of 2004.

The following year (1999) we again included the opportunity for new focused research proposals in our program solicitation for new research and educational proposals. We received one such proposal, "Distributed Observatories for the Coastal Environment." Professor Henrik Schmidt of the Ocean Engineering Department succeeded Jim Bellingham as principal investigator. This project is now in its fourth year with a completion date of February 2005.

Our most recent focused research project began in March of 2001. "Biomimetic Rigid-Hull Vehicle withFlapping Foils for Enhanced Agility in the Surf Zone and Cluttered Environments" was submitted by Professor Michael Triantafyllou of the Ocean Engineering Department at MIT with Professor Dick Yue, also of the Ocean Engineering Department as the co-principal investigator. The long term goal of this research is to develop a new class of rigid-hull autonomous underwater vehicles, best adapted to environments that require continuous maneuvering. This project begun in March of last year and will be completed in February 2007.

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National Strategic Initiatives

In the competition for new funded research as part of the 1999 National Strategic Initiative (NSI) we were fortunate to receive favorable reviews for our proposal, MIT Sea Grant Technology Program in Sea Scallop Mariculture, with Professor Chrys Chryssostomidis and Cliff Goudey as co-principal investigators. The objectives of this program are to develop, refine and foster the commercialization of several innovative technologies needed by the Northeast sea scallop industry for its conversion to a sustainable, more economically viable industry. The technologies include improved harvesting systems for scallop seed and market-sized scallops, scallop bed monitoring, predator control and seed transport. This project enjoys significant collaboration with a number of experts and practitioners in the industry. The project began in March of 2000 and having had an eighteen-month duration, is now complete.

Two national strategic initiative projects begun in September of 2000 are effectively at their completion stage. These projects are: "Environmental Marine Biotechnology: Development of Oligonucleotide Gene Chips as Sensors for Diverse Marine Pathogens" with Professor Martin Polz of the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at MIT and Professor Ee Lin Lim, formerly associated with MIT and Professor Polz, and now with Temple University; and "Environmental Marine Biotechnology: Mussel Plasma Histidine-rich Glycoprotein (HRG)—Biomarker, Key to Metal Transport, Novel Natural Product" submitted by Professor William Robinson, Professor Manickam Sugumaran and Professor Gordon Wallace all of UMASS/Boston.

This years (2002) NSI solicitation included opportunities for fellowships in two areas. Stephanie Wood, a PhD candidate in environmental biology at the University of Massachusetts/Boston submitted a proposal, "Dynamics of Recolonization in a Depleted Population: A Study of the Gray Seal (Halichoerus grypus) in New England," in the Sea Grant Fisheries Fellowship competition. Joseph Curran, a candidate for the masters degree in ocean engineering at MIT submitted a proposal in the Sea Grant Industrial Fellowship competition, "Imaging from AUVs with LED Illumination." Both of these proposals were successful and are funded.

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Sea Grant is committed to providing learning opportunities for students, professionals, and the public. Support for graduate students is included in almost every research project. In addition, the program continues to provide major support for marine related Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) projects. Sea Grant UROP directly provided $25,000. A substantial contribution from the Department of Ocean Engineering and the MIT UROP itself raised this to a total of $50,000.

Completed in February of 2000 was a one-year educational project proposed by Cliff Goudey as principal investigator assisted by Brandy Moran as associate investigator—both members of the MIT Sea Grant Advisory staff. "Aquaculture Courses for Massachusetts High School Students" was proposed as an effective means of satisfying the need to incorporate meaningful classroom material into high school curricula that recognized science and technology principles.

Based on the success of this effort MIT Sea Grant (MITSG) produced the curriculum "Marine Aquaculture: Raising Saltwater Fish in theClassroom." Currently there are four schools piloting the material in their classrooms, three classes in Massachusetts and one in Connecticut.

Each of these schools has been conducting aquaculture in their classroom for several years. With support from MITSG staff and other experts in the field, these schools were able to enhance their educational programs with this advanced curriculum.

There has been great interest from the local teaching community in Massachusetts revealing a strong pull towards aquaculture and a desire to learn how to integrate our marine aquaculture curriculum into their classroom as a project-based learning experience. Most of these teachers do not feel that they are experienced enough to tackle the curriculum without any training or support.

Due to the extraordinary enthusiasm of those participating in this educational experiment and the resulting commitment from the schools we provided additional funding for Brandy Moran to develop Grants for Education in Marine Science as a seed project. This project solicited proposals from interested teachers to develop similar classroom curricula in marine sciences. We were able to support seven of the proposals submitted. At the end of the grant period in May of this year we hosted a symposium to report the results and plan further activity in this educational area.

Three educational projects completed this past February. The Quincy Public Schools completed their two-year project—"Develop and Implement Local Marine Curriculum for Quincy Public Schools."

Guide to Marine Hitchhikers, submitted by Judy Pederson, Manager of the MITSG Center for Coastal Resources, a one year project extending Dr. Pederson's work in bringing much needed discipline to the problem of nonindigenous marine organisms spreading throughout the world, was a one year project that began in 2001

The second educational program begun last year was submitted by John C. Buckley, a teacher with the Cohasset Middle High School, "Moving Beyond 'Just Another High School Research Project': Designing and Implementing Coastal Community Research that Meet Rigorous Professional Review Standards," was a one year project. Mr. Buckley's proposal evolved out of an environmental education program, the Cohasset High School Summer Institute, partially supported by the Cohasset Education Foundation.

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Advisory Services and Technology Transfer

In September of 2001 an 18 month project began under the direction of Cliff Goudey, project director, Center for Fisheries Engineering Research—"A Coastal Community Development Program for Massachusetts." The objectives of this project are to assess any changed needs in Massachusetts for outreach in coastal community development issues. This project involves strategic and collaborative processes to better respond to these needs. A significant factor in this process is the need to address home port security in light of the implications resulting from the September 11 attacks last year.

The MIT Sea Grant Communications/Information Service, under the leadership of Andrea Cohen, produces outreach materials for a wide variety of consumers. This includes the newsletter, Two if by Sea, published jointly by the MIT and WHOI Sea Grant Programs. Two if By Sea highlights the research, advisory and outreach activities of Sea Grant programs in the Commonwealth, and provides the public with information about coastal and marine issues in the region.

Communications produces and distributes all of the program's technical reports and distributes and archives all program publications. We maintain a reference center with journals and books, which is available to the community for informational purposes. We also provide information to schools, businesses, government, citizens, media, the MIT community and others on a wide range of marine-related topics.

The goal of the MITSG Center for Coastal Resources (MITSG CCR), under the leadership of Judy Pederson, is to serve as a link between scientific and technical research, and information, and the user community, such as state and federal agencies, local government, non-government organizations and citizens. This past year, the MITSG Center for Coastal Resources under the direction of Dr. Pederson, focused its outreach activities on three areas: marine bioinvasions, habitats and marine protected areas, and pollution-related issues for Boston Harbor and the Charles River. 

The CCR is in the process of organizing a workshop to identify and implement a regional approach to managing ballast water releases in nearshore coastal areas. The region includes Atlantic Canada Provinces through to the Port of New York/New Jersey and will focus on shipping agents, port authority managers and directors, state and federal agencies and the New England Governors and Premiers. In addition, the CCR will be convening the Third International Conference on Marine Bioinvasions in the spring of 2003. Both conferences will highlight the scientific and technical issues related to managing marine bioinvasions.

In addition to the workshops and conferences, the CCR continues to produce materials for the public to educate and involve them in identifying non-native species. As an experiment, the CCR is asking for the public to send us requested information on selected species by mailing back a business reply mail postcard and verification in the form of a photo or preserved organism. We will be posting the data on a web site, along with information about non-native species in Massachusetts and New England.

One proposed solution to conservation of biodiversity is protection of habitats through the establishment of marine protected areas (similar to National Parks and Wilderness areas). The fishing closures represent one type of marine protected area, but do not meet all the criteria of those who want to preserve special habitats and rare species. Geographic information systems (GIS) provide visualization of data layers and allows one to identify highly sensitive areas and areas that recover readily when disturbed. The CCR is developing an approach for assessing proposed areas for their vulnerability and making access to a GIS program accessible on the web. This can serve both to educate and to log in responses from the user community on what areas they think should be set aside (or not).

The Center for Marine Social Sciences (CMSS) is actively pursuing its goal of applying advances in social sciences to help resolve marine related issues and to contribute to policy development. CMSS continues to work with state and federal agencies and the public to identify and address local and regional needs in fisheries and coastal zone management. Marine advisory agent Madeleine Hall-Arber continues to track the social impact of new fisheries regulations and is currently working on a project to study fishing-dependent communities in New England. Dr. Hall-Arber works in an extensive advisory capacity with the New England Fisheries Management Council's Social Science Advisory Committee. In July of this year The Cape Cod Chronicle published an article featuring Dr. Hall-Arber's research titled "Report Chronicles Social Impact of Fisheries Regulations."

Program Management

The program director is Professor Chryssostomos Chryssostomidis, department head, Ocean Engineering. Associate directors for research are Professor Henrik Schmidt and Dr. E. Eric Adams. Richard Morris continues to serve as executive officer for the program. Timothy Downes continues as the program's administrative officer.

Dean John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship was established in 1979 to provide a unique educational experience to students who have an interest in ocean, coastal and Great Lakes resources and in the national policy decisions affecting those resources. The program, which is sponsored by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) National Sea Grant College Program, matches highly qualified graduate students with "hosts" in the legislative branch, executive branch, or appropriate associations/ institutions located in the Washington, D.C. area, for a one year paid fellowship. The program is named in honor of one of Sea Grant's founders, former NOAA Administrator, John A. Knauss. This past year we nominated Rachel Adams for the fellowship who subsequently was selected. Rachel is currently a candidate for the PhD degree in environmental chemistry with the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at MIT.

MIT Sea Grant administers the Doherty Professorship endowed by the Henry L. and Grace Doherty Foundation. Professor Bernhardt Trout of the Department of Chemical Engineering and Assistant Professor Julian Sachs of the Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences Department continue in the second year of their Doherty Professorships.

The call for nominees this year resulted in the selection of Professor Alexandra H. Techet, assistant professor of ocean engineering. Professor Techet's proposal, "Embedded MEMS based Shear Stress Sensors for Flow Measurement and Control of Marine Vehicles," represents an important use of Micro Electro Mechanical Systems (MEMS) in active flow control which coupled with active shape change can greatly improve the performance of robotic underwater systems.

The Doherty Professorship for Professor Techet will run for two years.

Chryssostomos Chryssostomidis
Henry L. and Grace Doherty Professor in Ocean Science and Engineering

More information about the Sea Grant College Program can be found on the web at


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