Since its founding in 1961, GSO has been a leader in the study and exploration of the world’s oceans and has garnered significant national and international recognition of Rhode Island as a leader in oceanography and marine science. GSO has also focused on coastal environments that are so important to Rhode Island and the nation. Results of five decades of coastal studies by URI’s Graduate School of Oceanography have made Narragansett Bay one of the best studied coastal estuaries in the world and have provided the foundation for management and policy decisions by municipalities and the State of Rhode Island that have led to a healthy Narragansett Bay. GSO has also provided assistance to the state’s coastal communities to help them become more resilient in the face of sea level rise, a significant problem for our state given the length of our coastline. Additionally, GSO’s Coastal Resources Center played a leadership role to provide marine spatial planning that brought stakeholders together to support development of the Block Island Wind Farm, the first U.S. marine wind farm.
The URI Narragansett Bay Campus, which includes GSO, URI’s Department of Ocean Engineering and the College of the Environment and Life Sciences, has a significant impact on the Rhode Island economy. Over the last ten years, the Narragansett Bay Campus has successfully competed for $330 million in research funds primarily from federal agencies, including the National Science Foundation, Office of Naval Research, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, as well as from the state and private sector to support a broad range of research activities. An economic impact study in 2017 showed that the Bay Campus contributes each year nearly $50 million to the local economy and nearly 500 jobs. We estimate that over the next 30 years the campus will receive $1 billion or more of research funding and an economic impact to Rhode Island of $1.5 billion.
For over 40 years, the Narragansett Bay Campus has been home to the National Science Foundation owned R/V Endeavor. As a representative and ambassador for Rhode Island, the Endeavor has sailed over a million miles throughout the Atlantic Ocean and adjoining seas carrying out both basic and applied scientific research. Science teachers from across the state participate on educational cruises on the Endeavor to provide them with first hand knowledge of marine science that they take back to their classrooms. With the Department of Ocean Engineering, GSO has educated students and contributed to workforce development in Rhode Island and the nation and will continue to do so in the years to come.
GSO’s leadership was recognized earlier this year by the National Science Foundation choosing the East Coast Oceanographic Consortium, led by URI in collaboration with the University of New Hampshire, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and 13 east coast research institutions, to operate a new $125M research vessel that will be based in Rhode Island beginning in 2021.
As URI alumni with long associations spanning nearly 50 years with GSO, we are proud of the many contributions GSO have made to Rhode Island, the nation, and the world. But, we are also concerned with the need for modern facilities to support research and educational endeavors in the coming decades to continue to make a positive impact on Rhode Island. Question 2 provides $45 million to URI’s Narragansett Bay Campus to build a marine operation building and a new dock to support the new National Science Foundation vessel. In addition, these funds will be used to build a new Ocean Technology building. This facility will support research, education and collaboration with the private sector and national defense industry to develop autonomous underwater vehicles (drones), sensors, marine robotics, and other state-of-the-art marine technologies that will contribute to Rhode Island’s growing Blue Economy.
Yes on 2 will support a healthy Narragansett Bay and robust Rhode Island fisheries, expand Rhode Island’s workforce to support the Rhode Island Blue Economy, promote a cutting edge research vessel that will bring national visibility to Rhode Island, and enable URI to continue to attract outstanding students and faculty. The strong support of Rhode Island over the last fifty years has been critical to the success of the GSO and the Narragansett Bay Campus. We urge Rhode Islanders to vote “Yes on 2” to continue in the coming years this legacy for Rhode Island.