Governor Lincoln D. Chafee Announces Six Teams to Share $810,000 in 2013 Collaborative Research Grant Awards

PROVIDENCE, RI — With the goal to make Rhode Island an international leader in understanding and predicting the response of marine organisms and marine ecosystems to climate variability, Governor Lincoln D. Chafee and the Rhode Island Science & Technology Advisory Council (STAC) today announced the recipients of the 2013 Rhode Island Research Alliance Collaborative Research Grants.

The awards, totaling $810,541, will fund six projects, representing 18 scientists from five research institutions throughout the state. These grants are the seventh round of awards aimed at facilitating collaborative research in Rhode Island and support STAC’s partnership with the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR).

“One of Rhode Island’s greatest assets is our magnificent coastline and ocean access,” Governor Lincoln D. Chafee said. “Another is the great minds who, collaboratively, produce world-class ideas and research at our colleges and universities. These STAC grants, which will help maintain and protect our waters and marine life, represent the intersection of these two assets. I look forward to the next level of research and innovation that these grants will make possible.”

“These grants showcase some of the best and brightest coming out of our institutions of higher education, and they recognize the excellent work being done in our marine research industry,” said Marcel Valois, executive director of the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation. “Rhode Island’s coast is a key driver in our economy.”

To date, STAC has invested $8.5 million in collaborative research projects that have yielded a return of $36 million back to the state in the form of grants for continued research, new federal programs, infrastructure improvements, commercialization of new products and venture funding for new companies.

“Supporting collaborative research, development and innovation is an important investment that yields significant and enduring benefits,” said Brown University Vice President for Research and STAC Co-Chair Clyde Briant. “These funds inspire leading scholars in our state to join forces to explore and advance knowledge across disciplinary boundaries, identifying solutions to critical environmental challenges, and positioning Rhode Island to compete effectively for additional research funds to fuel continued discovery. It’s clear from this process that we have a wealth of talent in our small state.”

This grant cycle called for proposals that addressed the research questions related to Rhode Island NSF EPSCoR. One such question was: What are the impacts of climate change on marine life? The 2013 award recipients include scientists pursuing research in aquaculture diseases, ocean acidification, fisheries management and electro-microbiology. Winning teams include scientists from the University of Rhode Island, Brown University, Rhode Island College, Roger Williams University and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

“Funding for the Collaborative Research Grant Awards represents the match requirement for the $20 million five-year NSF EPSCoR grant to Rhode Island, administered by the University of Rhode Island, that aims to understand better the effects of global climate change on marine life in the world’s oceans in general and Narragansett Bay in particular. Obviously, the good health of our waters is absolutely critical to the general and economic well-being of all of us who reside in or near the Ocean State.”

Further details on the awardees are included below.

2013 Collaborative Research Grants

Project 1: RI Seaweed Biodiversity Project

Description: This team is using genomics to identify and catalogue invasive species of algal marine bio-invaders to improve coastal management and biosecurity in Narragansett Bay.

Collaborators: Christopher Lane, University of Rhode Island; and Brian Wysor, Roger Williams University

Project 2: Temperature-Mediated Changes in RI’s Benthic Community

Description: This team will work to return winter flounder to RI waters through better understanding the evolving population dynamics of the blue crab and summer flounder, two of its natural predators.

Collaborators: David Taylor, Roger Williams University; and Jeremy Collie, University of Rhode Island

Project 3: The Pathogenic Cause and Impact of the Local Sea Star Wasting Disease

Description: This collaboration will bring together six researchers with ecological, veterinary, molecular, microbial and aquaculture expertise to determine the mysterious cause of a deadly infectious disease attacking starfish from New Jersey to the Gulf of Maine.

Collaborators: Gary Wessel, Brown University; Roxanna Smolowitz, Roger Williams University; Marta Gomez-Chiarri, University of Rhode Island; Edward Baker, University of Rhode Island; and Niels-Viggo Hobbs, University of Rhode Island

Project 4: Estimating the Potential for Evolutionary Adaption of Marine Organisms to Climate Change

Description: This team will use native shrimp to study the evolutionary potential of marine species to adapt to warming waters

Collaborators: Jason Kolbe, University of Rhode Island; Carol Thornber, University of Rhode Island; and Jason Grear, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Project 5: Electric Microcable Bacteria in Narragansett Bay Sediments

Description: Working in the new area of electro-microbiology, this team will pursue their hypothesis that microbial bacteria are evolving to detoxify sediment in coastal dead zones.

Collaborators: Jeremy Rich, Brown University; and Bethany Jenkins, University of Rhode Island

Project 6: Ocean Acidification Effects on Plankton Community Composition and Food Web Energy Flow

Description: This team will look at how whole marine communities respond to ocean acidification.

Collaborators: Susanne Menden-Deuer, University of Rhode Island; Tatiana Rynearson, University of Rhode Island; Breea Govenar, RI College; and Jason Grear, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

About the Collaborative Research Awards Program

With the inception of the Rhode Island Research Alliance in 2007, STAC created a competitive, merit-based award program to support projects that promote inter-organizational, multi-disciplinary collaboration, which are positioned to attract follow-on funding from out-of-state sources — the Collaborative Research Awards program. With follow-on funding, Rhode Island has the potential of increasing its competitive research capacity, advancing technological development and boosting commercialization potential within the state.

To administer the program, STAC uses a competitive application process similar to that used by the National Science Foundation. Peer reviewers who are scientific experts familiar with a proposal’s area of focus evaluate the proposal on the basis of scientific merit and broader impacts in the community. A subcommittee also reviews the proposals based on how well the proposal meets the objectives of the program. Awardees represent the most exciting proposals that combine high scientific merit with opportunity for significant follow-on funding or substantial commercial potential, such as valuable licensing prospects or the creation of new companies, at the completion of the one-year grant cycle.

About the Rhode Island Science & Technology Advisory Council (STAC)

The Rhode Island Science & Technology Advisory Council (STAC) is a coalition of leaders in the field of science and technology representing business, medicine, higher education and government. STAC was formed in 2006 and is charged with advising state leadership on strategic investments that drive economic development and job creation by maximizing the economic impact of research, technology and innovation. STAC policies and programs support the state’s research and development activity and promote collaboration across institutions, encourage entrepreneurship and new company creation through the transfer of new technologies and discoveries into the marketplace, and create an environment that enables innovation to flourish. STAC serves as governing committee for the $20 million Rhode Island NSF EPSCoR grant.

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