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Half million dollar NSF grant will expand CCU's marine research capabilities

August 13, 2007

Coastal Carolina University has received approval for a $535,770 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to fund the acquisition of new equipment that will significantly increase the scope of geophysical research conducted along the South Carolina coast.

The new multi-beam sonar instrumentation, together with complementary pieces of sonar equipment acquired through grants over the past five years, fully establishes an integrated state-of-the-art mapping capability at Coastal's Burroughs & Chapin Center for Marine and Wetland Studies that is as good as any now available on the East coast, according to center director Paul Gayes, professor of marine science and geology at Coastal.

With the acquisition of the equipment, the center will have the means to conduct highly advanced, comprehensive profiling and mapping of the ocean floor. The grant also supports the acquisition of cutting-edge wave and current meters and other advanced instrumentation that will make it possible for center scientists and students to study how sediments and nearshore reef environments interact with waves and currents moving above. The data derived from these studies will have many important potential applications, from planning beach renourishment projects to the management of fishing habitats.

The research project will be led by Richard Viso, assistant director of the center and principal investigator of the grant; Ansley Wren, an assistant professor of marine science at Coastal; and center director Paul Gayes, who are co-principal investigators.

The grant also calls for the development of cooperative projects with Scripps Institution of Oceanography in California and the Skidway Institute of Oceanography in Savannah, Ga. "These projects will provide some outstanding opportunities for Coastal Carolina undergraduates as well as graduate students," said Gayes.

The Center for Marine and Wetland Studies has been doing geophysical research of the seafloor off the South Carolina coastline-as well as other locations around the world-since the early 1990s, according to Gayes. The mapping, research and analysis produced by center scientists and the Coastal students working by their side have provided voluminous data about mineral and sand resources as well as biological habitats on hundreds of square miles of seafloor.

These data are vital both in promoting a scientific understanding of coastal marine processes and in shaping public policy on coastal resource management. "The expansion of our physical process studies made possible through this grant will enable us to advance from characterizing the system to predicting and responding to events, such as storms, in the future," said Gayes.