Oregon State University has just received a grant of $121.88 million from the National Science Foundation to spearhead the construction of a new class of research vessels for the United States Academic Research Fleet.
This grant will fund the construction of the first of three planned vessels approved by Congress for research in coastal regions of the continental United States and Alaska.
When funding for the next two vessels is authorized, the total grant to OSU could increase to as much as $365 million.
The first vessel is slated to be operated by OSU for research missions focusing on the U.S. West Coast. The NSF will begin the competitive selection of operating institutions for the second and third vessels later this year.
“Oregon State University is extremely proud to lead this effort to create the next generation of regional ocean-going research vessels funded by NSF,” said OSU president Edward J. Ray. “Our exceptional marine science programs are uniquely positioned to advance knowledge of the oceans and to seek solutions to the threats facing healthy coastal communities – and more broadly, global ecological well-being – through their teaching and research.”
OSU was selected by the National Science Foundation in 2013 to lead the initial design phase for the new vessels, and to develop and execute a competitive selection for a shipyard in the United States to do the construction. Gulf Island Shipyards, in Louisiana was chosen and will conduct the detailed design verification over the next year. Officials hope to have a keel-laying ceremony for the first vessel in the spring of 2018, with the ship delivered to OSU for a year of extensive testing in 2020.
The ships will be equipped to conduct detailed seafloor mapping, to reveal geologic structures important to understanding processes such as subduction zone earthquakes that may trigger tsunamis. The Pacific
The new ships will also be equipped with sensors that will be used to detect and characterize harmful algal blooms, changing ocean chemistry, and the interactions between the sea and atmosphere.
“This class of ships will enable researchers to work much more safely and efficiently at sea because of better handling and stability, more capacity for instrumentation and less noise,” said Clare Reimers, a professor in the College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences and project co-leader. “
Oregon State is expected to begin operating the first of the new ships in the fall of 2021, after a year of testing and then official Academic-Fleet designation by the University-National Oceanographic Laboratory System (UNOLS), according to Demian Bailey, also a project co-leader for OSU.