Fosters.com reports that the University of New Hampshire's Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping (CCOM) has received a $6.2 million grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to continue the work of the Joint Hydrographic Center, a NOAA partnership and national ocean-mapping research center.
“This funding will support the ongoing research, training and development of state-of-the-art coastal and ocean mapping technologies that have made JHC a national center of excellence,” said Larry Mayer, founding director of CCOM and co-director of the JHC. “It will also allow us to turn our attention to a wide range of products that meet needs beyond safe navigation, like fisheries management, disaster mitigation and national security.”
The new funding will allow the JHC to continue exploring the use of autonomous underwater vehicles and autonomous surface vehicles as platforms for hydrographic and other mapping surveys, and to explore their capabilities and limitations in support of shallow water coastal mapping. Mayer noted in particular new work aimed at using data collected in the water column to more accurately identify bathymetric hazards and wrecks, identify natural and man-made gas seeps, and map the distribution and behavior of fish. Researchers will continue to lead deep-water surveys in support of U.S. extended continental shelf delineation and work to develop improved methods of mapping shoreline change, particularly in response to storms.
Other new initiatives include developing short distance-learning courses to train hydrographers and a new undergraduate degree in ocean engineering with planned concentrations in hydrography and ocean mapping.
A member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, New Hampshire U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-Madbury, helped secure federal funding to make the grant possible. “We’re grateful for the support of Sen. Shaheen and others to ensure the work of the Joint Hydrographic Center continues,” Mayer said. "We believe it is critical that the tools and techniques we develop find their way into practical application as soon as possible."
Shaheen said with rising sea levels threatening coastal businesses and homes in the state, it is important that UNH continue its research.
“The University of New Hampshire is a world leader in ocean-mapping and hydrography," said Shaheen. "Our ocean floors remain the last largely unexplored area of the Earth's surface, and this grant means the University of New Hampshire will be able to continue its ground-breaking research."
While a total award of $31 million over five years was granted, subsequent years will depend on availability of funds.