2017 2017: UMass Dartmouth opens marine science research facility in New Bedford

2017 2017: UMass Dartmouth opens marine science research facility in New Bedford
UMass Dartmouth opens marine science research facility in New Bedford

New teaching, research and policy center built in collaboration with the state Division of Marine Fisheries triples university’s marine science presence in nation’s top fishing port

Group of people cutting ribbon at SMAST East 2017

UMass Dartmouth officially opened a new $55 million, 64,000 square foot marine science facility – the School for Marine Science & Technology East (SMAST East) -- today, tripling the University’s marine science presence in New Bedford, the nation’s top fishing port. The state Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) will also occupy 8,000 square feet in the facility.

Located on Clark’s Cove, SMAST East augments the original 34,000 square foot SMAST facility, which opened in 1997. The two facilities combined, including DMF space, will house 150 marine scientists and support staff. More than 200 students, faculty, staff, city officials and state officials attended the event.

“We are thrilled to mark this exciting new chapter for UMass Dartmouth and the SouthCoast,” said UMass President Marty Meehan. “SMAST is a shining example of how academic research, in partnership with industry and government, can serve a regional economy.”

“With the talent, passion, and brainpower here at SMAST, combined with the intellectual assets on our main campus and throughout the region, UMass Dartmouth will address issues that directly affect the quality of life for people who live and work near the ocean,” said UMass Dartmouth Chancellor Robert E. Johnson. “As stewards of our planet, we have an obligation to sustain our fisheries, preserve our coastlines, and confront climate change. If not us, who?”

“The School for Marine Science & Technology East will allow the Division of Marine Fisheries to better collaborate with the researchers and students at UMass Dartmouth, enhancing our ability to use the most current and accurate scientific findings to make fisheries management decisions,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matthew Beaton. “The Baker-Polito Administration looks forward to continuing our productive partnership with UMass Dartmouth to protect the Commonwealth’s coastal waters, ensure sustainable fisheries and promote the prosperity of our fishing industry and communities.”

“Thousands of students, industry stakeholders, and all levels of government will undoubtedly benefit from the institutional knowledge and scientific advancements enabled by this expansion.  SMAST is a world-class institution and we look forward to seeing all the great advancements and research that come out of it,” said Congressman William Keating, whose district includes the coastal communities from the South Coast, Cape Cod, and the South Shore.

“Marine science and fisheries research is absolutely critical towards protecting our local fishermen and the nation’s top fishing port, ensuring continued economic development and job creation,” stated Senate Assistant Majority Leader Mark Montigny (D-New Bedford), who authored the $25 million state bond authorization in the Senate to construct the new campus.  “This new facility makes New Bedford ground zero for cutting-edge research by scientists, students and area stakeholders throughout the entire Northeast at a time when offshore wind is rapidly developing and climate change continues to pose a significant challenge to our shores.”

“As the doors open to SMAST East, the additional capacity for critical research will spark economic, academic and environmental progress for the fishing and marine sciences industries in New Bedford and the entire South Coast region,” said State Representative Antonio F.D. Cabral (D-New Bedford), who chairs the legislative committee overseeing state construction projects.  “SMAST’s groundbreaking research is needed more than ever to combat the growing dangers of climate change and to maintain a healthy, sustainable fishing industry in New Bedford. I’m proud to have fought for a capital project with such a profound impact on our community.”

“We are thrilled that SMAST’s long-awaited expansion has become a reality with a new state-of-the-art research facility at Clark’s Point,” said New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell. “The combination of this investment and New Bedford’s leadership in fishing and offshore wind will accelerate marine innovation in our City.” 

“Through the Marine Fisheries Institute, our Division of Maine Fisheries has been collaborating with UMass on marine fisheries issues for many years,” said Department of Fish and Game Commissioner Ron Amidon. “The construction of the School for Marine Science and Technology East building provides us the opportunity to not only collaborate, but to work side-by-side and strengthen our cooperative research, conservation, and management efforts.”

“Division of Marine Fisheries staff and scientists to be located in SMAST East, as well as SMAST West, will continue to collaborate with faculty and give advice to graduate students,” said Division of Marine Fisheries Director David Pierce. “There will be movement between floors and buildings with the sharing of ideas, experiences, and research.”

The School for Marine Science and Technology conducts world class education, research and policy development related to fisheries, coastal preservation, ocean modeling, underwater robotics, climate change and related fields. SMAST offers Ph.D. and Master’s programs in marine science, including a dual Ph.D. with the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil. Internship programs provide undergraduate students with research experiences in marine science. SMAST is also the lead campus for the UMass Intercampus Marine Science graduate program.

The Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) of the Department of Fish and Game is the Commonwealth’s marine fisheries management agency, responsible for the development and dissemination of regulations governing commercial and recreational fishing activity conducted in the marine environment. DMF promotes and develops Massachusetts’ commercial and recreational fisheries through research, technical assistance, and the collection of statistics. SMAST East will house DMF’s Permitting office and the following programs: Habitat, Fish and Shellfish Biology, Resource Assessment – Survey Group, Stock Assessment and Monitoring, Recreational and Diadromous Fisheries, Shark Research, Protected Resources, Conservation Engineering, Fisheries Management. A portion of DMF will also occupy renovated space in SMAST West, including their Shellfish sanitation, Public Health, Aquaculture, Vibrio Management, and Environmental Protection Activities programs.

The building’s design features include:

  • A seawater lab allowing researchers to study marine life and habitats in a scientifically controlled environment.
  • A high performance-computing center that will support SMAST scientists and house “Hydra,” the Northeast Coastal Ocean Forecast System (NECOFS) computer cluster, which is used by numerous individuals and agencies around the world, including the US Coast Guard for search-and-rescue operations.
  • Lobbies, meeting rooms and breakout spaces designed to support interaction among faculty, students, administration, Division of Marine Fisheries staff and visitors.
  • Flexible classroom spaces with multi-media presentation capability designed for classes ranging from 10 to 70 students, as well as community and school groups.
  • Research wet and dry labs with flexibility to be easily adapted to different configurations to accommodate changing research requirements.
  • Compliance with U.S. Green Build Council’s Leadership in Energy Efficient Design (LEED) requirements to achieve a silver rating, resulting in a 30 percent reduction in water consumption, 16 percent reduction in energy consumption, and use of 10 percent  recycled construction materials.
  • Four electric vehicle-charging stations.
  • An architecturally advanced building design making creative use of natural light and open spaces

 The new facility will be the headquarters of the Massachusetts Marine Fisheries Institute, a SMAST/DMF-led coalition of scientists, policymakers, industry leaders, and environmental organizations that guides efforts to sustain Massachusetts and New England fisheries.

The facility will house the following laboratories:

  • Oceanographic Remote Sensing Laboratory, James Bisagni – Working with the University of Maine to provide near real-time satellite-derived sea surface temperature (SST) imagery and associated information about ocean dynamics for the southern New England region important to fisheries-related stakeholders.
  • Ocean Observation Laboratory (OCEANOL), Wendell Brown – Using various ocean technologies including underwater vehicles, moorings, coastal high-frequency radar sites, shipboard surveys, operational satellite imagery and meteorology to study coastal ocean and estuarine domains, including the Gulf of Maine, Georges Bank, the New England Shelf, and Buzzards, Narragansett and Mt. Hope Bay.
  • Fisheries Biology and Assessment Laboratory, Steve Cadrin -- Studying all aspects of fisheries science, ranging from life history of fishes to fishery management strategies, and emphasizes collaborative research with fishermen.
  • Marine Ecosystem Dynamics Modeling Laboratory, Changsheng Chen -- Developed a high-resolution ocean modelling system known as FVCOM that illustrates ocean characteristics around the world. The model has been used to locate an airliner that was lost over the ocean and demonstrate how a tsunami damaged a nuclear power plant in Japan.
  • Computational Modeling Laboratory, Geoffrey Cowles – Applies computational methods to marine science problems. Current research projects include measuring the contribution of wastewater effluent to coastal ocean acidification, developing geolocation methods for North Atlantic groundfish, and development of wave and tidal energy technology.
  • Fisheries & Ecosystem Management Laboratory, Gavin Fay – Develops and tests strategies to assess and manage fish, marine mammal, and marine reptile populations in the northeast and on the west coast, as well as in Australia and Europe.
  • Oceanographic Modeling and Analysis Laboratory, Avijit Gangopadhyay – Develops highly efficient ocean modeling technology and is currently working on projects related to the Gulf of Maine/Georges Bank, Monterey Bay, Strait of Sicily, Arabian Sea, the western North Atlantic and southern California.
  • Fish Behavior and Conservation Engineering Laboratory, Pingguo He – Works closely with industry to develop novel fishing gear designs so that commercial fisherman can operate more efficiently.
  • Coastal Engineering and Fluid Mechanics Laboratory, Daniel MacDonald -- Conducts basic and applied research with specific emphasis on estuarine flows, river plumes, and industrial discharges. A significant research focus is marine renewable energy, including wave energy and the development of nearshore wave energy converters, and the hydrodynamic aspects of other marine renewable technologies.
  • Marine Fisheries Field Research Group, Kevin Stokesbury -- Studies the population dynamics of marine fish and invertebrates and the impacts of harvesting, gear effectiveness, and alternative fishing strategies. The group has conducted video cruises surveying Georges Bank and the Mid-Atlantic (more than 1,000 days at sea) with support from the commercial sea scallop industry, the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries (MADMF), and the sea scallop Research-Set-Aside program (NOAA grants). The video library contains footage from over 300,000 georeferenced video samples.