About Us


What We Do

By the numbers


Rhode Island Sea Grant is one of 34 programs in the National Sea Grant College Program working to enhance environmental stewardship and long-term economic development and responsible use of coastal and marine resources.

Located at the University of Rhode Island Graduate School of Oceanography, Rhode Island Sea Grant supports research, outreach, and education programs designed to foster the resiliency of local and regional communities and marine environments.

Rhode Island Sea Grant also partners with the University of Rhode Island Coastal Resources Center for our extension program, and with the Roger Williams University (RWU) School of Law on our legal program, located at the Marine Affairs Institute at RWU.

Our Vision & Mission 

Vibrant and resilient coastal communities, economies, and environments

that are supported by a diverse, engaged, and informed public and decision-makers.  We strive to achieve this through integrated research, extension, communications, legal, and workforce development efforts that improve understanding of, sustainable use, and equitable management of Rhode Island’s coastal and marine ecosystems.

Our Values

Scientific Integrity

High scientific standards that ensure rigorous scientific inquiry and best practices. 


Impartial and transparent interpretation of and access to scientific information, technical assistance, and policy research.



Stewardship & Local Knowledge

Marine resource conservation and inclusion of local knowledge and practices into scientific and management endeavors.


Stong partnerships and networks that connect with all individuals, especially those who might otherwise be excluded or marginalized.


Equal access to opportunities and resources for individuals, groups, and organizations interested in marine resource management and ecological health.


Activities and engagement opportunities that instill stewardship and understanding of the marine environment for informed decision-making.


Responsibility for professional behavior and decisions through continuable engagement with coastal communities.


Support and encourage growth in staff and partners.

Rhode Island Sea Grant honors and respects differences in background, experiences, skills, interests, and values.  We incorporate core values of diversity, equity, inclusivity, and justice into our daily operations and model these values to advance our mission of improving the understanding and management of coastal and ocean systems.

  • Removing barriers that have historically limited access to Sea Grant opportunities.
  • Engage broader populations where our programs operate.
  • Respect and appreciate differences and various perspectives.
  • Acknowledge and honor local cultures, traditions, and wisdom of communities.
  • Reinforce accountability and commitment to cultivate an inclusive environment.
  • Enhance research design and process to better reflect community needs.

Our History

Sea Grant found its roots in Rhode Island after the idea was first proposed in 1963 by Athelstan Spilhaus from Minnesota University. Dr. John A. Knauss, founding Dean of the Graduate School of Oceanography at the University of Rhode Island, and Rhode Island Senator Claiborne Pell helped Spilhaus make Sea Grant a reality.

“[Sea Grant] found fertile soil in Rhode Island where we believed we were already doing much of what Spilhaus was proposing,” said Knauss in the 2000 issue of Maritimes, reflecting on his beginnings of GSO. “The Sea Grant Act was passed in 1966. URI received one of the first grants in 1968 and became one of the first four Sea Grant Colleges in 1972.” 

The idea of creating Sea Grant colleges was modeled after the Land Grant college program, which set the standard for utilizing the resources of the nation’s universities to address the needs of citizens regarding aspects of land use and agriculture, but with a focus on marine and coastal resources. At a time when America was excited about science, in general, especially the possibility of reaping sustained economic benefits from the vast resources of the seas, national enthusiasm for the Sea Grant College concept grew.

The 89th Congress of the United States passed the National Sea Grant College Act and established an academic/industry/government partnership in recognition that marine resources were an untapped asset to the nation for energy, development, and food resources.

Since its establishment over 50 years ago, Sea Grant now has 34 programs based at universities and institutions in every coastal and Great Lakes state, Puerto Rico, and Guam working with communities to provide scientific research, education and training, and technical assistance utilizing the academic power of the nation’s universities with public and private sector partners to steer the nation toward the productive and sustainable use of coastal, marine, and Great Lakes resources.

“I believe the oceans and the 70% of the earth that is underwater will play an increasingly important role in providing a variety of resources, including energy and fresh water, to an increasing population. Perhaps even more important is that environmental stresses will also grow in next century,” said Knauss in Maritimes.


“Many of these issues concern the ocean and our need to better understand its role: changing sea-level, coastal pollution, modifying the earth’s climate, maintaining the current atmospheric chemical balance, and much more.”

What We Do


Fund competitive research to improve knowledge of marine processes and resources for better understanding and management.


Provide opportunities for students and the public to enhance their understanding of coastal and ocean resources management, science, law, and policy.

Community Engagement

Offer public programs, and training and resources for professionals to best apply available science and information to resolve coastal and ocean management challenges.

Our Approach

Sea Grant invests in high-priority research, addressing issues such as coastal hazards and development in coastal communities; understanding our interactions with the marine environment; aquaculture; seafood safety; and fisheries management. The results of this research are shared with the public through Sea Grant’s integrated outreach program to bring together the collective expertise of on-the-ground extension agents, educators, and communications specialists.

We work with stakeholders, academics, businesses, non-profits, and government agencies to apply sound scientific, policy, and legal research findings to ensure a collaborative effort and informed decision-making for managing the state’s coastal and marine resources.

The goal is to ensure that vital research results are shared with those who need it most and in ways that are timely, relevant and meaningful.

Federal Funds

Base funding from the federal government allocated by the National Sea Grant Office.

Non-Federal Match

Funds received from the state through the University of Rhode Island.

Leveraged Funds

Grants received from outside organizations and state or local governments for  Sea Grant-related work.

Jobs Created/Sustained

The number of new jobs created and retained through Sea Grant efforts.

Volunteer Hours

Contributions by partners and outside associates on Sea Grant-related work.

Fishing Sustainably

Fishers that adopted sustainable harvesting techniques.

Seafood Safety

Professionals trained in Hazard Analysis & Critical Control Points (HACCP) for Seafood Processing.


Undergraduate and graduate students supported through funded projects.

Your Support Makes a

HUGE Impact

Federal funds from Congress are distributed among 34 state programs. Continued support from our partners and members of the community is why Sea Grant programs across the nation are able to continue serving coastal communities.

We thank you for your continued support!


Strategic Plan

Our Partners

Rhode Island Sea Grant Advisory Council

Rhode Island Sea Grant’s Advisory Council consists of representatives of Rhode Island’s major stakeholder groups. The council assists Sea Grant in identifying and responding to stakeholder priorities related to coastal and ocean issues. The council helps shape the focus of Sea Grant’s research request for proposals (RFP), extension efforts, and strategic direction so that it is adaptive in its response to ever-changing conditions and the needs of Rhode Island. 

Brian Dursi
Executive Director, Rhode Island Marine Trades Association

Caitlin Chafee
Reserve Manager, Narragansett Bay NERR

Judith Gray
NOAA (retired)

Bill Silkes
American Mussel Harvesters

Jonathan Stone
Save The Bay

Terry Gray
RI Department of Environmental Management



Rich Hittinger
1st Vice President
Rhode Island Saltwater Anglers Association

Kate Mulvaney
Social Scientist
Environmental Protection Agency

Fred Mattera
Commercial Fisheries Research Foundation
Executive Director
Commercial Fisheries Center of Rhode Island

Jeffrey Willis
Executive Director
Coastal Resources Management Council

Anna Mercer
Chief Cooperative Research
NOAA Northeast Fisheries Center

Robert Rheault
Executive Director
East Coast Shellfish Growers Association

Jared Rhodes
Director of Policy and Programs
RI Resource Recovery

Shaun O’Rourke
Managing Director, Program and Business Development
RI Infrastructure Bank

Casey Tremper
Program Coordinator
Clean Ocean Access


Get In Touch

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This