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 Mission & Vision

To improve the understanding and management of Rhode Island’s coastal and marine ecosystems to foster vibrant, healthy coastal communities, economies, and marine environments that are resilient in the face of change.

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

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