DOWNLOAD Ocean SAMP research project descriptions

The Ocean SAMP is a strategy for zoning Rhode Island's offshore waters using an ecosystem approach that involves scientific research and public input to help develop policy. This approach looks comprehensively at the area's characteristics, resources, uses, and constraints. Projects have been selected that address topics related to proposed renewable energy development. For more detailed information about all the projects and project maps, visit the documents page.

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Researchers are assessing the current spatial and temporal patterns of bird abundance in Rhode Island coastal waters.

Oceanographers are developing a fundamental knowledge base of the ecology of the Ocean SAMP area with particular regard for phytoplankton, the basis of the marine food web.

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SAMP researchers are working to map fish abundance, distribution, and habitat areas as well as commercial and recreational activities in the Ocean SAMP area. Researchers are also developing a report of the information known about the impacts on fisheries, fish habitat, fishermen, and the fishing community by the construction and operation of offshore wind turbines.

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Researchers are analyzing the noise and electromagnetic field conditions associated with offshore wind structures, and assessing the potential impact of these conditions on marine mammals, turtles, and other living marine resources.

Biologists are identifying where and when marine mammals and sea turtles occur in Rhode Island waters and are producing GIS maps for the over 30 species known to inhabit the area at some point during the year.

Researchers are working to classify and map fisheries habitats and assess their importance based on seafloor habitat characteristics, biology, and site-specific fisheries data.

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Researchers are analyzing and mapping recreational boating and yacht racing data in the SAMP area to assess the potential impacts of offshore renewable energy development on these users.

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Archeological studies are examining significant sites in the SAMP study area, and an inventory is being developed of significant recreational areas, historic properties, and tribal areas of traditional importance for the southern coast of Rhode Island and the perimeter of Block Island

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Researchers are evaluating the technologies available for offshore wind turbine support structures and foundations in light of conditions in the study area.

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Marine transportation routes are being analyzed to determine areas where a wind farm would present a significant obstruction to navigation.

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Researchers are analyzing the distribution of phytoplankton and characterizing the water column-bottom interactions in the waters within the SAMP area that have emerged thus far as having high potential for the major wind farm site.  The project will employ sediment collection, traps to measure the flux of organic matter from the water column to the bottom, and laboratory analysis.

Researchers are performing high-resolution screening analysis of meteorological and seabed data and engineering-based values for the proposed development site in state waters off Block Island.

Ocean engineers are studying the SAMP area for wind resources, wave and storm surge characteristics, and marine transportation paths. GIS maps show study findings.

Oceanographers are characterizing the physical oceanography, including currents, temperature, salinity, and other characteristics of Rhode Island's coastal waters.

Researchers are reviewing the sediment, benthic habitat, and cultural resources of the SAMP area through side scan and sub-bottom surveys and other techniques.

Ocean engineers are analyzing analyze meteorological and air quality data for Rhode Island coastal waters and nearby areas to determine such things as anticipated obstructions to visibility and icing conditions relative to a wind farm.

Researchers are using instrumented buoys and other observing tools for meteorological, acoustic, and water quality observations at the proposed wind farm sites and are providing additional insight into the circulation, waves, and meteorology of the sites.

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Global climate change is perhaps the most critical issue of the 21st century. It is already affecting Rhode Island through accelerating sea level rise, leading to beach erosion, property losses, and increasing the state's vulnerability to hurricanes and floods. Climate change may adversely affect food supply, public health, and the economy. Rhode Island is committed to reducing its carbon footprint by using renewable energy resources, primarily offshore wind farms, to meet 15 percent of its energy needs.

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A Special Area Management Plan is a comprehensive management strategy, one that the state has used successfully for many years and that is prescribed in the state's Marine Resources Development Plan. SAMPs are developed by the R.I. Coastal Resources Management Council with partners including the University of Rhode Island Coastal Resources Center/Rhode Island Sea Grant, appropriate government agencies, and local communities and stakeholders.

SAMPs have been developed for areas such as Greenwich Bay, the Salt Ponds region, northern Narragansett Bay, and elsewhere. These plans take into consideration ecological resources as well as economic, social, cultural, and other resources of a specific area defined more as an ecosystem than by political boundaries. For more information about SAMPs, visit

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Researchers are analyzing legal and regulatory issues relating to the siting of marine renewable energy projects within the Ocean SAMP area and are working to help integrate the SAMP into Rhode Island policy.

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An ecological services map index is being developed that will include birds, fisheries/fishing, marine mammals, essential fish habitat, aquaculture, and more. This project will also allow trade-off analyses for various management options, such as navigation restrictions.


For more information about the please contact Jennifer McCann at (401) 874-6127 or