Research

 

Funding

Projects

Planning Grants

Impacts

Publications

Applied Science

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.

Funding

RESEARCH:

Rhode Island Sea Grant provides funding for scientific research both in the natural and social sciences to improve understanding and management of Rhode Island’s coastal and marine ecosystems.

We provide funding on a 2-year cycle using a rigorous and competitive peer-review process. We choose priority research topics through a collaborative strategic-planning process that engages scientists, our advisory board, our partners, and the public. Currently these topics are:

  • Resilient Ecosystem Processes and Responses
  • Sustainable Fisheries and Aquaculture
  • Resilient Communities and Economies

CONTACT

For more information or assistance, please contact Kim Ohnemus, Rhode Island Sea Grant Workforce Development and Research Coordinator, at kohnemus@uri.edu

Focus Areas

Coastal Ecosystems

Issues affecting coastal ecosystem health—ranging from coastal development, working waterfronts, and food security to sea level rise and renewable energy.

Resilient Communities

Issues that affect community mitigation and adaptation to anticipated climate changes, as well as societal impacts and use of coastal and ocean resources, including community values and management practices. 

Fisheries & Aquaculture

Issues such as stock abundance, regulatory structure, marine diseases, and consumer safety that impact the economic, environmental, and social sustainability of fisheries and aquaculture.

Current Projects

2024-2027

This current cycle of research is recommended for funding and pending final approval by NOAA. Projects will investigate monitoring coastal subsidence to better understand coastal communities’ flooding risks, the application of nature-based solutions to coastal erosion, and the impacts of environmental stressors including coastal acidification on oysters and flounder.

Qualifying the Impacts of Coastal Acidification on Rhode Island Shellfish Aquaculture Nitrogen Removal Capacity

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Principal Investigator (PI):
Robinson Fulweiler; Boston University

Shellfish, such as oysters, help to combat coastal eutrophication and acidification, yet it is unknown how coastal acidification may influence an organism’s ability to remove and store nitrogen–the nutrient largely associated with eutrophication. This project seeks to understand how coastal acidification influences the ability of oysters to extract nitrogen from the water column and store it in the shells and tissue. It also seeks to quantify how coastal acidification alters nitrogen removal via the microbially driven process of denitrification in the sediment surrounding oyster habitats. The team will expose growing oysters to different pH levels and analyze how rates of denitrification change in response to different levels of acidity. The team will also work with aquaculture farms across the state, measuring pH at various locations to improve understanding of how acidity varies in coastal waters.

Monitoring and Numerical Simulations of Natural and Nature-Based Solutions to Coastal Erosion on Block Island

 

 

 

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Principal Investigator (PI):
Annette Grilli, University of Rhode Island

Co-PIs: Stephen Grilli, University of Rhode Island

Christopher Baxter, University of Rhode Island

Nate Vinhateiro, University of Rhode Island/Coastal Institute

Brian Oakley, Eastern Connecticut State University

Initiated by a request from Block Island residents, this project seeks to investigate nature-based solutions to the increasing threat from coastal erosion and sea level rise to critical infrastructure on Block Island. The project will use scenario-based hydro-morpho dynamic numerical modeling, local stakeholder engagement, and crowd-sourced imaging (via CoastSnap) to assess the feasibility and efficiency of various natural and nature-based solutions to protect highly-vulnerable sections of Corn Neck Rd, a vital roadway connecting the island. Outcomes of this project include a better understanding of the efficacy of natural and nature-based solutions in high-energy wave environments subject to both erosion and rising sea levels.

Understanding Local Changes in Summer Flounder for Improved Sustainable Management

 

 

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Principal Investigator (PI): Conor McManus, Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (RIDEM)

Co-PIs: Corinne Truesdale, RIDEM

Rick Bellavance, Rhode Island Party and Charter Boat Association

Greg Vespe, Rhode Island Saltwater Anglers Association 

RIDEM is responding to stakeholder observations of a decline in summer flounder in Rhode Island waters over previous years that are not evident in coast-wide stock assessments. This project seeks to describe summer flounder stock dynamics in Rhode Island waters to understand the species’ response to local environmental change and to better inform management practices. The team will be using tagging and time series analysis to study local movement dynamics and distribution changes. McManus and his team will work with local recreational harvesters to deploy tags and collect information on flounder population size, movement and distribution in state waters. The goal of this project is to improve understanding of summer flounder population in local waters for enhanced science-based management of the resource.

The Interaction of Environment, Genotype and Disease on Juvenile Oyster Survival

 

 

 

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Principal Investigator (PI): Jonathan Puritz, University of Rhode Island

This project builds on existing research studying the impacts of environmental stressors, including coastal acidification and decreased oxygen, on the health and vitality of the eastern oyster. Dr. Puritz seeks to understand the connection between oysters’ genetic makeup and their susceptibility to environmental stressors and disease. The team will analyze the genomes of lab-grown oysters to detect genetic variants responsible for enhanced growth and survival in high-stress environments. These genomes will be compared to those of wild oysters populations to better inform broodstock selection for regional oyster growers.

Improving Coastal Subsidence Monitoring with Satellite Images and GNSS Data in Rhode Island

 

 

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Principal Investigator (PI): Meng (Matt) Wei, University of Rhode Island Graduate School of Oceanography

Co-PIs: Steven D’Hondt, University of Rhode Island

Pamela Rubinoff, Rhode Island Sea Grant/Coastal Resource Center

Dr. Wei and his research team will use Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar (InSAR) to create a precise and detailed vertical land motion map of Rhode Island, with a particular emphasis on coastal communities. By analyzing the rates of subsidence in these areas, they aim to enhance our understanding of coastal flooding risks associated with changing sea levels. Integrating this data with existing datasets will provide a more comprehensive understanding of subsidence in Rhode Island and its potential impacts on vulnerable coastal communities.

Previous Projects

Research Planning Projects

Equitable Coastal Access and Climate Change

 

 

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Sustained and Equitable Access to Rhode Island’s Coast in a Changing Climate (SEA-C)

Principal Investigator (PI):
Nathan Vinhaterio, University of Rhode Island Coastal Institute

Co-PIs:
Elin Torell, University of Rhode Island Coastal Institute
Emi Uchida, URI Environmental and Natural Resource Economics
Jesse Reiblich, URI Marine Affairs
Leah Feldman, RI CRMC

Public shoreline access areas lie on the front lines of climate change – the active coastal zone – where storm surge flooding, sea level rise, and stormwater runoff dynamically combine. Researchers from the Coastal Institute will investigate how climate change may lead to the loss of public lands, identify the user groups most likely to be impacted, and establish the local actions needed to minimize climate impacts, especially for underserved communities.

The proposed project will form an interdisciplinary research team and partner with municipal leaders and other stakeholders in Rhode Island to investigate how climate change may lead to the loss of public lands, identify the user groups most likely to be impacted, and establish the local actions needed to minimize climate impacts, especially for underserved communities.

Through a series of pilot studies in Bristol County, RI the project team will (i) develop baseline geospatial data layers that can be used to identify where existing resources may be threatened or lost due to climate change, (ii) quantify human visitation to coastal access sites through (anonymized) cell location records, focus groups, and surveys, and (iii) perform legal research to prioritize areas for public access designation.

Results of the pilot studies will guide the development of a detailed action plan that identifies research needs and positions the SEA-C team to pursue future grant proposals.

Reframing Coastal Fishing Access

 

 

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More than Recreation: Reframing coastal fishing access in RI as a food security issue for maginalized ethnic and racialized communities

Principal Investigator (PI):
Melva Treviño-Peña, URI Marine Affairs

Co-PI(s):
Patrick Baur,  URI Fisheries, Animal, and Veterinary Sciences
Seray Ergene, URI College of Business
Amelia Moore, URI Marine Affairs
Marta Gomez-Chiarri, URI Aquaculture/Fisheries

In recognition of fishing at coastal access points as important within traditional food networks, researchers from the University of Rhode Island have partnered with the Center for Southeast Asians of Rhode Island and the Refugee Dream Center to better understand the usage and barriers for shore fishers from marginalized racial/ethnic groups.

The proposed project will characterize how marginalized ethnic and racialized (MER) communities seek to improve their food security and overall well-being by fishing public coastal spaces in Rhode Island.

By centering the experiences and knowledge of shore fishers from MER groups, researchers hope to gain a deeper understanding of coastal resource utilization, nutritional and cultural services provided by local coastal fisheries, and barriers to coastal access.

Moreover, this project will identify areas of disconnect between government agencies and MER groups, including fishing regulation and licensing, public health advisories, and community knowledge and perceptions of environmental quality and risks.

The results of this study will open new, equitable policy opportunities that strategically reduce barriers to coastal access for MER groups, recognize the contributions of locally-caught fish to local and regional food security, and foster local food system resilience by highlighting underutilized species and markets.

 

Sea Urchin Aquaculture

 

 

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Working towards developing sea urchin aquaculture in Rhode Island: A case study for working towards diversification

Principal Investigator (PI):
Coleen Suckling, URI Fisheries, Animal, and Veterinary Sciences

Co-PI(s):
Emily Diamond, URI Communications/Marine Affairs

Researchers, in partnership with Matunuck Oyster Bar Hatchery and Quonnie Siren Oyster Co., will look at the feasibility of rearing sea urchins to diversify Rhode Island aquaculture, which is primarily focused on oysters and mussels.

Sea urchins are resilient to ocean acidification, have a  low environmental production footprint, are increasingly in demand, and there is emerging interest in the aquaculture industry to grow them.

The project goal of this project is to establish a network that could sustain a regional sea urchin aquaculture industry by initiating production in Rhode Island.

Social and natural scientific approaches will be used to recruit and engage with regulation, aquaculture, consumers and ecosystem management stakeholders in network-building workshops to identify the opportunities, priorities, risks, and challenges for diversification from these broad perspectives.

A case study using a new potential product of sea urchins will contribute to these and comprise of: 1) targeting fishers and divers through surveys, interviews and assisted sampling/dive surveys to find green sea urchin broodstock and; 2) an experimental trial at an oyster farm to determine whether purple sea urchins can be marketable and/or used to reduce shellfish biofouling species.

 

Northeast Sea Grant Consortium
Regional Research

2022-2024

The Northeast Sea Grant programs and partners are sponsoring research to better understand the interactions of offshore renewable energy and communities

The Northeast Sea Grant Consortium, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Wind Energy Technologies Office and Water Power Technologies Office, and NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center, announces a research funding opportunity to improve understanding of offshore renewable energy interactions with fishing and coastal communities to optimize ocean co-use.

This funding opportunity, first announced in March 2021, seeks to catalyze research for the coexistence of marine energy—including wind, current, tidal, and wave energies—with Northeast fishing and coastal communities. The innovative funding partnership applies the Sea Grant model to connect science and tools directly with communities and ocean users. 

The selected projects were collectively awarded over $1.1 million in federal funds, with each project matching 50% in non-federal funds. The two-year projects have roots across the Northeast:

With a focus on advancing community and economic resilience, funded projects aims to catalyze proactive socio-economic and technology research for offshore renewable energy planning in the Northeast.

The selected projects were collectively awarded over $1.1 million in federal funds, with each project matching 50% in non-federal funds. Although the selected two-year projects have roots across the Northeast, 2 of the 11 are lead by researchers at the University of Rhode Island.

Evaluating Messaging, Communication Networks, and Public Engagement on Offshore Wind Development in Southern New England

 

 

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Principal Investigator (PI):
Emily Diamond, University of Rhode Island, South Kingstown, RI

This project will analyze public engagement strategies, messages, networks, and sources used to communicate and engage communities and stakeholders in decision-making for proposed offshore wind projects, and incorporate community perspectives to make recommendations for effective and equitable messaging and strategies.

 

 

Regional Community Attitudes Regarding Procedural and Distributive Justice Dimensions of Southern New England Offshore Wind Development

 

 

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Principal Investigator (PI):
David Bidwell, University of Rhode Island, South Kingstown, RI 

This project will assess community concerns and research questions regarding procedural, distributive, and recognitional justice dimensions of offshore wind projects in southern New England, and work to address barriers within and among communities to ensure equity and well-being for a just energy transition.

IMPACTS

Rhode Island Sea Grant has funded hundreds of projects over the last 50 years that have resulted in hundreds of more peer-review publications that have helped to advance scientific knowledge of Rhode Island’s coast, as well as help guide state policies concerning ecosystem health, coastal resilience, sustainable seafood, and offshore development.

 

“Rhode Island’s coastal habitat and fisheries are an essential part of our culture and economy.  The University of Rhode Island is a national leader in ocean research and conservation, and the Sea Grant program has been a vital partner in carrying out cooperative research and strengthening our coastal communities.” 

Senator Jack Reed (RI)
Ranking member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS), and Related Agencies

 

Search Sea Grant Databases

To find a complete list of our research impacts and accomplishments, visit the National Sea Grant’s website to search by program, year, and topic.

PUBLICATIONS

Rhode Island Sea Grant has funded scientific research relevant to the Narragansett Bay and Rhode Island Sound in service of residents who conserve, enjoy, and make these coastal and marine resources.

The funded projects advance scientific knowledge through the publication of peer-reviewed journal articles. 

Publications prior to 2016 can be accessed through the National Sea Grant Library.

National Sea Grant Library

The NSGL is the digital library and official archive for NOAA’s Sea Grant documents from over 30 programs and projects across the United States and Territories.  

This collection includes a wide variety of subjects including oceanography, marine education, aquaculture, fisheries, aquatic nuisance species, coastal hazards, seafood safety, limnology, coastal zone management, marine recreation, and law. 

RECENT RESEARCH PUBLICATIONS

Sub-monthly prediction of harmful algal blooms based on automated cell imaging
Harmful Algae |  February 2023

Within-region replication of late Holocene relative sea-level change: An example from southern New England, United States
Quaternary Science Reviews January 2023

Emerging harmful algal blooms caused by distinct seasonal assemblages of a toxic diatom
Limnology and Oceanography | October 2022

Do views of offshore wind energy detract? A hedonic price analysis of the Block Island wind farm in Rhode Island
Energy Policy | August 2022

A Decade of Time Series Sampling Reveals Thermal Variation and Shifts in Pseudo-nitzschia Species Composition That Contribute to Harmful Algal Blooms in an Eastern US Estuary
Frontiers in Marine Science July 2022

Detecting population regulation of winter flounder from noisy data
Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences | July 2022

Length, width, shape regularity, and chain structure: time series analysis of phytoplankton morphology from imagery
Limnology and  Oceanography  |   June 2022

The fundamental links between climate change and marine plastic pollution
Science of the Total Environment  | February 2022

Negligible greenhouse gas release from sediments in 0yster habitats
Environmental Science & Technology | October 2021

Beyond Bioextraction: The role of oyster-mediated denitrification in nutrient management
Environmental  Science & Technology October  2021

Nitrogen fixation: A poorly understood process along the freshwater-marine continuum
Limnology and Oceanography October  2021

Spatiotemporal patterns in early life stage winter flounder Pseudopleuronectes americanus highlight phenology changes and habitat dependencies
Marine Ecology Progress Series October  2021

Coastal silicon cycling amplified by oyster aquaculture
Marine Ecology Progress Series | September 2021

A review of how we assess denitrification in oyster habitats and proposed guidelines for future studies
Limnology and Oceanography | August 2021

The fundamental links between climate change and marine plastic pollution
Science of the Total Environment | June 2021

Optimistic with reservations: The impacts of the United States’ first offshore wind farm on the recreational fishing experience
Marine Policy | May 2021

Opportunities and challenges for including oyster-mediated denitrification in nitrogen management plans
Estuaries and Coasts | April 2021

Meta-analysis of oyster impacts on coastal biogeochemistry
Nature Sustainability | November 2020

Seaonsal patterns of benthic-pelagic coupling in oyster habitats
Marine Ecology Progress Series | October 2020

Estimating dredge catch efficiencies for the Northern Quahog (Mercenaria mercenaria) population of Narragansett Bay
Journal of Shellfish Research | August 2020

Abundance and distribution of Atlantic cod in a warming southern New England
Fishery BulletinMay 2020

Northern quahog (Mercenaria mercenaria) larval transport and settlement modeled for a temperate estuary
Limnology and Oceanography August 2019

Sustainability and Tourism: The effect of the United States’ first offshore wind farm on the vacation rental market
Resource and Energy Economics | August 2019

High temperature limits on developmental canalization in the ascidian Ciona intestinalis
Mechanisms of Development | June 2019

Draft Genome Sequence of the Putative Marine Pathogen Thalassobius sp. I31.1
Microbiology Resource Announcements | February 2019