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Grant to support training in oceans, human health

by Cindy Weiss - December 3, 2007

A new $500,000 grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), one of only four in the country, will enable UConn and collaborating partners to train graduate students and post-doctoral fellows in a rapidly emerging field, oceans and human health.

The partnership, led by J. Evan Ward, associate professor of marine sciences in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, will give doctoral and post-doctoral researchers broad training in oceanography and marine biology.

It will also give them specific training in three areas that represent critical problems in the coastal zone: Harmful algal blooms, marine diseases and pathogens, and emerging pollutants, such as nanoparticles.

These can harm fish, shellfish, and marine mammals, and in turn, human populations that depend on them for food, revenue, and employment.

The goal is to train the next generation of scientists to work in the field of oceans and human health.

The grant will allow UConn to leverage future funding for more research in oceans and human health, a growing field.

“We’ve been recognized as a program to train future scientists, and that will open doors,” says Ward.

It also will further collaboration with Mystic Aquarium and the National Marine Fisheries Service. Participating partners in the grant include four UConn centers and seven departments; Connecticut Sea Grant and the National Undersea Research Center, two NOAA-supported programs at UConn; and the New England Aquarium in Boston.

Co-principal investigators include Hans Dam, professor of marine sciences; Sylvain De Guise, associate professor of pathobiology and director of Connecticut Sea Grant; Salvatore Frasca, associate professor of pathobiology; Tracy Romano of the Mystic Aquarium and Institute for Exploration; and Gary Wikfors of the National Marine Fisheries Service in Milford.

“The network we are establishing involves scientists with expertise in such topics as molecular biology, shellfish physiology and ecology, immunology, fish ecology, environmental science, physical oceanography, and marine-mammal biology,” Ward says.

The traineeship program also covers public awareness and outreach, public health, and environmental health.

It will allow an exchange of ideas and research among scientists who often do not have the opportunity to collaborate, he says.

The training will be offered to Ph.D.-level graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, starting in spring 2008.

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