It takes a certain kind of abstract understanding to realize that in the ocean, everything is connected. From water columns and currents to geological formations to even marine life itself, the ocean is seemingly one large interconnected ecosystem. This idea of aggregate relation within the sea is found at the core of the curriculum at the University of New Hampshire new School of Marine Science and Ocean Engineering. At the school, graduate students are granted the opportunity to explore modern challenges ranging from oil spill mitigation to rising sea levels to the decline in fishing stocks. As oceanographer and director of the new program Larry Mayer stated, “The ocean is a multidisciplinary space, so the way we study it must be as well.”
The school, which was launched in September, will integrate the existing marine-related research, graduate study, and outreach activities under one roof, drawing on faculty from each college with the university for assistance. In an attempt to become a top ranked institution in the marine biology field, the program will offer doctoral and graduate programs in everything from ocean engineering to oceanography to of course marine biology. With a practical curriculum that relates to contemporary issues, graduates of the program will look to take on important subjects such as coastal planning and adaptation to climate change. As Mayer further explained, “The kind of thorny problems we are grappling with transcend single-discipline answers. We need to provide marine knowledge that brings together biology, chemistry, engineering, economics, policy, and other disciplines with oceanography to solve them.”
Comprising nearly 25% of the university’s annual research portfolio, marine-related research brings UNH around $25 million a year. With 70 faculty members across 14 departments within various colleges, the program is really a team effort to teach marine and ocean-engineering courses to hundreds of students at a time. The hope is that UNH is finally recognized for its work in the marine biology field as Mayer clarified, “Though we are a top-10 program for marine science and ocean engineering by a variety of metrics, we haven’t, to this point, been recognized as a marine school. By providing a focal point for all our marine efforts here, we will be better able to promote our work to the outside world.”
In working with local fishermen and the community at large, UNH hopes to put forth a more public front and invite more people to get involved. What’s next you ask? The university is likely to develop a joint program with the UNH Carsey Institute in order to offer a degree in marine policy. Regardless of what future programs might hold, the potential for research within this newly developed program at UNH offers hope in a field that has increasingly become more relevant to the public with each passing day.