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|Dr. Robert Ballard's New Inner Space Center Opens|
MYSTIC, Conn. (June 1, 2009) – In a ceremony at its Narragansett Bay Campus today, the University of Rhode Island opened the $15 million Ocean Science and Exploration Center and the Pell Marine Science Library.
These state-of-the-art facilities that will enable the University to remain one of the nation’s most prestigious centers of oceanographic research, exploration and education. The facility includes Institute for Exploration Founder and President Dr. Robert Ballard’s new Inner Space Center.
“This exciting building integrates key resources of the Graduate School of Oceanography to strengthen its position as a global leader in the study of the world’s oceans,” said URI President Robert L. Carothers. “It will provide a focus for new marine science activities and become a showcase for oceanographic research and discovery.”
The project was funded by $14 million in state bonds approved by Rhode Island voters in the 2004 election and $1.5 million in federal monies secured by the state’s Congressional delegation.
The centerpiece of the 41,000 square-foot facility is the Inner Space Center, which will use a satellite system and Internet2 to make it possible for scientists and students at URI and around the world to participate in deep-sea research expeditions without leaving land. The center will enable scientists ashore to “step aboard” research ships around the world as they use advanced undersea vehicles developed by the Office of Naval Research and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to explore uncharted regions of the world. Those ships include URI's research vessel Endeavor, NOAA’s Okeanos Explorer and the Ocean Exploration Trust's Nautilus.
“This new building is the culmination of a dream I first had 28 years ago to use ‘telepresence’ technology to not only make it possible for scientists around the world to participate in live undersea exploration, but also to use the excitement of exploration to motivate the next generation of explorers to prepare them for the continuation of this adventure,” said Dr. Robert Ballard, URI professor of oceanography, director of the Institute for Archaeological Oceanography and president of the Institute for Exploration at Mystic Aquarium.
The Inner Space Center will also be linked with other research institutions around the country, making it possible for researchers to interact in real time with ships at sea. The center will also be linked to classrooms across the nation, providing students in grades 4 to 8 with unprecedented access to science as it happens through the Immersion Learning™ program, founded by Dr. Ballard and Sea Research President and CEO Dr. Stephen Coan in 2002.
A $1 million state grant provided the Inner Space Center with technology to support live streaming video and educational content to schools throughout Rhode Island. In addition, an in-kind contribution from National Geographic helped equip the Inner Space Center’s television production studio and other facilities to broadcast educational programming around the world. Ballard is an explorer-in-residence with the National Geographic Society.
"With live connections from seafloor to scientists ashore, telepresence adds a whole new dimension to ocean expeditions. And with discoveries at sea viewed live in classrooms from Narragansett to Nagasaki, news rooms in living rooms, telepresence promises to help raise global ocean literacy," said Richard W. Spinrad, NOAA's assistant administrator for oceanic and atmospheric research.
The Ocean Science and Exploration Center also houses office and laboratory space, a central computing facility, administrative offices and a new campus gathering place. Offices for NOAA personnel, the Institute for Exploration and the Ocean Exploration Trust are located in the building.
The top floor of the center houses the expanded Pell Marine Science Library, one of the nation’s most important collections of oceanographic information, including the National Sea Grant Library, the Narragansett Bay Collection and Bibliography, and the administrative record of the North Cape oil spill. Established in 1968, the library’s previous site was at capacity and in need of renovation to protect its collections. The new library provides additional space for materials as well as an electronic classroom, a map room and a wireless computer network.
The architects of the center are Burt, Hill of Boston, while Providence-based Gilbane Building Co. served as general contractor. The building is expected to earn LEED certification (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) from the U.S. Green Building Council for its sustainable design and construction.
About URI’s Graduate School of Oceanography
Mystic Aquarium, Institute for Exploration and Immersion Presents are divisions of Sea Research Foundation, Inc., a private, non-profit, charitable organization incorporated in the State of Connecticut. The mission of Sea Research is to inspire people to care for and protect our ocean planet through education, research and exploration.
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