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Marine Sciences Building Dedicated at Avery Point Campus
(Released: 09/19/01)

By Janice Palmer, Office of University Communications

STORRS, Conn. -- During a ceremony on the banks of Long Island Sound, officials of the University of Connecticut today cut a seaweed ribbon dedicating the $24 million Marine Sciences Building. Located on the Avery Point Campus, it serves as the critical foundation for a new initiative to become one of the nation's top coastal marine sciences programs.

"The University of Connecticut has long been the site of excellent work on marine sciences, and this building gives us a facility to match the quality of our instructional and research program," said UConn President Philip E. Austin. He spoke before an audience of about nearly 200 state and local dignitaries, UConn marine sciences faculty and students.

"This building and this campus give us the capacity to build on a very strong foundation and move into the very select company of institutions recognized as leaders in this field," Austin said. "This is part of a transformation made possible by the people of Connecticut through their elected l eaders, and we are grateful for their support," he said.

The Marine Sciences Building was funded by the UCONN 2000 program, a 10-year, $1 billion effort to rebuild, renew and enhance the University's campuses. The 140,000-square foot structure replaces two 1940's era concrete block buildings that had been intended for temporary use by the Coast Guard. "If ever there was a natural linkage between a university and its community, it is the connection between marine sciences and this part of our state. This is a relationship to be cherished, nurtured and expanded, and we are firmly committed to moving in that direction," Austin said.

By embarking on a mission to develop a Center of Excellence in coastal marine sciences, and over the next five years, become one of the top three programs in the nation, UConn is delving into relatively uncharted waters. While most institutions focus their research on either the deep ocean or the land, the intersection of the two has yet to receive as much attention.

"This facility is among the best in the nation for doing comprehensive research in coastal areas," said Robert Whitlatch, head of the program. "It is a seawater, chemical and biology facility all wrapped up in one. Combine that with our research vessel and our location on Long Island Sound - a natural laboratory - and we are uniquely positioned to move forward in new arenas of research, education and outreach."

The coastal zone is an area integral to the economic health of the state, region, and nation and it is where humans have great influence and impact. More than 50 percent of the U.S. population lives within 100 miles of an ocean.

Some of the building's highlights include:

  • Distance learning classroom linking Avery Point to the University's other campuses;
  • Three teaching laboratories, each designed for specific needs in chemistry, biology, and hydro dynamics instruction;
  • Computer classroom - designed specifically for computer based instruction;
  • Eighteen individual faculty laboratories, in addition to four "clean" chemistry labs for precise measurement of heavy metals, organic pollutants and other chemical compounds;
  • Six environmental chambers in which temperature and light can be controlled to mimic specific conditions in Long Island Sound, the Gulf of Maine or most any other body of water;
  • Walk-in research freezer for scientists studying organisms from Antarctic and polar environments in their natural state.

Whitlatch said the new facility is already paying dividends. "We've always believed that having the very best facility can help attract quality faculty and students. And now that the doors to our new building are open, we've attracted an important corporate partner as well."

During a ceremony this morning, Sun Microsystems presented Austin and Whitlatch with a plaque designating the UConn Marine Sciences Program as a Sun Center of Excellence for Oceanography. The company is donating high performance computing equipment valued by Sun at an estimated $2 million.

September 2001 Releases
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