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UConn launches new research vessel

School’s scientists will use 36-foot welded aluminum boat to study conditions in Long Island Sound

School’s scientists will use 36-foot welded aluminum boat to study conditions in Long Island Sound

The University of Connecticut had reason to celebrate in June. The school held a commissioning ceremony at its Avery Point campus in Groton, Conn., for its new research vessel, the Lowell Weicker, named in honor of the former U.S. Senator and Connecticut governor.

“This vessel will have an important place in UConn’s marine sciences’ research and education activities in Long Island Sound,” says Ann Bucklin, head of the university’s Department of Marine Sciences and director of the Marine Sciences and Technology Center.

At 36 feet LOA and a 13-foot beam the school says the Lowell Weicker is equipped with laboratory space and research equipment that includes a hydraulic A-frame and winch, and a 19-foot transducer well that can accommodate current meters and other equipment. “We plan to continue to outfit the vessel with research/science equipment over the next year as we learn specifically how the vessel will be used and what equipment is needed,” says Joseph T. Cabaniss, program director of the Department of Marine Sciences.

The primary intention for the Lowell Weicker is to support UConn scientists with the Long Island Sound Integrated Coastal Observing System, which monitors the coastal environment and models plans to manage it. “[The vessel] is a perfect platform for graduate student research: relatively inexpensive and designed to be used ‘opportunistically’ for day trips rather than for long cruises,” Bucklin explains. The vessel will allow rapid-response and regular sampling at the LISICOS buoys and sampling sites throughout Long Island Sound.”

LISCIOS (Long Island Sound Integrated Coastal Observing System) scientists monitor eight electronically modified buoys deployed at various locations along the Thames River, the university says. Real-time data collected from the buoys are relayed to the Department of Marine Services at Avery Point. The data is then analyzed and reported at 15-minute intervals on a Web site, . Variables such as wind speed, currents, temperature, and salinity and oxygen concentration are monitored.

Scientists, according to the school, are particularly interested in monitoring a condition called hypoxia, or low oxygen levels in the water, which affects fish and other marine wildlife. The scientists analyze data and attempt to create models that can predict low oxygen conditions and be used in managing the ecosystem.

The Lowell Weicker joins UConn’s flagship research vessel the 76-foot Connecticut as well as a fleet of smaller vessels. The vessel was constructed using a $150,000 grant from the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration, and an additional $100,000 provided by the university, Bucklin says. It was named by UConn Board of Trustees member Richard Treibick because of Weicker’s “remarkable contributions to the growth and development of marine sciences at UConn,” says Bucklin.