Rutgers enhances local marine life exploration with new vessel
While many students see the Raritan River as nothing more than a beautiful backdrop to the University, for some biology students, it is an integral part of the Rutgers experience.
The Center for Ocean Observing Leadership (RU COOL), a Rutgers-based research team that devises new approaches to sample marine life, recently acquired a research vessel.
The boat was custom designed by RU COOL faculty in conjunction with Munson Incorporated. It was delivered at the beginning of the fall semester and approved for use by the Coast Guard in late September.
“It is important that we acquire cutting-edge infrastructure that can be used by our classes and can support the research efforts of the New Brunswick community,” said Oscar Schofield, co-founder of RU COOL and a professor in the Department of Marine and Coastal Services.
The Department of Marine and Coastal Services had several reasons for obtaining a boat that is customized for use on the Raritan River.
The river is a unique system that provides a diverse portrait of New Jersey, Schofield said. This includes marshlands, urbanization, industrialization and environmental renewal.
In Schofield's proposal, he said scientific practice and discourse can be difficult to emulate in a classroom, but that exploration prompts students to focus on what they do not know and design research models to understand the processes of interest.
Students gain disciplinary knowledge when they work to solve meaningful problems themselves rather than reviewing historical records, he said.
Previously, students and faculty needed a platform to get outside on the river. The new marine vessel now allows faculty to use the river as a living laboratory for students to explore and expand their research, Schofield said.
“Having a vessel dedicated to these efforts means we can now begin to focus on increasing the functionality by acquiring dedicated instruments and capabilities for the new boat," he said.
The marine vessel extends to students outside of the sciences, according to Schofield’s proposal.
“(The Raritan Basin) can be an academic solution, an interactive field laboratory that enhanced the student experience by linking science, engineering and humanities programs through interdisciplinary classes,” he wrote in the proposal.
The proposal added that many American college and universities are located near rivers or other bodies of water, and Rutgers' prominence could be enhanced by taking initiative in studying local marine life.
The new marine vessel is an integral part of the University Strategic Plan, said Hugh Roarty, a research project manager in the Department of Marine and Coastal Services and director of RU COOL.
The project received funding from the Chancellor’s Office, the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences and the Department of Marine and Coastal Services.
Schofield said he hopes the boat will unite the New Brunswick campuses together.
“For some Rutgers students, the Raritan River is a physical barrier separating campuses experienced primarily through the windows of a bus,” Schofield said.
Bushra Hasan is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore majoring in cell biology and neuroscience. She is a correspondent for The Daily Targum. Follow her on Twitter @bushrafhasan for more.