With a modern research vessel, shore-side facilities and improved educational programs, the Marine Sciences Research Center (MSRC) will consolidate its position as one of the top-ranked oceanography institutions in the nation. These recommendations were made in the Five Year Strategic Plan for the MSRC, released in September.

Ranked eighth in the recent National Research Council survey of graduate programs in oceanography, MSRC is also the premier coastal research institution in the country.

The Five Year Strategic Plan recognizes the maturity and breadth achieved over the past 25 years and strongly recommends measures to strengthen the Center’s undergraduate programs, provide modern waterfront and research vessel facilities, and reach out to the business, citizen and other academic communities on Long Island.

This is not the first time the MSRC has reviewed its own programs and planned for its future. “Periodically we have done this throughout the history of the MSRC,” said Dean and Director Kirk Cochran. “Any organization needs to constantly reassess its mission, its status, and where it wants to be. Even though budgetary uncertainties make planning difficult, it is imperative that goals be defined,” Cochran said. He added that despite the university’s budget constraints, he hopes the center will receive the support it needs to retain its high ranking.

The plan therefore stresses the need for updated facilities to meet the MSRC’s educational, research and outreach needs: “The Center is housed in four buildings and a portion of two others on the south campus but has never had a new building and the equipment that accompanies it. Other MSRC facilities, such as our research vessel, are aging and must be replaced. Our development of additional undergraduate programs that emphasize field courses is limited by lack of teaching laboratories and shore based facilities. [This lack] is also a limitation on increased public outreach.”

The strategic plan calls for the development of a “highly visible, shore-side marine science research and education facility that will become the symbol of the University at Stony Brook’s commitment to education, research and service in the public interest for the State of New York and the local community.”

In addition the plan urges replacement of the Center’s 25-year old research vessel, the R/V ONRUST, with a modern vessel, capable of “extended cruises with large multidisciplinary teams of scientists using a wide variety of computer-linked electronic remote sensing and sample retrieval systems.”

Other recommendations include:

  • Improving analytical facilities and logistic support for research.
  • Improving MSRC’s Marine and Atmospheric Science Information Center (MASIC).
  • Developing a lecture hall at MSRC.
  • Developing additional classroom and teaching laboratories.

In emphasizing the Center’s multidisciplinary programs for undergraduates, one of the plan’s primary objectives is a major in environmental studies. According to the plan, “this program will teach undergraduates that multiple, often conflicting, perspectives must be brought to bear to solve environmental problems and will give them the necessary background to analyze such problems.”

The MSRC foresees an enrollment of some 200 residential students and 100 commuting students in the environmental sciences major. The program is being developed in cooperation with the Environmental Studies/Living Learning Center at Gershwin College along with the Departments of Economics, Political Science, Social Science, Earth and Space Science, Ecology and Evolution, Engineering and Applied Science.

The MSRC will also develop a marine science summer semester offering both field and classroom study by the summer of 1998.

  • In other areas of undergraduate study, the center will:
  • Create new opportunities for undergraduate research.
  • Strengthen and promote the existing Atmosphere and Ocean Sciences major.
  • Provide additional resources for general education in environmental issues on campus.
  • Expand educational programs within the State University of New York system.

The MSRC faces a wide range of challenges to meet the educational and technological demands of the 21st century. Maintaining its pre-eminence in coastal research will require a continued commitment to the traditional of excellence established in the Center’s first 25 years.

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