Celebrating 50 Years of Making Scientific Research Count at Stony Brook University!

SoMAS Interim Dean Larry Swanson

During this biennial period, 2016/2017, the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences (SoMAS) continued to grow and evolve as a comprehensive coastal environmental research and educational program when Stony Brook University’s Sustainability Studies Program officially joined SoMAS.  We celebrated our 50th anniversary from our beginnings as the Marine Sciences Research Center (MSRC) onward.  We review our accomplishments but also look to the future with a broadened goal of understanding the functioning and interactions of the marine, terrestrial, atmospheric environments, the life systems they support and how they may be sustained for future generations.

The approximately 70 SoMAS faculty are established and internationally known as leaders in the atmospheric and marine sciences as well as in the burgeoning field of sustainability studies.  Our junior faculty are being recognized in their respective fields as well and we are delighted that two received the CAREER Award from the National Science Foundation in 2017.  SoMAS is also now home to four endowed professorships.   We are the State University of New York’s center for marine and atmospheric research, education, and public service and are committed to meeting our responsibilities by applying our capabilities and achieving a resilient and sustainable environment.

As Sustainability Studies has integrated within SoMAS, we have concentrated the various majors and bolstered the STEM requirements throughout to enhance programmatic rigor.  Sustainability Studies faculty are actively contributing to the more traditional SoMAS research initiatives and are becoming involved with graduate education as well.  Heidi Hutner stepped down as Director of Sustainability Studies in December 2017 after leading the integration with SoMAS.  Kate Aubrecht has graciously undertaken the duties of Director.

Working jointly with Brookhaven National Laboratory, SoMAS is now operating a new radar observatory.  The systems consist of a fixed site, multi-frequency, multi-sensor facility for snow/weather and cloud studies, and a mobile wind and turbulence tracer.  These are unique for a university and present outstanding research and educational capabilities and opportunities.

Our Flax Pond Marine Laboratory (one of two flowing seawater laboratories) is an integral part of the State’s shellfish restoration program aimed at improving coastal water quality as well as the resource itself.  As such, the lab is being expanded at the behest of Governor Andrew Cuomo to accommodate a clam nursery/hatchery facility that will raise some 25 million shellfish per year.

The R/V Seawolf, our open ocean research vessel, has just been reconfigured for several New York research and monitoring initiatives including ocean acidification and shellfish monitoring.  Seven other vessels are at the ready for nearshore research and educational endeavors.

While SoMAS has routinely been engaged with the public, what better way to encourage young people to enter the marine and atmospheric fields than through the annual Bay Scallop Bowl, a New York State-wide competition for high school students to showcase their environmental knowledge.  As part of the National Ocean Science competition, SoMAS hosted our 15th and 16th events during this reporting period.

SoMAS was able to weather the imposed 2017 university-wide budget cuts relatively unscathed as a result of the school’s historic conservative budgeting policies.  Hopefully, the university budget picture will not be as dire this coming year.

The federal government’s philosophical changes toward the environment, initiated midway through this biennial period, emphasize the relevance and importance of the SoMAS research, educational and outreach missions, hence the theme of our 50th Anniversary, “The Risk of Saying Nothing.”  Indeed, these times provide interesting challenges and opportunities for the school—new approaches, broadened visions, and improved communications.  It is an exciting and critical time for our youth to engage in environmental sciences and sustainability issues as a career.  And, SoMAS students will be well-positioned to achieve a solid foundation in these academic endeavors, as we remain one of the most highly rated Ph.D. programs in the country according to the last National Research Council rankings.

Our excellent faculty, staff and student body have achieved many important and significant successes during the last two years.  Please peruse this report to see what we have been up to.

Dr. Larry Swanson, Interim Dean and Director
School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences / Stony Brook University / Stony Brook, NY 11794-5000 
Phone: 631-632-8781 / Fax: 631-632-8915 / Email:

This report is divided into several sections, some sections highlight a different aspect of the activities at SoMAS for 2016-2017, while others discuss accomplishments during our 50 years here at Stony Brook University.  A brief description of each section is below:


This report was compiled by Mark Lang

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