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May 25, 1998

New ocean research consortium will fuel regional collaborations

By Tim Stephens

The shores of Monterey Bay host one of the largest and most diverse assemblages of ocean-related research, teaching, and policy organizations in the country. Building on a long history of informal collaborations, the higher education and research institutions of the Monterey Bay region have now formalized their ties for ocean-related activities by creating the Monterey Bay Crescent Ocean Research Consortium (MBCORC).

The first member institutions signed a memorandum of understanding in Moss Landing on Wednesday, May 20, establishing a framework and mechanisms for new collaborations and joint activities.

Almost 20 major ocean sciences facilities line the crescent-shaped rim of Monterey Bay. Collectively, they employ some 1,700 people, have an annual budget of more than $138 million, and have expertise comparable to that of other major oceanographic centers such as Woods Hole, San Diego, and Honolulu.

The formation of MBCORC was spearheaded by UCSC, the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) in Moss Landing, and the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) in Monterey. So far, 13 organizations have joined or expressed interest in joining the consortium. They include public and private colleges, universities, and institutes, civilian and military organizations, and state and federal government agencies.

"The formation of this consortium demonstrates a commitment to common goals and progress toward minimizing barriers and maximizing the flow of ideas and resources between institutions. As a result, I foresee a highly productive period of collective planning and activity in the Monterey Bay Crescent," said Chancellor Greenwood.

James Gill, UCSC associate vice chancellor for research, was elected founding chair of the organization, with MBARI President and CEO Marcia McNutt as vice chair.

MBCORC will coordinate joint activities and create new opportunities to undertake large-scale projects. By joining together, member organizations may become eligible for certain funding programs for which no single institution would be competitive on its own. In addition, some member institutions have access to funding sources not frequently used by other members yet not fully exploited due to insufficient personnel, facilities, or partners.

"The consortium is intended to further engage Monterey Bay institutions in order to accomplish marine research and education that cannot be effectively undertaken by one organization alone," said McNutt.

Many consortium members have interacted for decades, often collaborating on major endeavors. One recent example is an innovative project called REINAS--the Real-time Environmental Information Network and Analysis System. Begun in 1992, REINAS gathers data on the Monterey Bay coastal environment from an extensive network of remote sensors, stores it in a distributed database, and uses powerful graphics techniques to display the information. REINAS has been funded by the Office of Naval Research and involves MBARI, the NPS Meteorology Department, and UCSC's Jack Baskin School of Engineering.

Other ongoing joint projects include marine biodiversity studies of Monterey Bay involving UCSC, MBARI, and California State University's Moss Landing Marine Laboratories, and various marine geology investigations involving researchers at UCSC, MBARI, and NPS.

"This agreement establishes an important framework to support collaboration among our faculty, research staffs, and students. Our future joint programs will help address critical national needs and will advance the area's reputation as a world leader in oceanographic research, education, and public outreach," said NPS Provost Richard Elster.

Joint educational opportunities are expected to include the movement of students between member institutions, joint faculty appointments, distance learning programs, and sharing of library resources. The consortium will emphasize the needs of graduate and professionally oriented undergraduate education, including teacher training.

There may also be coordination of technology-transfer activities, broader access to specialized facilities, and support of a regional technology business incubator.

"Bringing these dynamic institutions together will allow them to maximize their research potential and will foster diverse collaborations in ocean science," said Congressman Sam Farr, who has been instrumental in facilitating regional collaborations.

Institutions that have joined or are invited to join MBCORC include:

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