New center at USF College of Marine Science will help explore ocean floors

The University of South Florida’s College of Marine Science, based in St. Petersburg, has received a $9 million federal grant to launch a Center for Ocean Mapping and Innovation.

The center will create maps of the seafloor and develop more efficient technologies — including underwater robots and satellites, for ocean and coastal zone mapping — that can be used to model coastal storm events, sea level rise and safe navigation in ports. The center also will develop rapid response tools that can be used in coastal disasters, according to its new website.

The grant by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, known as NOAA, will be administered over five years.

The center will be home to eight marine science faculty and offer training modules, certificate programs, graduate courses and seminars for students and professionals. Steve Murawski, USF professor and Downtown Partnership-Peter Betzer Endowed Chair of Oceanography, will serve as director.

Tom Frazer, dean of the College of Marine Science, said at a St. Petersburg Campus Board meeting on Thursday that the partnership builds on existing relationships that tie the academic hub at the university with private and public sectors, including the Fish and Wildlife Research Institute and United States Geological Survey.

“St. Pete is really a hub for all things marine sciences,” Frazer said.

In a release from the university, Frazer said most of the world’s oceans are yet to be adequately mapped.

“The mapping products generated from this collaborative effort will help us to better understand important ocean processes and sustainably manage the rich array of natural resources found in the gulf,” he said.

Rear Admiral Shepard M. Smith, director of NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey, said in the release that work from the partnership will be used to inform decisions about resource conservation and national security.

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