CORVALLIS, Ore. - Research technicians at Oregon State University and Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California-San Diego have received a $2.1 million grant from the National Science Foundation to create a new program that provides technical support for Arctic research cruises.

As part of the program, OSU and Scripps will supply trained technicians to go aboard the Healy and Polar Star - both United States Coast Guard icebreaker research ships - and provide technical support for projects focusing on fisheries, climate change, marine ecosystems, physical oceanography, whale research and other areas.

The technicians will come from OSU's Marine Technician Group in the College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences, and from Scripps' Shipboard Technical Support department.

"We will be the liaisons between the scientists and the shipboard support team, and work to operate and maintain all of the oceanographic instrumentation," said Daryl Swensen, superintendent of OSU's Marine Technician Group. "Though these are Arctic-bound icebreakers, almost everything on board in terms of instrumentation we've seen before on the Wecoma (an OSU research vessel) or other ships.

"Most of our technicians have worked off Alaska, in the Bering Sea, and other extreme environments," Swensen added, "so it should be familiar in many ways. But it will be exciting to be a part of this polar research program."

OSU has four technicians in the group who will rotate aboard the Coast Guard vessels. The technicians will oversee operation of a variety of instrumentation and equipment, including seafloor coring instruments, bathymetric arrays for seafloor mapping, water sampling and retrieval systems, and ocean sensors that measure everything from dissolved oxygen levels, to phytoplankton productivity.

Research aboard these vessels is broad, researchers say, because so few ships have the capability of journeying into the polar region to conduct studies that are critical to better understanding of climate change and other issues.

"Now more than ever, global policymakers are looking to scientists for accurate information about our polar environments," said Bruce Appelgate, associate director for Ship Operations and Marine Technical Support at Scripps. "By partnering with the outstanding team at Oregon State, we strengthen our ability to insure that scientific observations performed in the Arctic Ocean will be of the highest possible quality."

Swensen said the NSF grant is for three years, with the possibility of renewal.

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Daryl Swensen, 541-737-4622