BEAUFORT, N.C. (WNCT)–The Duke Marine Lab in Beaufort will soon have its own research vessel thanks to a private endowment of $11 million.
The vessel opens new vistas of opportunity for research at the Nicholas School of the Environment.
“It will increase the scope of our research in places where we can’t currently conduct it because we don’t have an adequate vessel,” Dr. Andy Read, director of Duke University’s Marine Lab, said. “This gives us more scope both in our teaching and our research missions.”
The lab is envisioning a 65-foot aluminum catamaran vessel that can operate in shallow waters.
The vessel will have a crew of three and be able to support a class of eight to ten students or a group of six to eight researchers.
“We take our students out on the water so they can experience ecosystems firsthand,” Dr. Read said. “This will allow us to get our students offshore more effectively and let them stay out overnight.”
Third-year Ph.D. student Jillian Wisse says the vessel will assist her in the study of man-made noises’ effects on marine life.
“A lot of the species that we study are right on the Continental Shelf,” Wisse said. “What this vessel means for us is instead of spending all this time going on and offshore, we’re actually able to boat out and spend a couple of days on the water.”
Previously the lab operated in only a 50 nautical mile range. This vessel will operate up to 100 nautical miles.
“We will be able to travel to the other side of the Gulf Stream and into the Sargasso Sea,” Dr. Read said. “There are a lot of things going on in the coastal ocean that we would like to be able to work on.”
The $11 million gift will be split to build the vessel, estimated to cost $5 million, with the other $6 million going toward operating costs.
The lab says it’s tailoring the vessel with its research partners in mind and plans to allow them access to it. The lab hopes to have the vessel completed by early 2019.