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Program Development Study Groups

The S.C. Sea Grant Consortium (Consortium) funds students and their faculty mentors to join forces with Sea Grant Program Specialists to form research-student-specialist Study Groups. These groups conduct and complete integrated research and extension projects based on identified priorities.

Introduction and Background

As coastal populations continue to grow, more and more people are competing for the use of the coast’s natural resources. Today, the state’s challenge is to conserve those resources while accommodating population growth, economic development, environmental quality, and the heritage and quality of life for all of the residents of South Carolina. This is a crucial challenge because the state’s abundant natural resources contribute much more than just scenic mountain views and beach vistas.

A 2017 Clemson University study published in Natural Resources documented that the state’s diverse natural resource sectors, including commercial fishing, recreational fishing, hunting, wildlife viewing, mining, forestry, boating, and coastal tourism contributed over $33 billion in economic activity and 218,719 jobs to the state’s economy in 2016. Additionally, South Carolina’s natural resources provide a variety of ecosystem-service benefits not typically captured in markets. Wetlands, oyster reefs, and other coastal habitats enhance water quality, mitigate erosion, and act as energy-absorbing buffers during storm events, while also providing opportunities to commercially and recreationally harvest fish and shellfish, activities with a rich cultural connection in the state.

A 2008 study by Costanza et al. and published in AMBIO: A Journal of the Human Environment, found that wetlands in South Carolina provide storm protection services valued at $4,615 per hectare per year. When inflation-adjusted to 2018 dollars and multiplied by the area of wetlands in South Carolina, wetlands are found to provide over $4.12 billion per year in storm protection benefits.

The S.C. Sea Grant Consortium’s mission is to provide science-based information about the practical use and conservation of coastal and marine resources to residents, communities, and businesses in order to foster a sustainable economy and environment for the state of South Carolina. The Consortium serves to support, improve, and share research, education, training, and advisory services in fields related to ocean and coastal resources. Our long-term goal is to provide science and technical assistance that can guide businesses and other organizations to be sustainable within the coastal ecosystem and more resilient to climate and weather impacts (such as flooding from coastal storms and sea level rise), as well as economic downturns and man-made disasters. These program priorities fall within the context of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Sea Grant College Program (NSGCP) Strategic Plan and the Consortium’s current Strategic Plan.

Strength in Partnerships – Program Description

The Consortium uses novel approaches that examine ways to integrate science, outreach, management, and policy initiatives, focusing on issues related to the use, management, and conservation of the state’s coastal and marine resources. When funding is available and when there is a specific need for research and extension projects to enhance Consortium activities, proposals related to specific topics are invited from faculty/graduate/undergraduate student teams though a competitive proposal and internal review process. This will be announced through the publication of New Directed Study Group Guidelines.

The faculty member and student(s) will form a Study Group with a Consortium Program Specialist to focus on the specific science and outreach needs of the Consortium to address the needs of our constituents. Applicants will be faculty/student teams from Consortium member institutions. Students will be recruited to partner with the faculty member and will engage a Consortium Program Specialist as a member of the Study Group before submitting their proposal. We encourage that projects become part of the student’s thesis, dissertation, honors thesis, or capstone paper, or serve as an earned-credit internship.

Study Group projects address the needs for research and extension that the Consortium has determined to be a priority at the time. Faculty at the Consortium’s partner institutions will provide research guidance and expertise for students conducting the work, while the Consortium’s program specialists will serve to guide the overall projects, stakeholder engagement, and the application of results. The Consortium considers only those efforts that address a listed priority in the Directed New Study Group Guidelines when those are released.

Informal and formal engagement of targeted stakeholders (e.g., resource management entities, local communities, business and industry, etc.) in proposals and in the projects, if funded, is strongly encouraged. Project results should provide environmental, economic, and/or social benefits to an identified and engaged target constituency. In addition, principal investigators or students are encouraged to publish their findings in appropriate journals. Consortium staff can assist Study Groups in suggesting potential linkages with cooperators and stakeholders in the public and private sectors.

Usually Study Group projects range from 6 to 18 months. The proposals are reviewed internally, and projects that are technically proficient and meet the needs of the Consortium will be reviewed for selection.

Preparation and Submission of Study Group Proposals

Study Group proposals should be detailed but not exceed 14 pages in total as detailed in the Outline for Study Group Proposals, and must include the faculty, affiliation, and interest in the project, and the graduate or undergraduate student member(s) and their interest and qualifications; a discussion of the proposed approach to the project; and a budget form and budget justification. Budget should be used to support student time, travel, and materials. Indirect costs (IDCs) are not allowable as the projects are supported by Sea Grant funding, but they can be used to meet the match requirement. The budget must include a 50% match in time, supplies, salaries, or IDCs or a combination of some or all.

Questions and discussion about individual projects should be addressed to the collaborating Consortium Program Specialist.

Available Funding

Study Group projects range in funding depending on the specific needs of the Consortium and the time needed to conduct the work. Funds are available at irregular intervals and dependent on grant funding.

Statement of Expected Outcomes

The Consortium requires prospective principal investigators to explicitly list the expected outcomes to be achieved and potential practical implications and applications of the proposed work to the economy, environment, and society. We are particularly interested in cost savings, revenue generation, jobs created, businesses supported, new products/tools developed, workforce development results, policy or management changes, and similar outcomes.

Diversity and Inclusiveness

The Consortium is committed to building inclusive research, extension, communication, and education programs that serve people with unique backgrounds, circumstances, needs, perspectives, and ways of thinking. We encourage applicants from minority backgrounds to apply for these competitive research opportunities. Such outcomes include, but are not limited to:

  • Full participation of women, persons with disabilities, and underrepresented minorities in natural and social science, technology, engineering, and mathematics,
  • Increased public scientific literacy of and public engagement with these disciplines,
  • Improved well-being of individuals in society, and
  • Increased partnerships between academia, industry, and others.

Data Sharing Plan

All environmental data and information collected and/or created under NOAA grants and cooperative agreements must be made visible, accessible, and independently understandable to general users, free of charge or at minimal cost, and in a timely manner (typically no later than two years after the data are collected or created), except where limited by law, regulation, policy, or by security requirements.

This requirement has two parts: (1) environmental data generated by a research project must be made available after a reasonable period of exclusive use, and (2) the grant proposal must describe the plan to make the data available. To comply with this requirement, prospective Study Group proposers must include a Data Sharing and Management Plan explaining how data and metadata will be offered and shared. Funds may be budgeted in the Study Group proposal for this task. Investigators should work with Consortium Program Specialists to complete these.

Electronic Submission of Study Group Proposals

The Consortium requires electronic submission of proposals. Proposals must be electronically submitted as Word and Excel documents. The Consortium also requests that a complete version of the Full Proposal be submitted as a PDF file to with the subject line of the specific new project guidelines.

Indirect Costs on Sea Grant-funded Projects  

In the spirit of cooperation among Consortium member institutions, and in order to get the maximum benefit from Sea Grant funds available for its programs, it is the long-standing policy of the Consortium Board of Directors not to use Sea Grant funds to pay indirect costs to its member institutions; however, indirect costs may be used to satisfy the National Sea Grant College Program’s 50% matching fund requirement.

New Directed Study Group Guidelines

Rapid Response to Seafood Supply Chain Vulnerabilities by Assessing Direct Marketing Options in South Carolina


If you need assistance or require further information please contact the following individuals:

Information on the Competition

Dr. Susan Lovelace, Assistant Director for Development and Extension
O: 843-953-2075

Information on Budgets and Justifications

Ryan Bradley, Assistant Director for Administration
O: 843-953-2078