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Sea Grant Celebrates 50-year Anniversary

Mar 24, 2016 | News

An inspiration popped into the bright mind of oceanographer Athel­stan Spilhaus in 1963, and he shared it just a few hours later at the 93rd meeting of the American Fisheries Society. Ocean and coastal researchers, he said, should come up with their own version of the land grant college model that had been so successful in taking academic-based agricultural research from colleges into the fields.

Thus began an effort that bore fruit three years later when Congress passed the National Sea Grant College Act, designed to unite the academic power of the nation’s universities with public and private sector partners. Fifty years later, the 33 Sea Grant programs support work in Puerto Rico, Guam, and every state that has an ocean or Great Lakes coastline.

The 33 programs, including the S.C. Sea Grant Consortium, work together and with their partners to encourage productive and sustainable use of coastal and marine resources. They not only perform research on topics such as fisheries management and land use but also transform the results into real-world applications through educational programs that range from grade-school curriculum materials to training sessions for coastal planners and the marine industry.

Spilhaus, who passed away in 1998, was a prolific inventor of everything from children’s toys to complex oceanographic measurement equipment. But none of those have had, or will continue to have, the impact of his notion that led to the Sea Grant College Program.