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University of Washington institute to get as much as $100 million to study atmosphere, ocean

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has selected the University of Washington as a key partner for expanded, in-depth study of some of the most pressing environmental challenges involving the oceans and the atmosphere.

The Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and Ocean, part of the UW's new College of the Environment, potentially will receive $100 million, as much as $20 million per year for five years, with an option to extend the partnership for another five years.

The joint institute is among the largest of 18 NOAA-funded cooperative institutes nationwide. The award, the result of a secret competitive process, extends a partnership that has been in place since 1977 and supports 120 UW science and staff positions in Seattle, as well as associated costs that include instrument development and time on research vessels around the world.

The region stands to benefit from the continued strong partnership between the UW and NOAA's marine, fisheries and environmental laboratories, said Dennis Hartmann, interim dean of the College of the Environment.

"The partnership provides benefits to the region, both in terms of jobs and in the expertise we bring to our critical issues," Hartmann said. "We will build on our long history of cooperation to provide excellent training and research regarding our atmospheric and marine environments, and their risks and resources."

The research partnership will focus on 10 core areas critically important to the long-term health of the planet, said Thomas Ackerman, director of the joint institute. Those areas are climate and its impacts; polar regions; atmospheric particles called aerosols; environmental chemistry; ocean acidification; geological and other processes that occur on the seafloor; marine ecosystems; protecting and restoring marine resources; tsunami observations and modeling; and ocean and coastal observations.

Two of those areas ocean acidification and protecting and restoring marine resources are new focal points for the institute, but they reflect work already going on at the UW and issues to which NOAA is devoting more attention, Ackerman said. He added that the ongoing partnership with NOAA helps extend the institute's history of environmental research in the public interest.

"We need to be more deeply engaged in the issues of Puget Sound, such as marine areas where there is no oxygen or low oxygen, and we need to work more closely with the marine reserves out in the north Pacific," he said.

"This new award will expand our ability to carry out research on issues of vital importance to the citizens of the Pacific Northwest and the nation."


Contact: Vince Stricherz
University of Washington

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