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Marine and Environmental Sciences Research Projects

Research Projects

Marine and Environmental Sciences

Marine and Environmental Sciences (MES) majors have the opportunity to participate in cadet research projects where they work in small groups with faculty in areas of the professor's expertise. Independent research allows MES students to explore a topic of particular interest in greater depth, while gaining the project-management and problem-solving skills that are key to the scientific method.

Independent research is carried out through two elective courses – a one-credit projects course that prepares students for the three-credit research course. In the projects course, students conduct a thorough literature search, identify the appropriate methodology and then write a research proposal for their three-credit, semester-long research course. Students are able to present their research at Cadet Research Day as well as at regional and national conferences.

Cadet Research Opportunities

MES majors are able to extend their learning beyond the classroom through a wide range of research opportunities. Recent research studies have included:

Work with PROF Vlietstra and PROF Morgan on research into environmental changes in the Arctic Ocean and shifting patterns in maritime traffic. This project involves geospatial analysis (ArcGIS) of satellite-based ship tracking data (S-AIS) from the Bering, Chukchi, and Beaufort Seas, which include the Bering Strait and Northwest Passage. Opportunities are also available to link shipping research to spatial trends in ocean properties, satellite capabilities, sea ice, fish populations, commercial fishing activity, and Arctic oil exploration. This project involves direct collaborations with USCG District 17 (Juneau, Alaska) and National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency.

Work with PROF Allen on solar or planetary research. Students can work with real data from a host of satellites and ground-based observatories and/or do theoretical modeling. Topics include the Sun's magnetic field and its associated explosive events, such as flares and coronal mass ejections, and their effect on Earth (space weather); the heating and acceleration of the solar wind; and the formation and shear of turbulent zonal winds in the gaseous outer planets.

Work with PROF Gray on the C. elegans nematode worm model, looking at the mechanism of action of pro-oxidant injury. Each fall, Biochemistry Lab will introduce students to this project which they may choose to continue in future semesters as independent work.

Work with PROF Gray on characterizing the degradation of biodiesel by environmental fungi. Techniques in Microbiology, Biochemistry, and Toxicology will be applied to this work.

Work with PROF Mrakovcich on conservation and management of marine species and ecosystems. Research may include a field component, including collaboration with the Mystic Aquarium. Types of projects: fish biology, marine mammal studies, human impacts to marine protected species and protected habitats, aquaculture, sustainable seafood consumption, fishing vessel safety, fisheries law enforcement, adaptive co-management and ecosystem management.

Work with LT Persun and LT Loman, in partnership with Notre Dame and Chemists Without Boarders, to identify potential counterfeit pharmaceuticals sourced from developing countries. High Performance Liquid Chromatography and an external standard are used to quantify levels of active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) compared to the stated API. Opportunity exists to assist with continued screening of pharmaceutical samples. Future study includes characterization of contaminants contained within identified suspect pharmaceuticals.

Join CDR Brown with doing research to develop treatments for understudied diseases in third world countries. Through the use of In Silico screening techniques you will identify possible lead compounds and synthesize them for biological testing to determine their usefulness for future development.

Work with PROF Mrakovcich on biology, ecology, and conservation of fishes, shellfishes, and other aquatic resources.

Work with PROF Morgan on geospatial intelligence applications related to the Coast Guard Mission, including illegal fishing activities, Maritime Domain awareness, border security, and more. Potential collaboration partners include USCG District 1 and DHS National Operations Center

Work with researchers at the Mystic Aquarium on developing way of measuring stress in captive and wild populations of marine mammals. The goal is to establish baseline levels of stress hormones in blood and saliva samples in captive marine mammal populations in order to develop methods of measuring the health of wild populations. This research involves extensive lab work and traveling to the Aquarium at least once per week POC: PROF Karina Mrakovcich.

CDR Brown is searching for greener chemical reactions which will allow for more efficient chemical synthetic schemes. Be part of the team that develops these new reactions allowing us to selectively engineer chemical compounds on the molecular level.

Work with PROF Bergondo and the Ocean Exploration Trust (OET) to analyze data collected from the Exploration Vessel (E/V) Nautilus during the 2015 exploration season in the Pacific Ocean.

Learn advanced analysis techniques in MATLAB and use them to determine the chemical changes that are occurring in oil left from the Exxon Valdez and Deepwater Horizon disasters. Apply these same techniques to further our ability to fingerprint these samples. Work with CAPT Hall, PROF Frysinger, and our collaborators from Bigelow Laboratory and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute.

The Coast Guard Academy Plasma Lab (CGAPL) offers students and faculty the opportunity to develop and explore problem posed, hands-on exploration of scientific problems, challenging its members to apply principles of electricity and magnetism, fluids, nuclear physics, and optics in cutting edge experimental research. Research into Helicon plasmas, discharge plasmas, high temperature and density diagnostic development, plasma wastewater treatment, plus advancements in the storage, and use of sustainable green energy in plasmas are currently underway. New research partners will be accepted on a case by case basis.

Application of subsurface technologies and corrosion models to survey and evaluate nearshore legacy structures" Work within a multidisciplinary research group to advance non-invasive methods to estimate corrosion rates of vessels identified in NOAA's Remediation of Underwater Legacy Environmental Threats (RULET) project. This project includes laboratory research, field imaging/sample collection, and historical/policy components, as well as an opportunity to engage with collaborators from the National Park Service, University of Nebraska, as well as NOAA and USCG directorates. POC: CAPT Richard Sanders

This project works on developing a low-cost surface drifting buoy for use in search and rescue operations. Build, design, and test variations of surface drifting buoys. Field work is based off R/V Greeley at USCGA, as well as opportunities to work with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute and University of Hawaii in Martha's Vineyard, Nantucket, and Narraganset. POC: CDR Victoria Futch

Work with PROF Mrakovcich and PROF Vlietstra on fishes of the Thames River. Research topics may include questions involving finfish diversity, population abundance and age structure, spatial distribution, and estuarine fish ecology. Projects could involve beach seining and/or sampling the Thames River with bottom trawl and fisheries sonar aboard the MES research vessel. Researchers will have access to a long-term data set.

Work with PROF Bergondo to better understand the physical and/or chemical/biological processes occurring in the Thames River. Use in situ instruments to measure currents, temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen, chlorophyll, and color dissolved organic matter (DOC) and determine what environmental factors influence the variability in these parameters. Requires fieldwork.

Work with PROF Stutzman to generate and characterize plasmas and their effectiveness in neutralizing contaminants in water samples. Potential applications are in generating safe drinking water for regions otherwise unserved and in the treatment of ballast water microbes. Students will design and construct the plasma and diagnostic equipment as well as use off-the-shelf spectrometers and power delivery systems.