The University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences (RSMAS) is awarded first year funding of a new five-year cooperative agreement to operate the R/V F. G. Walton Smith in support of NSF funded research in CY 2012. R/V Walton Smith is owned by the University of Miami and is a 96-foot catamaran research vessel which operates as a University-National Oceanographic Laboratory System ship. R/V Walton Smith's prime area of operation is off coastal Florida, both in the Atlantic and in the Gulf of Mexico, and the Bahamas. In CY 2012 the ship will support NSF funded researchers for 38 days at sea, out of a 150-day operating schedule. The primary focus for NSF-funded research in CY 2012 are biological and physical oceanography. R/V Walton Smith adheres to all the UNOLS safety standards and NSF inspections.
Intellectual and Technical Merit R/V F.G Walton Smith is a modern, well-equipped research vessel with an experienced and well-trained crew, and classified as a local class ship under the UNOLS classification. The research being conducted on R/V Walton Smith will contribute to the understanding of important issues in its area of operations. Studies will be conducted on harmful algal blooms, and population dynamics that contribute to these blooms. R/V F.G Walton Smith provides a desirable platform for scuba diving operations for octocoral research and sponge ecosystem studies. The successes of fieldwork by the oceanographic research communities are dependent on having reliable, well-equipped research vessels with capable supporting shore-side infrastructure. It is imperative that the costs be minimized without sacrificing safety or quality. The oceanographic vessels have been able and willing, in general, to provide new technical advances for the oceanographic community when they become widely available. These platforms are essential to advance understanding of ocean processes.
Broader impacts: Ship operations play a vital role at the University of Miamis Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science (RSMAS) with respect to the Schools outreach and education missions. The School is committed to improving scientific and environmental literacy among students and adults, regionally, nationally and internationally. Internships and undergraduate training are offered to numerous students each year. Summer teaching and student training programs are also run each summer. Graduate and undergraduate students from UM, USF, FIT, NOVA, and FIU are routinely taken on the Walton Smith cruises to participate in at-sea oceanographic research. Occasionally one-day cruises are taken as part of graduate or undergraduate classes. The School's outreach mechanisms included media releases, magazine articles, TV interviews, and has continuous website news in which the ship is featured. Tours of the vessel are regularly given to elementary, middle and high school classes; most frequently to the adjacent Miami-Dade County Marine and Atmospheric Science and Technology (MAST) school as well as part of the summer camp experience for younger children. The University of Miami/ RSMAS continues the partnership with Royal Caribbean Cruise Line, NSF, NOAA and NASA through which graduate fellowships are annually made available, research is sponsored and a major volunteer observing ship effort has been supported. This has permitted testing and development of technologies later employed aboard the RV F.G. Walton Smith. For the past eleven years, this effort aboard the Explorer of the Sea has exposed more than 2500 passengers a week to marine and atmospheric research at The University of Miami RSMAS.