Urban Coast Institute Gets $5 Million Challenge Grant

The University’s Urban Coast Institute (UCI) has received a $5 million challenge grant from an anonymous donor who has committed $3 million to support a new Marine Science and Policy Initiative, if the University can secure commitments for an addition $2 million by Dec. 31, 2014.

“A challenge grant is a special opportunity created when a gift is presented by a person(s) or an organization with the requirement that additional gifts be received within a certain period of time to fulfill the challenge,” defined Michael Palladino, Ph.D, Dean of the School of Science. Palladino is confident the University will raise the additional funds for their initiative and meet the challenge.

According to Tony MacDonald, Director of the University’s UCI, this donation marks the UCI and School of Science’s first challenge grant and one of the largest in the University’s history.

MacDonald said, “The successful completion of this challenge grant will enable UCI to step up to another level and plan for a sustainable future.” The mission of the UCI is to inform coastal and ocean policy and management decisions with the best available science.

“The grant will not only expand opportunities to conduct science (natural, socio-economics, and human dimensions), but also to tackle more important and complex policy issue in the state and region,” added MacDonald. He emphasizes that these opportunities are not only for the marine environmental biology and policy program, but for students across the University on a social, political, policy-making, and economic level as well.

With the grant, MacDonald plans to expand the UCI’s work with communities to assess their vulnerability to coastal storms, therefore crafting strategies of resilience and adaptation to sea level rise. “We hope to build bridges between the University’s academic programs and real world community-based challenges, [as well as] expand internship opportunities,” he continued.

This plan will not only include support for the work of the UCI/NJ Sea Grant Coastal Community Resilience Project Manager, Dr. Ryan Orgera, but also expand partnerships with other groups to develop improved flood managment tools and multi-community regional resilience strategies.

President Paul Brown said, “Located just one mile from the ocean, we have a special responsibility and unique opportunity to engage our students and our community to support sustainability and proper stewardship of our coastal environment through direct research and policy analysis.” Brown believes this challenge grant will have a transformative effect on coastal issues while simultaneously continuing to enhance the University’s commitment to marine science and policy programs.

UCI-1The grant will also expand the UCI’s capacity to develop a Mid-Atlantic Ocean Data Portal to help understand and plan for ocean use and conservation, as explained by MacDonald. Additionally, some of the funds will be used towards renovating facilities, technology and laboratory equipment used by the University’s School of Science.

Erik Bugenhagen, a senior studying marine and environmental biology and policy, said, “The UCI has given me a real sense of purpose and drives me forward in hopes of getting to conduct similar projects and do similar work upon entering the workforce.” Bugenhagen has been a part of the Barnegat Bay Planton Survey in conjunction with UCI for almost two years now, where he collects and analyzes samples collected out in the field.

“Being able to say you have used various pieces of equipment or have knowledge about them is instrumental in transitioning into the working world upon graduation,” Bugenhagen continued.

The grant will also provide an opportunity for the UCI to partner with experts from Rockefeller University in NYC to mentor Monmouth University students, provide lectures and coordinate high level ocean research, policy and management symposia in both NYC and West Long Branch.

Myles Peterson, a recent graduate with a bachelor’s degree in anthropology, said, “The UCI provides marketable skills… while providing important data for effective changes in policy.” Peterson was a field technician and research assistant for Jim Nickels, a marine scientist for the UCI. Under Nickels’ mentorship, Peterson was provided a boat and a brand new ROV to aid him in researching for his senior thesis.

“This grant will help us to cement our place as the go-to University for coastal and marine policy,” said MacDonald.

With previous grants, UCI was able to hire our Nickels, two research vessels and sophisticated hydrographic and water quality monitoring equipment.

While the UCI has accomplished much over the last nine years, MacDonald believes successful competition of this challenge grant will continue to raise the visibility of the University.

Palladino said, “A challenge grant of this magnitude is a tremendous opportunity that acknowledges the great progress of UCI and students and faculty in the School of Science.”