MIT Sea Grant College Program
Newsletter: August 2014 

In This Issue
Robert Vincent joins MIT Sea Grant as the new Marine Advisory Services Leader
Welcome to Carolina Bastidas as a new visiting research associate
Judith Pederson steps down as the Marine Advisory Services Leader
MIT Sea Grant high school program alum is admitted to MIT
Underwater robotics and ocean science summer programs for high schoolers
The 2014 Blue Lobster Bowl
Quantifying carbon storage in eelgrass
Climate Change Symposium on Sustaining Coastal Cities
Rescue project for New England fishermen
Autonomous Surface Vessel deployment
Cooling system design tool for energy-efficient ships
Numerical model to mitigate coastal flooding
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Chrys Photo by Andrei Ivanov

Dear Friends and Colleagues,


Greetings from MIT Sea Grant, where we have been busy working on an array of exciting projects and programs under our overarching mission to address ocean and climate-related challenges.


We start by welcoming two new additions to our staff, and we thank a long-time member for her years of service as she moves on to next steps. We also celebrate the admittance to MIT of the son of our faithful administrative assistant, and we are proud to count him as alum of one of our ocean engineering programs for high school students.


In addressing global climate change, our research scientists have been quantifying carbon levels in eelgrass beds along the Massachusetts coastline. The MIT Sea Grant Climate Change Symposium on Sustaining Coastal Cities was a successful event held here in June, and we summarize some of the details in the following pages. On the social sciences front, our in-house anthropologist has been working with New England fishermen to develop a guide to best management practices that will help fishing communities deal with accidents at sea.


Our research engineers never cease to impress with extraordinary innovations, including a new ASV (autonomous surface vehicle) for ocean science exploration; a new thermal management simulation tool to evaluate and mitigate effects of increased heat loads in electric ships; and a new numerical model that simulates the physics of near-shore waves that can help communities prepare ahead of time for future superstorms.


On behalf of our staff here at MIT Sea Grant, I hope you enjoy reading our latest news, and we welcome your suggestions and comments as we continue to serve you.




Chrys Chryssostomidis


Robert Vincent Joins MIT Sea Grant as the new Marine Advisory Services Leader

Robert Vincent joined the MIT Sea Grant College Program in July as the new Advisory Services Leader, replacing Judy Pederson who has retained the role as staff marine ecologist. Vincent comes to us from NOAA Fisheries, where he spent the last eight years as a statistician and restoration ecologist. He brings with him over 20 years of experience in estuarine research and restoration in the northeast. His primary focus areas are ecology and restoration of freshwater wetland, estuarine, and marine systems. Vincent's research interests include physical and biological processes that influence ecosystem structure and function; connectivity and food web dynamics; and the effects of climate and anthropogenic impacts on natural systems and ecosystem services.

MIT Sea Grant Welcomes Carolina Bastidas as a New Visiting Research Associate

Carolina Bastidas joined our team this summer as a visiting research associate in the Marine Advisory Services group. She is a marine scientist with over fifteen years of professional experience in basic and applied research on the ecology of marine hard-bottom communities and human impacts on them. After earning her PhD from James Cook University in Townsville, Australia, Bastidas was appointed to a faculty position at Universidad Simón Bolívar in Caracas, Venezuela, where she spent ten years establishing valuable collaborations between local and international colleagues, and focused her work largely on coral reefs and the biology of their marine invertebrates. Bastidas' portfolio also includes a vast array of teaching and mentoring, proposal writing, leading and managing research projects, and communicating her research results in peer-reviewed journals and through outreach activities. 

Judith Pederson steps down as MIT Sea Grant's Marine Advisory Services Leader

Dr. Judith Pederson stepped down as Leader of our Marine Advisory Services, a position she held for the past 4 years.  For nearly 20 years, she has played a pivotal role at MIT Sea Grant, most notably with her contribution to the Gulf of Maine Regional Ocean Science Initiative, and in her compilation and editing of the 2009 Gulf of Maine Strategic Ocean Science Plan. An international expert on marine invasive species, her research has focused on the "biopollution" of marine bioinvasions in near-shore and offshore areas of the Gulf of Maine and Georges Bank. In addition to her research over the past 20 years, Pederson has made special contributions to water-quality monitoring in Boston Harbor and other Massachusetts-area clean-up efforts, and worked on projects for the disposal of contaminated marine sediments. CLICK HERE to watch a CBS news report from last summer featuring Pederson co-leading a study of non-native marine species survey across New England.

MIT Sea Grant Distinguished Alum to attend MIT as an Undergraduate this Fall 

MIT Sea Grant Administrative Assistant Gayle Sherman is sending off her son, David Ricardo, to college this year. She won't be sending him very far. In fact, he'll be closer now than he was during his high school years at Cambridge Ringe and Latin. On behalf of our entire staff, we are excited to announce that David will begin his studies here at MIT this fall. In addition to the fact that David is the son of our longtime faithful colleague, we are also proud to count him as a distinguished alum of our 2012 Ocean Engineering Experience. CLICK HERE TO WATCH VIDEO!. He has been creating a data visualization interface at Apperian this summer, building upon his programming success at OEX. David is passionate about studying engineering to maintain our coastal environment, given the uncertain future of climate change. We would like to congratulate mother and son on this exciting new chapter!

MIT Sea Grant's Engineering Educator Teaches Underwater Robotics to Minority High School Students from Around the US this Summer


For the past several years, Engineering Educator Kathryn Shroyer has been at the forefront of MIT Sea Grant's suite of innovative, hands-on, educational programs in marine ecology, ocean engineering, and underwater robotics. These programs provide exciting learning experiences for young people in support of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) principles. Shroyer has specially-tailored various detailed curriculums using Sea Perch, an underwater robotics program that teaches students how to build an ROV (remotely operated vehicle), as a basic component. This year Shroyer partnered with MIT's Office of Engineering and Outreach Programs (OEOP) for the second year in a row to lead the Underwater Robotics portion of three summer residential programs offered at MIT for minority students from around the US. Shroyer taught students to build the Sea Perch and challenged them to design, build and test their own version of the ROV using the unique set of skills and principles to which she introduced them through their course.  

Blue Lobster Bowl 2014

MIT Sea Grant College Program organized and hosted the 17th annual Blue Lobster Bowl at MIT on March 1, 2014. This year's tournament included 120 students from 15 Massachusetts high schools. With MIT Sea Grant's Kathryn Shroyer leading the program, along with a number of volunteers, the students were split into divisions and teams and were tested in classrooms across the MIT campus. They responded to quick-answer buzzer questions and thought-provoking group challenge questions, on ocean science principles they studied throughout the year at their respective schools leading up to the tournament. Topics included marine biology, chemistry, geology, physics, navigation, geography, and related ocean history, literature, and public policy. MIT Sea Grant research scientists and partners were also on hand throughout the day to offer information and guidance to students interested in marine science and ocean engineering careers.

Quantifying Carbon Storage in Eelgrass May Help Scientist Mitigate Global Warming Effects

MIT Sea Grant Coastal Ecologist Julie Simpson is leading a groundbreaking study on eelgrass in Massachusetts's near shore waters. The team of researchers has spent the summer sampling eelgrass meadows along the Massachusetts shore and measuring the carbon stored in these habitats. Eelgrass meadows may be "hotspots" for carbon storage, reducing atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gasses. The problem, explains Simpson, is that not much is known about the eelgrass meadows because being underwater they are difficult to study, and many of them are being lost due to invasive species, habitat degradation, and water pollution. Simpson and her team want to find out how much carbon is stored in the eelgrass so that society as a whole can start adding economic value to them as we seek ways to address the growing problem of global warming.  

Climate Change Symposium on Sustaining Coastal Cities 

In June, MIT Sea Grant College convened a three-day Climate Change Symposium on Sustaining Coastal Cities. Leaders in academia, government, and private industry addressed concerns for change in sea level, storm surges, extreme precipitation and flooding and options for adapting to these risks. Noted speakers and experts with vested interests in public health and safety shared the latest scientific, technical and social information in three general thematic areas. The first area covered current knowledge of the science and uncertainty associated with predictions and future scenarios of sea level rise, storms, precipitation, models, and tools as they apply to coastal cities and populations in Boston, Cambridge and surrounding towns. The second theme explored the risks and responsibilities for public health and safety and the politics and policies that limit what can be done within current practices and regulations. The third area examined adaptation measures, including green landscaping, planning and implementation, communicating with the public, and identifying efforts to mitigate human-related impacts on climate.

Rescue Project for New England's Fishermen

MIT Sea Grant Anthropologist Madeleine Hall-Arber is collaborating on a Fishermen's Partnership-funded research project to get an insider perspective of accidents at sea, and to help determine best practices for to address them in the future. The goal of the project is to develop a manual that will be helpful to fishing families, fishing communities and even the Coast Guard in times of distress due to loss of fishermen or vessels at sea. The researchers are interviewing leaders in the fishing industry, survivors, and families of people lost at sea, as well as the Coast Guard and political leaders. They are hoping to identify what has been done poorly in the past in order to learn from those mistakes, and what has been done correctly so that those steps may inform other communities. They are also seeking to identify gaps that exist in helping individuals and communities during and in the aftermath of ordeals related to accidents at sea.

An Autonomous Surface Vessel in Development for Deploying Remotely Operated Vehicles for Underwater Scientific Exploration    

Research Engineer Mike Defilippo is co-leading a team of engineers from MIT Sea Grant's AUV Lab, MIT CSAIL (Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab), and Olin College, in designing an autonomous surface vessel (ASV) outfitted with sensors, computers, and software, and equipped with a remotely operated vehicle (ROV). The autonomous surface vessel will be capable of driving without human interaction to locations for scientific underwater exploration, such as to coral reefs. Once at its destination, the ASV will be able to deploy the ROV, which can be controlled remotely by an operator via the Internet from any location in the world. The team of researchers plan to display their engineering prowess at the Maritime RobotX Challenge held in Singapore in October where the ASV will be required to complete in a course based on a variety of complicated maritime surface vessel missions.  

Cooling System Design Tool in Development at MIT Sea Grant's Design Lab

The presence of fast and high-density power electronics and high-power sensors in All Electric Ships (AES) is expected to result in orders of magnitude increases in thermal loads. The implications of this potential on the overall ship design are largely unknown and go beyond the obvious impact on size, weight, volume and cost of traditional thermal management components. MIT Sea Grant Postdoctoral Associate Hessam Babaee is leading a collaborative effort with researchers from Florida State University and University of South Carolina to develop a new thermal management simulation tool to be used in the initial stages of the design to accurately and quickly evaluate and mitigate the adverse effects of increased heat loads in AES. The tool has successfully undergone a computational development phase and is currently being incorporated into a graphic user interface. Designers will be able to use this tool in evaluating the performance of various cooling systems and compute the optimal design parameters and ultimately improve the state-of-the-art technology to more energy-efficient designs. 

New High Fidelity Numerical Model to Mitigate Coastal Flooding Problems

MIT Sea Grant Assistant Director for Research Stefano Brizzolara and visiting PhD student Riccardo Angelini Rota are working on a new numerical model to simulate the complex physics and effects on waves in the near-shore region. Due to climate change, they explain, the level of the ocean will rise significantly in the next fifty to one hundred years. Their goal is to simulate the risks of flooding in different areas of the Northeast region in advance, in order to increase preparedness assist community leaders with the development of adaptation and mitigation strategies.  The model is based on a Smoothed Particles Hydrodynamic (SPH) solver, which helps them reproduce the hydrodynamic phenomena in coastal areas, specifically in the surf region. Brizzolara and Rota plan to reproduce problems like over-topping  sea walls or  at-sea structures and the run up of waves.

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