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Interdisciplinary Research & training Initiative on Coastal-ecosystems & human Health (I-RICH)

Although the causes and consequences of human impacts on coastal ecosystems have been studied extensively over the past 50 years, most of this research has lacked an integrative approach. This situation is largely due to the fact that impacts such as those caused by harmful algal blooms (HAB), diseases, and pollutants are often studied by scientists trained in specific disciplines. There is a growing realization that such narrowly focused studies cannot adequately elucidate the complexities associated with the health of coastal ecosystems. In addition, human impacts and their causative pressures are often a consequence of large scale driving forces (e.g., climate change) that cannot be fully understood by isolated research efforts. In order to ensure an interdisciplinary approach, post-doctoral fellows and graduate students will receive broad training in marine sciences (oceanography & marine biology) and specific training in one of several focus areas: Marine Pathogens/Diseases, Emerging Pollutants, or HABs. Cross-disciplinary collaborations among I-RICH participants will likely lead to novel approaches and understanding of coastal environments, human impacts and the direct and indirect effects on human health.

The consortium is made up of three major collaborating institutions as well as several other participating units.

I. Collaborating Institutions

1. University of Connecticut - The top-ranked public university in New England according to the latest published annual report on R&D Expenditures in 2006. It is a fully accredited institution and has ample capacity for graduate training, post-doc mentoring and research programs.
a. Department of Marine Sciences carries out excellence in research, scholarship, education and service in the area of coastal ocean science. For more information contact Drs. J. Evan Ward ( or Hans Dam (
b. Department of Pathobiology and Veterinary Science pursues research, outreach and education relevant to a broad diversity of infectious diseases. For more information contact Drs. Sylvain DeGuise ( or Salvatore Frasca (

2. Mystic Aquarium and Institute for Exploration - For over thirty years, Mystic Aquarium & Institute for Exploration (MAIFE) has remained one of the nation’s most respected aquariums and leaders in marine science research and education. MAIFE has made significant contributions to marine mammal and environmental health related research utilizing whales, seals, and sea lions in the collection as well as investigations of wild populations. MAIFE’s research program is dedicated to broadening our understanding of the health challenges impacting aquatic species worldwide. For more information contact Dr. Tracy Romano (

3. NOAA, National Marine Fisheries Service, NFSC, Milford Laboratories - The Milford Laboratory houses the Aquaculture and Enhancement Division of the Northeast Fisheries Science Center. Several laboratories are devoted to the culture of microalgae in sufficient quantity and with sufficient quality (bacteria-free) to conduct rigorous feeding experiments with bivalve mollusks. A highly regarded collection of about 250 pure cultures of different species or strains of microalgae is maintained. The staff tests various types of microalgae and schedules of feeding to determine the best conditions for each type of shellfish, in addition to experimental exposures of shellfish to suspected harmful algae. For more information contact Dr. Gary Wikfors (

II. Participating Units and Institutions

In addition to the above institutions, the following departments and institutions are adding valuable expertise to the I-RICH initiative.

   Department / Center
Contact Person Expertise
University of Connecticut

Allied Health

Dr. Lawrence Silbart Immunology, DNA vaccines
Ecology & Evolution Dr. Eric Schultz Ecology & physiology of fishes
  Dr. Mike Willig Biodiversity & biostatistics
  Dr. Charles Yarish Seaweed biotechnology
Molecular & Cell Biology Dr. Michael Lynes Environmental toxicants & disease
Physiology & Neurobiology Dr. Joe Crivello Expression of stress genes
Nutritional Sciences Dr. Ann Ferris Community & public health nutrition
Center for EnvironmentalHealth Dr. Lawrence Silbart Quality of life & environment
Center for Public Health & Public Policy Dr. Ann Ferris
Dr. Eileen Storey
Regional partnerships in public health
Center for Environmental Science & Engineering Dr. Mike Willig Environmental science, policy, sustainability
Marine Sciences & Technology Center Dr. Ann Bucklin Logistical & technical support
NOAA, CT Sea Grant Dr. Sylvain De Guise Seafood safety, science & aquaculture
NOAA, National Undersea Research Center Dr. Ivar Babb Underwater exploration, research & education
New England Aquarium Dr. Roxanna Smolowitz Aquatic veterinarian medicine
Old Dominion University Dr. Fred Dobbs Microbial ecology, human pathogens