Although the oceans cover 71 percent of Earth, it is the seven percent that comprises the coastal ocean that most influences, and is influenced by, human activity. The importance of this narrow strip of ocean-from the outer edge of the continental shelf to the farthest penetration of salt water up rivers-is increasing as more people live near the shore and draw resources from the water.
The Coastal Ocean Institute and Rinehart Coastal Research Center responds to this societal phenomenon by supporting innovative experiments and field expeditions, and by communicating the results to the public. In 2002, the Institute focused on understanding the sources of nutrients in coastal waters, especially those arriving from the deep ocean and from land via groundwater. All three Institute fellowships and five of six research projects were related to nutrients in coastal waters.
Institute researchers also investigate what happens to organic material after coastal organisms die. These processes are important for understanding biological productivity in the ocean, particularly the health of fisheries and how additions from human activities alter coastal waters.
In 2002, COI hosted the biannual Ketchum Award celebration. The award was presented to
Nancy Rabalais of the Louisiana University Marine Consortium, in recognition of her contributions to science and public policy related to nutrient pollution offshore from the Mississippi River.
During 2003, the Institute will continue to promote research related to coastal nutrients and exchanges, and also will branch out to include shoreline change and its economic and biological implications. Plans are being made for an Ocean Institute Forum on this topic in 2004.
Kenneth Brink, Institute Director