A significant proportion of the world’s population depends on fisheries resources as sources of high quality protein and for economic well-being. As the human population increases, demand for fish will be much greater than current levels. Yet many fisheries in the world are overexploited (NMFS 1999, 2006) with the attendant decrease in their catches. To meet demands for fish, we must 1) improve our fisheries management practices, 2) provide better estimates of and minimize the discard and bycatch of fish, 3) assess and reduce the effects of fishing on the environment, 4) identify, protect and enhance the quantity and quality of essential fish habitat, 5) increase our understanding of the influence of climatic variation on marine ecosystems, and 6) develop novel ways of increasing fish production via aquaculture. All these activities are essential for achieving a comprehensive ecosystem-based fisheries management (Fluharty et al. 1998), and require the expertise of marine scientists, including individuals trained in quantitative fisheries, fisheries socioeconomics, aquaculture and biotechnology, and fish habitat monitoring and assessments.
As NOAA approaches 2010, much of its workforce will reach or be close to retirement age. This has the potential to leave the agency without the expertise it needs to continue essential programs aimed at the wise management of the Nation’s marine resources. Coincidently, there remains a lack of professionals in the marine sciences that are ready to step into these careers. While there have been increases in the number of students nationwide who are choosing the marine sciences as careers, the rate of increase remains low and the percentage of minorities in the marine sciences is far below that which could be expected based on the nation’s population. As NOAA faces this challenge, it is looking towards infusing its workforce with a cadre of young well-trained scientists that is reflective of our national cultural heritage.
The LMRCSC was, therefore, established in 2001 as a partnership with NOAA to 1) increase the number and diversity of students who are trained in NOAA-related sciences and those who receive degrees annually in NOAA core science areas, and 2) increase the number of collaborative research projects and peer-reviewed publications between scientists at MSIs and those at NOAA and other institutions, agencies and laboratories. This Center is in a unique position to achieve these goals for many reasons. The geographic distribution of the partnering institutions from the coastal areas of the Gulf of Mexico through the mid-Atlantic coast maximizes both the area served and the number of constituents impacted. The fact that four of the five participating Center MSIs are among the very few Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) with marine science programs in the U.S., and the relatively high number of under-represented minority groups enrolled in the NOAA related sciences at all the partner institutions puts the Center in an ideal position to recruit and retain students specifically trained to meet NOAA’s needs. In this way, this Center supports Strategy 5 of the NOAA Education Plan to “strengthen existing, linkages with external partners serving underrepresented groups.” Finally, the existence of infrastructure for aquatic sciences research, education and outreach at these institutions virtually guarantees future yields in scholarly output and the increase in human capital over the next five years.
The Living Marine Resources Cooperative Science Center consortium is made up of six institutions: University of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES), Delaware State University (DSU), Hampton University (HU), Savannah State University (SSU), University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute Center of Marine Biotechnology (COMB), and the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science (RSMAS). The University of Maryland Eastern Shore is the lead institution. UMES is an historically black university offering bachelor’s, master’s, and PhD degrees in marine and environmental science. Delaware State University, Hampton University and Savannah State University are also HBCU’s with undergraduate and master’s degree granting programs in marine science. The University of Miami is a tier I research university. Its Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science boasts a strong research program with over 100 faculty and 150 graduate students and it has a strong fisheries research program which contributes significantly to the research capacity of the LMRCSC. The University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute Center of Marine Biotechnology (COMB) is a research campus of the University System of Maryland. Its faculty members are leaders in the fields of marine biotechnology and have integrated that technology with issues that affect our living marine resources.
The LMRCSC is connected via video-teleconferencing units, collectively known as the Virtual Campus, enabling the partner institutions to share instruction, foster research collaboration, provide seminars by renowned scientists to students across the Center, and allowing scientists from NOAA and elsewhere to serve on graduate student committees.
The LMRCSC has supported over four hundred students, graduate and undergraduate, has graduated more than 40 students with graduate degrees that are working in the fisheries field, and is currently engaged in numerous research projects of interest to NOAA Fisheries. All of these research projects provide valuable training experiences for graduate and undergraduate students supported by the Center.