Southern Miss awarded $1 million for marine research

WASHINGTON, D.C. (WJTV) – U.S. Senator Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) today commended the University of Southern Mississippi for landing grants totaling $1.0 million to conduct research on the use of seaweed to produce energy and improve ocean health.

USM has been awarded $500,000 for research on an adjustable depth seaweed growth system, and another $500,000 to develop a Sargassum seaweed ranching paddock.  Both were approved by the U.S. Department of Energy Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E)

“The Department of Energy is investing in innovative proposals developed at the University of Southern Mississippi to make marine biomass more available for various uses,” Cochran said.  “I commend Southern Miss for successfully promoting research innovation that can help improve economic competitiveness and environmental stewardship.”

ARPA-E awarded the USM grants through the Macroalgae Research Inspiring Novel Energy Resources (MARINER) program, which explores ways to harness marine biomass for fuel and other uses.  The USM grants were awarded for “Design & Experimental Deployment of Integrated Cultivation and Harvesting Systems.”

The USM “AdjustaDepth – Adjustable Depth Seaweed Growth System” project entails developing a scalable seaweed growth system with positioning capabilities to avoid surface hazards.

The “SeaweedPaddock Pelagic Sargassum Ranching” project revolves around developing semi-autonomous, remotely-operated enclosures to contain fields of free-floating Sargassum mats.  A single onshore controller would be able to move the system to avoid hazards and position it over nutrient-rich areas, including “dead zones.”

Cochran is chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee and is a senior member of the subcommittee that funds the Department of Energy.

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