duke marine ship All American Marine Inc.
The Duke Marine Lab’s new research ship will be similar to the R/V Fulmar research vessel built for NOAA by All American Marine Inc.

$11 million gift will provide new vessel for Duke University's marine lab

A new 68-foot research ship will fill a void left when the lab retired two vessels in the last four years.

Duke University has received $11 million for the construction and operation of a new state-of-the-art ship that will expand teaching and research capabilities at its marine lab in Beaufort, N.C.

The university says in a news release that the gift to the Nicholas School of the Environment comes from the Grainger Family Descendants Fund. It provides $5 million to build a new 68-foot oceangoing research vessel and an additional $6 million to support operating costs.

The ship will have wet labs and dry labs, oceanographic equipment, a galley and sleeping quarters. It will be an ocean-going classroom to train undergraduate and graduate students in oceanography and marine biology at the Duke Marine Lab a. It will also be used to support science outreach programs for local K-12 teachers, students and community members. Researchers and instructors from other institutions will also be able to charter the vessel for scientific or educational purposes.  

The marine lab has been without a large research vessel since two of its boats were retired—the 135-foot Cape Hatteras in 2013 and the 50-foot Susan Hudson in 2014. Without a large vessel, faculty members have been unable to regularly take students offshore or participate in oceanographic work.

“Our small vessel, the Richard Barber, is a great platform for daylong research trips, but is not able to support overnight operations,” says Andrew Read, the marine lab’s director and Stephen A. Toth Professor of Marine Biology. “The new boat will be able to operate in waters up to 100 nautical miles from shore and stay at sea for days at a time.”

The vessel will enable researchers and other institutions to conduct research along the Atlantic seaboard in a wide range of vital fields, such as marine ecology and conservation, biological oceanography, and renewable ocean energy development.  

Design and construction is expected to take about two years.

The Duke Marine Lab is a year-round teaching and research campus on Pivers Island in Beaufort. It offers academic programs at the doctoral, masters and undergraduate levels, and is home to the Nicholas School’s Marine Science and Conservation Division.

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