New research vessel arrives at Shannon Point

Western Today staff

A new research vessel has arrived at Western Washington University’s Shannon Point Marine Center; it will enhance access to marine environments and support the marine center’s research and educational activities.

The 35-foot research vessel “Magister” was funded through a $162,300 grant from the National Science Foundation. The Borman Family Foundation also funded electronics for the vessel.

“This new vessel is spectacularly well-equipped for oceanographic work around the Salish Sea,” said SPMC Director Erika McPhee-Shaw. “It has a wonderful winch and A-frame set up for water column profiling and for collecting water samples for chemical and biological analysis. Inside the wheelhouse are great lab benches, and an amazing set up where students can see some of the data coming from the profiling instruments in real time. It is an incredible resource for the kind of immersive, experiential learning for which Western is known.”

“Magister” is a landing craft-style work boat design with a bow door, both hydraulic and electric roof-mounted winches that lead forward to an A-frame, a large, covered walk-through cabin and a small aft deck with a davit, Sampson post and marine head.

The vessel was custom-manufactured at Bean Custom Marine Fabrication in Clarkston, Wash.  The new aluminum vessel is powered by twin 200-horsepower engines and can cruise at 24 knots.

“Magister” is a species of local crab that longtime and retired SPMC Director Steve Sulkin studied, so the research vessel is named in his honor. Sulkin successfully obtained the NSF grant for the vessel, which will permit the marine center to meet the growing needs of the educational and research programs at the university by permitting more coordinated use of the SPMC’s vessel fleet, while also providing new capabilities for field work.

A primary aim of the NSF grant for the research vessel is to study chemical communication between planktonic microbes in local waters, as a way to better understand how marine food webs are regulated. Other projects that will benefit from the new vessel include studies of the causes and effects of harmful algal blooms and impacts of ocean acidification.

The grant to SPMC was the result of the highly competitive process to which proposals to NSF are subjected.  Since 1995, NSF has provided grants that have supported the purchase of the three other smaller vessels that make up the SPMC fleet.

“I am looking forward to safely and efficiently supporting the research programs and education of the university, and am excited about this upcoming field research season,” said Capt. Nathan Schwarck, who is the R/V Magister’s primary skipper.

Everett Community College recently took delivery of a research vessel similar in design to the Magister. That vessel also was NSF funded and manufactured at Bean Custom Marine Fabrication in Clarkston.

The Shannon Point Marine Center’s mission is to support and promote marine science academic programs at WWU, develop new information about local marine environments, train the next generation of marine scientists, and provide public education events.

Friday, December 12, 2014 - 11:16am