Shannon Point Receives National Science Foundation Grant to Study Oceanic Water Quality

by John Thompson, Office of Communications and Marketing

Western Washington University Marine Scientist Kathy Van Alstyne of the university’s Shannon Point Marine Center (SPMC) has received a $151,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to purchase new instrumentation for measuring the physical and chemical properties of seawater that are so critical to the center’s ongoing research into the critical marine science issues facing the region and the world.

“We are very excited to receive this award,” said Van Alstyne. “This critical funding will help us to better understand the processes affecting Washington’s marine ecosystems. And, just as importantly, it will contribute to the training of the next generation of marine scientists.”

The research done by SPMC scientists, WWU faculty, and graduate and undergraduate student researchers is used to understand the dynamics of the waters of the Salish Sea and the biology and ecology of the organisms that live there.  Researchers at SPMC also use water-quality measurements to monitor the laboratory’s seawater system and its ocean acidification facility.

The new instrumentation will support educational activities, including WWU marine science courses held at SPMC, graduate student thesis projects, and research and internship activities pursued at the Marine Center by undergraduate students. It will also allow staff at the facility to continue to add to its existing water-quality database, which began in 1974 and is one of the longest-running water-quality databases in the region. 

The equipment to be purchased on the project includes an automated chemistry analyzer for measuring seawater nitrite, nitrate, ammonium, urea, phosphate, silicate, and sulfate; a titration system for measuring dissolved oxygen; and a UV/Vis spectrophotometer for measuring chlorophyll and other pigments.  Supporting instrumentation for conducting these analyses includes a refrigerated centrifuge for processing samples for pigment analyses, an analytical balance and ultrapure water filtration system for preparing reagents, and a multi-port filtration system for processing water samples.

For more information about the new equipment or the NSF grant to fund it, contact Kathy Van Alstyne at

Friday, September 20, 2019 - 9:41am