Sea Grant History
For 50 years, the National Sea Grant College program has worked to create and maintain a healthy coastal environment and economy. The Sea Grant network includes 33 programs based at top universities in every coastal and Great Lakes state, Puerto Rico, and Guam. The programs of the Sea Grant network work together to help citizens understand, conserve and better utilize America’s coastal, ocean and Great Lakes resources.
A partnership between universities and the federal government’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Sea Grant directs federal resources to pressing problems in local communities. By drawing on the experience of more than 3,000 scientists, engineers, public outreach experts, educators and students from more than 300 institutions, Sea Grant is able to make an impact at local and state levels, and serve as a powerful national force for change.
Sea Grant invests in high-priority research, addressing issues such as population growth and development in coastal communities; preparation and response to hurricanes, coastal storms and tsunamis; understanding our interactions with the marine environment; fish and shellfish farming; seafood safety; and fisheries management. The results of this research are shared with the public through Sea Grant’s integrated outreach program, which brings together the collective expertise of on-the ground extension agents, educators and communications specialists. The goal is to ensure that vital research results are shared with those who need it most and in ways that are timely, relevant and meaningful.
Click on the headers below for information about each topic
Sea Grant is administered at the national level (through NOAA), but implemented at the local level—where we live, play and work everyday. This unique model brings to bear the expertise of the academic community in essential but practical research and outreach activities that address society’s changing needs. The Sea Grant model allows for quick, effective transfer of science-based information: informing citizens, allowing ocean- and Great Lakes-related businesses to grow, and empowering policy makers to formulate well-informed decisions.
- Applied Research – Each year, Sea Grant supports some 500 research projects investigating a wide variety of marine and coastal topics. This research addresses critical issues of local, regional and national importance. Among other advances, Sea Grant scientists have improved sensors for environmental monitoring (including sea level rise and tsunami prediction), developed promising drugs and industrial materials from the sea, devised new uses for seafood byproducts, monitored destructive invasive species, and improved the management of wild fish stocks.
- Extension – While research is a crucial component of Sea Grant, transferring the knowledge to the people who can benefi t from it is just as important. Sea Grant’s network of more than 300 outreach experts work with coastal community members and decision makers to provide informal education and transfer new technologies. Sea Grant extension staff members work with communities in countless ways - to improve tourism opportunities, help fi sh farmers develop environmentally-sound shellfi sh farming practices, explain the impacts of land use on water quality, and provide technical assistance to communities planning for, and dealing with, hurricanes and other natural hazards.
- Education – Sea Grant has a long tradition of increasing environmental literacy through education. Sea Grant works with K-12 teachers to bring environmental sciences into the classroom—and to bring students out of the classroom and into the natural environment. Sea Grant also supports undergraduate and graduate students in a broad range of disciplines. In three decades of service, Sea Grant has trained more than 12,000 college and graduate students. In addition, the Sea Grant program offers fellowships for graduate students to gain science and policy experience with NOAA, Congress, state and federal agencies, and ocean industries.
- Communication – Each program within the Sea Grant network has a dedicated communication staff that works to deliver accurate, reliable, science-based information. Through newsletters, brochures, posters, articles, web sites, books, radio, videotape and other media, Sea Grant communicators have earned their reputations as honest brokers of information about marine and coastal issues. In recent years, Sea Grant communication experts have created products ranging from environmental radio podcasts and video documentaries to informational guides and colorful books about the history and science of our coastal regions.
The complexity of managing the natural and economic resources of our oceans and Great Lakes is enormous. Fast-growing human populations are putting increased pressures on the environment. As coastal populations grow, so too do the threats to precious environmental resources—among them, safe seafood, water quality and ecosystem health. The need for solid, relevant research, and effective ways of sharing this information with decisionmakers and the public, is more urgent than ever before. Sea Grant projects embrace an array of activities, from applying sensible and sustainable development concepts for Hawaii’s fastgrowing coastal communities to curbing the spread of invasive species such as the European green crab, which is decimating many types of shellfi sh. But there is much that remains to be done to meet future demands for safe food, safe water and healthy coastal communities.
As Sea Grant directs its mission in the 21st century, the program continues to improve citizens’ understanding of marine science and the environment, and to apply that knowledge to help communities make sound decisions. Few institutions can match Sea Grant’s track record of success, in informing the public, educating K-12 students and teachers, and training undergraduate and graduate students—cultivating the next generation of coastal scientists and policy makers.
Sea Grant’s integrated national network will continue to be a key player in addressing emerging issues at local, regional and national levels, and safeguarding our coasts. Sea Grant brings decades of experience and know-how. In our waters, along our coasts, within our communities—Sea Grant is there.
In 1966, Congress established Sea Grant to unite the academic power of the nation’s universities with public and private sector partners in order to capture the economic and social benefits of the oceans, coasts and Great Lakes in a sustainable manner.
The idea of a Sea Grant College Program was originally suggested by oceanographer, inventor and writer, Dr. Athelstan Spilhaus at the 93rd meeting of the American Fisheries Society in 1963. Interest in the Sea Grant concept grew, much of it sparked by an editorial written by Spilhaus that appeared in a 1964 issue of Science: " I have suggested the establishment of ‘sea-grant colleges' in existing universities that wish to develop oceanic work . . . These would be modernized parallels of the great developments in agriculture and the mechanic arts which were occasioned by the Land-Grant Act of about a hundred years ago . . . Establishment of the land-grant colleges was one of the best investments this nation ever made. That same kind of imagination and foresight should be applied to exploitation of the sea."
The Program was inspired by the success of the Land Grant model, which set the standard for combining the resources of our universities with the needs of citizens. At a time when America was excited about science in general, especially the possibility of reaping sustained economic benefits from the vast resources of the seas, national enthusiasm for the Sea Grant College concept grew.
In 1965, Senator Claiborne Pell of Rhode Island introduced legislation to establish Sea Grant colleges on campuses nationwide as centers of excellence in marine and coastal studies. With the adoption in 1966 of the National Sea Grant College Act, Congress established an academic/industry/government partnership that would enhance the nation's education, economy, and environment into the 21st century.
With the adoption in 1966 of the National Sea Grant College Act, Congress established an academic/industry/government partnership that would enhance the nation's education, economy, and environment into the 21st century. Just as our nation's Land Grant institutions have revolutionized agriculture, so too are the Sea Grant colleges steering our nation toward the productive and sustainable use of our coastal, marine, and Great Lakes resources, through integrated programs of scientific research, education and training, and technical assistance. These programs make available a wealth of information on marine and aquatic topics—from public school curriculum materials to the most advanced scientific research. In short, Sea Grant funds high quality research that is responsive to user needs, bringing university expertise to solve today's marine environmental problems.
1966 President Lyndon Johnson signs the bill, establishing the Sea Grant Program through The National Sea Grant College and Program Act of 1966.
1968 The work of Sea Grant begins as the first grants are awarded and the National Review Panel is established.
1970 Sea Grant becomes part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The National Sea Grant Depository (Library) is established as an information center dedicated to the collection, storage, documentation, and dissemination of Sea Grant literature.
1971 Four universities are the first to achieve Sea Grant College status: Oregon State University, University of Rhode Island, Texas A & M University, and University of Washington.
1972 University of Hawaii and University of Wisconsin achieve College status. University of Southern California becomes an Institutional Program.
1973 University of California achieves College status.
1975 State University of New York and Cornell University achieve College status.
1976 The Sea Grant Improvement Act amends the National Sea Grant College and Program Act of 1966. The amendment strengthens the basic program of the original Act and codifies the National Sea Grant Review Panel. University of Delaware, State University System of Florida, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and University of North Carolina achieve College status.
1978 Louisiana State University achieves College status.
1979 The Sea Grant Intern Program is initiated, allowing outstanding graduate students to spend one year in Washington, D.C., developing the skills needed for active leadership in both policy development and research in coastal and ocean sciences.
1980 University of Alaska, University of Georgia, and University of Maine/University of New Hampshire achieve College status.
1982 University of Maryland, University of Michigan/ Michigan State University, and Mississippi/ Alabama Consortium achieve College status.
1984 Virginia Graduate Marine Science Consortium achieves College status.
1985 University of Minnesota achieves College status; Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution becomes an Institutional Program.
1986 South Carolina Consortium achieves College status.
1987 The Sea Grant Intern Program was renamed the Dean John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship in honor of Dean Knauss, one of the founding fathers of Sea Grant.
1988 The Ohio State University and the University of Connecticut achieve College status.
1989 New Jersey Marine Science Consortium and University of Puerto Rico achieve College status.
1997 University of Illinois/Purdue University achieves College status.
1998 NOAA celebrates the 30th anniversary of Sea Grant's National Review Panel commemorating three decades of accomplishment in research, education and outreach related to coastal, ocean, and Great Lakes resources. The year is proclaimed by the United Nations as the "International Year of the Ocean."
1998 A performance-based evaluation system is established. Resources allocated to programs are determined in part by performance.
1999 Sea Grant and NOAA Fisheries established a Graduate Fellowship Program in population dynamics and marine resource economics.
2002 NOAA Sea Grant reauthorization signed into law after unanimous passage in both houses of Congress.
2002 Sea Grant Law Center is founded.
2003 University of New Hampshire achieves College status.
2004 University of Maine achieves College status.
2012 University of Guam and Lake Champlain (University of Vermont and SUNY Plattsburgh) achieve Coherent Area Program status.
2014 Virginia Institute of Marine Science at the College of William & Mary achieves College status.
2016 Pennsylvania State University achieves College status.