North­eastern University’s Marine Sci­ence Center in Nahant will undergo dra­matic ren­o­va­tions that will strengthen the coastal facility’s capa­bility to per­form marine sci­ence and ocean engi­neering research, thanks to a $1.8 mil­lion grant from the National Sci­ence Foundation.

The project will mod­ernize 1,310 square feet of research space in the existing Edwards Lab­o­ra­tory to create an ocean engi­neering lab, a molecular/​analytical chem­istry lab, a shared mol­e­c­ular resources lab, and a wet prep lab. In addi­tion, the Marine Sci­ence Center’s (MSC) existing flow-​​through sea­water system, a resource heavily used by res­i­dent and vis­iting sci­en­tists, will be replaced, more than dou­bling its capacity to at least 415 gal­lons per minute. The sea­water storage capacity will be increased from the cur­rent 7,500 gal­lons to 40,000 gallons.

The ren­o­va­tions will allow us to expand and enhance our capa­bil­i­ties in mol­e­c­ular biology, ocean engi­neering, and exper­i­mental ecology,” said Geof­frey Trussell, the MSC director. He said the upgrades will also sup­port the center’s trans­for­ma­tion into a hub for inter­dis­ci­pli­nary, use-​​inspired research into sus­tain­ability and secu­rity chal­lenges in coastal marine environments.

MSC researchers are working on the devel­op­ment of under­water robotics to detect explo­sives, autonomously oper­ated mar­i­cul­ture sys­tems and acoustic imaging tech­nology for coastal fish­eries that will also have home­land secu­rity appli­ca­tions. In addi­tion, new large-​​scale exper­i­ments will study how pre­da­tion risk and cli­mate change affect species inter­ac­tions and how marine ecosys­tems func­tion, as researchers eval­uate, in a more com­plete way, how marine organ­isms cope with envi­ron­mental stress.

The upgrades will also make the MSC a more valu­able resource for the 50 North­eastern stu­dents enrolled in the grad­uate and under­grad­uate marine biology programs.

The award high­lights Northeastern’s emphasis on pri­or­i­tizing marine sci­ence, given the global envi­ron­mental and eco­nomic impor­tance of ocean ecosys­tems. In the past three years, North­eastern has invested $470,000 for infra­struc­ture improve­ments at the Marine Sci­ence Center and has increased the number of res­i­dent fac­ulty to seven. The Depart­ment of Biology and the Marine Sci­ence Center will start searching for a new fac­ulty member in the area of fish­eries biology this fall.

The grant con­tinues the Marine Sci­ence Center’s momentum in building on its research and teaching exper­tise. Last month, a Mass­a­chu­setts leg­isla­tive del­e­ga­tion — including U.S. Sen. John Kerry and U.S. Rep. John Tierney — vis­ited the center for a tour that show­cased its novel research.

North­eastern received the com­pet­i­tive award from the National Sci­ence Foundation’s Office of Inte­gra­tive Activ­i­ties, as part of the Amer­ican Recovery and Rein­vest­ment Act, more com­monly known as fed­eral stim­ulus funds.