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UConn’s underwater research organization makes waves

Campus Correspondent

Published: Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Updated: Wednesday, September 11, 2013 00:09

UConn’s Northeast Underwater Research Technology and Education Center, or NURTEC, is an organization dedicated to promoting and advancing underwater research across the Northeast.

NURTEC, formerly known as NURC, exists due to the efforts and funds of UConn, NOAA, or National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and other organizations like them, private and public. NURTEC acts both as an independently operated national and international research organization and as “an ambassador for the excellence that is UConn research,” according to the center’s 2013 annual report. The center undertakes projects on a per-case basis for varied clientele, as well as supporting and providing operational assistance to educational programs throughout the Northeast.

UConn and NURTEC have enjoyed a fruitful relationship for 30 years, furthering the development of UConn’s marine science program. In return, NURTEC takes on interested student workers from the university as well as financial backing.

NURTEC’s website proudly displays its technologically advanced and highly sensitive equipment. NURTEC employs various experts, who have utilized these advanced systems to undertake such projects as mapping Long Island Sound, exploring deep-sea ecosystems on the oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico and continuous expeditions into mid-Atlantic offshore canyons. These projects have yielded significant contributions to collections of imagery, oceanography and documentation of underwater structures such as shipwrecks and coral reefs.

Kevin Joy, the technical director for NURTEC, said the richness of the program, the diversity of the groups of collaborators in NURTEC’s sphere and personal enjoyment can be found while working in such a hands-on field. Mr. Joy said that his role at the center “places primary emphasis on robotic vehicles” for scientific research, but they are not his only focus. Mr. Joy oversees the development and operation of the intricate machines that make it all possible. He said, “being able to bring it all full circle … is really quite special.” He said the elation one finds in taking part in “identifying new species … there’s nothing quite like it.” It’s not all exploration, however, and in the off-season, deterred temporarily from research by the frigid temperatures of the wintry Atlantic, Joy and his colleagues must prepare for the next project, often forcing his team to “roll up [their] sleeves and develop.”

Joy also revealed plans to collaborate with the US Navy in the future.

NURTEC also supports such programs as the Aquanaut Program, Live Dive and the Classroom of the Sea, reaching out to communities and schools across the Northeast, placing real data in classrooms that would otherwise dwell only in theory. NURTEC also has its own Youtube channel, replete with narrated close-up video of fantastic sea creatures gathered from some of its many dives, totaling over 4,000. The center, along with affiliated scholars, has generated “325 peer-reviewed publications” to date, contributing greatly to NURTEC’s already impressive legacy.

Interested students should visit for more information about NURTEC and the people behind it. 

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