morehead city — Local marine researchers once again have access to the UNC Institute of Marine Sciences wet lab, now with upgraded flooring and other improvements.
UNC-IMS officials cut the ribbon on the renovated wet lab Wednesday afternoon. The project took approximately one year and cost about $795,000.
IMS Facilities Director Stacy Davis said DCM, the company who cares for the live animal specimens studied in the wet lab, provided the funding for the project.
“It, to me, is an asset to this place,” Mr. Davis said about the lab. “It had some issues with the floors. They (UNC-IMS faculty and staff) wanted to get it up to today’s standards.”
UNC-IMS Director Dr. Rick Luettich cut the ribbon on the wet lab after giving a short address to faculty from IMS and from neighboring marine research institutes, visitors from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and visiting government officials. Dr. Luettich said he thinks they were all at the lab because they shared “a passion for the coast of North Carolina.”
“We work on a lot of things that help us maintain the health and pristine nature of our coast,” Dr. Luettich said.
Idias Contracting did most of the work on the wet lab. Idias representative Rodney Williams said the work on the floors was the biggest part of the renovation. The new flooring features a grating and drain system that allows dirt and water resulting from research to get flushed away without creating a hazard for researchers.
UNC-IMS associate professor of coastal biological oceanography Dr. Joel Fodrie said, with the renovation, the wet lab has “been upgraded to a world-class facility.”
“We try to do field work,” Dr. Fodrie said, “but there’s so many times that to dig into how an organism works, we need the facilities to care for the animal. I can envision this facility will attract researchers from around the country.”
Dr. Fodrie said the improved wet lab may also attract more students and opportunities to UNC-IMS. He said it’s also a great sign of how the main campus values the coastal lab.
“The investment here shows we’re valued and appreciated,” he said.
The wet lab doesn’t serve only UNC-IMS faculty. Neighboring marine researchers from the N.C. State University Marine Sciences and Technology also have dedicated space at the facility.
N.C. State University CMAST professor of clinical sciences Dr. Craig Harms said he thinks the renovated wet lab is “fabulous.”
“This makeover is just what was needed,” he said. “We’re going to put it to good use.”
Dr. Luettich said UNC-IMS was founded to help the state manage its marine fisheries. The wet lab was built in the 1990s and has a salt water tank system to allow researchers to keep live marine specimens for study.
UNC Vice Chancellor for Research Dr. Terry Magnuson was at Wednesday’s ribbon cutting.
“UNC-IMS has been serving the state since 1947,” he said. “It’s been doing things you could never do on main campus. It’s a training ground for our undergrad, graduate and doctorate students to go into fields in marine science … These facilities are going to expand what our faculty and trainees can do. I’m really interested in what goes on down here and what main campus can do to support it.”
After the ribbon was cut, attendees were given a tour of the renovated wet lab. Faculty gave presentations on some of the work they have ongoing at UNC-IMS.
UNC-IMS Mary and Watts Hill Jr. Distinguished Professor of Marine Ecology and Water Quality Dr. Rachel Noble told attendees about research regarding shellfish and water quality, especially oysters.
Dr. Noble has been developing a new method of DNA testing for shellfish to determine if harmful bacteria, in particular a bacteria known as vibrio, is present in test samples. Her new method is faster than the existing standard employed by health and safety authorities.
State Rep. Pat McElraft, R-Carteret, was among those attending the ribbon cutting and said she thinks the collaboration between institutes and the research they do is “fantastic.”
“We get a double benefit of clean water and quality seafood,” she said.
Meanwhile, UNC-IMS professor of chemical ecology Dr. Niels Lindquist told attendees about his ongoing project to create and market materials for creating artificial reefs for oysters to populate.
“We’re creating a structure to trap sediments and stabilize shorelines,” Dr. Lindquist said. “This is useful in a lot of places, not just North Carolina.”
Contact Mike Shutak at 252-723-7353, email email@example.com; or follow on Twitter at @mikesccnt.