Tiffany Dias

Cal Poly has been awarded a $3.4 million grant to install a high-tech system to monitor near-shore currents.

UC San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the San Francisco State University provided the grant. Cal Poly is one of eight institutions that has received funding to combat pollution, aid in hazard response and record more information about California’s ecosystem.

Associate biology professor and director of the Center for Coastal Marine Sciences Mark Moline will direct the effort and oversee operations, many of which are scheduled into 2009.

“One of our biggest applications for the program will be search and rescue,” Moline said. “We are currently working with the Coast Guard to track boats, people and increase the response factor.”

The monitoring system is expected to be set up by 2007. It reports collected data hourly to the Internet by using high-frequency radar, satellites and information collected from open ocean drifters fitted with global positioning systems like buoys.

Coordinating coastal monitoring will benefit scientists tracking sea life. Through reporting the ocean’s currents, the system provides valuable information to fisherman, marine researchers and the U.S. Coast Guard about navigation, plane recovery, pollution spills and allows faster responses to oil spills.

“The accidental release of pollutants will be tracked with the antennas. We can see the pollutants and where the pollution is going,” Moline explained.

Due to Cal Poly’s strategic positioning on the coast, the system will represent current activity in the Northern, as well as the Southern California coastline. The program, conceived by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, serves as a model for long-term mapping.

The grant is part of a $21 million, state-approved Coastal Conservancy project. The funding for the Coastal Conservancy project came from two statewide bond measures that were approved by voters in 2002 and will not add to California’s deficit, according to the College of Science and Mathematics.

Other institutions set to receive grants include the University of California, UC Santa Barbara, the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, UC Davis and Humboldt State University.

The program and its scheduled developments can be viewed at www.cocmp.org.

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