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Get on Board! Duke University's newest research and teaching enterprise at the Marine Lab

In January 2020, the newest Marine Lab research and teaching vessel set sail en route to Miami in celebration of its launch. Though the research vessel will primarily reside in Beaufort, NC , at the Marine Lab, this is a huge milestone for the University as a whole. Made possible by the Grainger Family Descendants Fund, this new vessel will provide experiential learning and research opportunities for undergrads, faculty, and MEM students. This is by far the most exciting development in Duke's environmental research area to happen in a number of years!

"How Can I Get on Board?"

The “Get On Board” campaign is an opportunity for you to invest in Education, Oceanographic Research and Community Outreach. By naming a part of the R/V Shearwater, you’ll help to make the following possible:

Education: An immersive educational experience with a unique opportunity for students to participate in hands-on research in classes such as Biological and Physical Oceanography, Biology of Marine Mammals, and Marine Ecology. Beyond the traditional coursework, living aboard the research vessel exposes students to oceanographic research techniques, maritime history and marine policy. Additionally, depending on the travel destination, students may go ashore to field research sites that will provide not only the field-based research experience but may create an opportunity for students to learn more about local maritime communities.

Oceanographic Research: As a research platform, the R/V Shearwater will support scientific investigation of the biological, chemical and physical ocean processes and the study of marine ecosystems. Given the multi-disciplinary nature of ocean science and technology research, activities aboard the research vessel will vary; ranging from observations, measurements, sample collection and analysis, to instrument deployment and recovery, and use of auxiliary equipment and instruments (e.g., ocean gliders and small boat operations). The science party aboard the R/V Shearwater to consist of members of the academic community (faculty, postdoctoral fellows and PhD, graduate and undergraduate students), government researchers and other members of the ocean science research community.

Community Outreach: The R/V Shearwater will strengthen current outreach activities at the Marine Lab and create an opportunity to expand these efforts. The research vessel will help to bridge the gap between traditional classrooms and experience-based learning for K-12 students. Working with Marine Lab faculty and researchers, educators will be able to incorporate learning modules into their lesson plans and bring the classroom to the ocean.

Naming Opportunities

Bridge (RESERVED) | $100,000- navigation deck with enclosed pilot house and open wings on either side for observations.

Wet Lab (RESERVED) | $100,000- scientific lab located on main deck that provides access to running seawater for research; including a seawater flow-through system and space for processing “wet” samples.

Dry Lab | $100,000- scientific lab located on main deck that houses electronic equipment for research; this space can be customized to meet researchers needs.

Galley | $100,000- space where food is prepared, and members of science party and crew eat meals.

Small Boat | $100,000- 16’ rigid hull inflatable boat (RHIB), stowed on the 01 deck and used to support scientific research operations.

Aft Deck and A-frame$50,000- open deck area located at the stern of the vessel that is used to secure scientific equipment; the A-frame is used to deploy and recovery scientific equipment over the side of the vessel.

Deck Winches and Crane$50,000- deck machinery located on the 01-deck, used for deploying and recovering scientific equipment over the side as well, as loading and unloading equipment.

Stateroom$50,000- main deck sleeping quarters that include bunks and gear storage.

Engine Room$25,000- the propulsion and machinery space of the vessel.

Flybridge (RESERVED)$20,000- an open area on top of the vessel that provides unobstructed views of the fore, aft and side of the vessel; serves as an operating station for the vessel’s crew and platform for research observations and data collection.

Bow$20,000- forward part of ship beginning where sides trend inward and terminating where they unite in stem or prow; location of forepeak, anchor winch and locker.

Outdoor Lounge $15,000- 01 deck table and bench settee for meetings, meals or R&R.

Observation Chairs (RESERVED) | $5,000- chairs located on the fly bridge that are used for research observations and data collection.

See the Shearwater in Action!

About the Vessel

The 77’ (21m) catamaran was designed, built and outfitted for year-round operations to support exploration of marine ecosystems. The R/V Shearwater will provide students a unique hands-on experience that aligns with the multi-disciplinary nature of ocean science and technology research. In January 2020, the R/V Shearwater will make its maiden voyage in Florida.

The R/V Shearwater is a fully equipped oceanographic research vessel, with state-of-the-art scientific support infrastructure and equipment. The main “working” deck of the vessel includes a large exterior open area located at the stern, a large area for securing scientific equipment, an A-frame used to deploy and recover scientific equipment over the side, and a shower. The interior main deck includes a dry lab, wet lab, galley, dining table, head (bathroom) and stateroom. The 01 deck includes scientific winches used to deploy and recover scientific equipment, a crane for loading and discharging the vessel, a 16’ small boat and an outdoor space for meetings, meals and R&R.

The R/V Shearwater has space for 30 passengers for day trips, and overnight accommodations for up to 14 personnel (students, faculty, scientists and ship’s crew). The research vessel has the ability to travel several hundred of nautical miles from shore and spend multiple days at sea.

Functioning as both a research platform and “classroom at sea”, the R/V Shearwater will give students the opportunity to conduct inter-disciplinary studies, with coursework ranging from Biological and Physical Oceanography and Marine Ecology to the Biology of Marine Mammals and Bioacoustics. Courses will be taught by Marine Lab faculty and will include a blend of lectures and field-based research experiences. Living aboard the research vessel will provide students a unique at-sea experience coupled with a first-class education and front row seat to cutting edge and innovative oceanographic research.

Meet the Captain

Matthew Dawson was raised on the west coast of Scotland and holds an undergraduate degree in Marine Biology from the University of St. Andrews. After working for several years as a marine biology technician he decided to pursue a captains license and a career at sea. He has extensive experience working on research vessels in a variety of locations, most recently in Alaska. 

Meet Stacy Chen T'22

"It was an honor being the only undergrad on R/V Shearwater's maiden voyage through the Florida Keys.

The 2 weeks on the ship was filled with laughter, turbulence, Blue Planet documentaries, cookies, close-quarters bonding, and breathtaking views. Though the trip wasn't completely free of bumps and bruises, we still managed to knuckle down on some valuable lab work. The crew was instrumental in our learning, allowing us students to take ownership of the science and giving us the opportunity to be hands-on with deploying CTDs, steering the ship, and mapping out a route for our final project. From stargazing to leading a tour of the ship for the R/V Shearwater dedication, the adventures I shared with five other CEMs are moments I'll hold dear in my heart. I cannot wait to hear about her future voyages!"

Photo Gallery

R/V Shearwater's first class and crew!