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Marine and Environmental Sciences Independent Research
As students progress in the major, some discover an exceptional interest in a particular topic – and a desire to extend their learning beyond the classroom through independent research and internships. Often, an internship will lead to an independent research, or directed study, project.

A directed study not only allows you to explore a topic of particular interest to you in greater depth, but also to develop an appreciation for the methods of scientific research – and to gain experience in project management and problem solving, which will be beneficial in your Coast Guard career. 

Independent Research - Directed Studies

Students must obtain approval from their academic advisors to conduct independent research, which is carried out through two elective courses – a one-credit projects course that prepares students for the three-credit research course.Each independent study is directed by a faculty member.

Acceptance is generally based on your potential for independent work, as success in these courses depends greatly upon your initiative, effort and enthusiasm. 

Normally, students take a directed studies course in their 2/c (junior) or 1/c (senior) year. In the projects course, students conduct a thorough literature search, identify the appropriate methodology and then write a research proposal for their three-credit, semester-long research course. Research studies conducted during these courses normally take at least nine hours per week. 

Astronomy and Astrophysics Research – Work with LT Toomey to understand the cosmos with projects based on solar system objects, the Milky Way and extragalactic sources. Research will utilize the Stonington Observatory (20” reflecting telescope) to conduct CCD imaging, spectroscopy, and photometry of targets. Currently conducting a beta-test project for meteor detection and analysis. 

Astrophysics Research – Work with Professor Allen on solar or planetary research. Students can work with real data from a host of satellites and ground-based observatories and/or do theoretical modeling. Topics include the sun's magnetic field and its associated explosive events, such as flares and coronal mass ejections, and their effect on Earth (space weather); the heating and acceleration of the solar wind; and the formation and shear of turbulent zonal winds in the gaseous outer planets. 

Conservation and Management of Aquatic Species – Work with Professor Mrakovcich on conservation and management of marine species. Topics vary and may include aquaculture, by-catch, environmental impacts of fishing, sustainable seafood consumption, fishing vessel safety, fisheries law enforcement, adaptive co-management and ecosystem management. 

Diabetes Research – Work with Professor Gray to discover how insulin secreting beta cells of the pancreas defend themselves against toxic compounds. Use biochemical techniques such as Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) and enzymatic assays to discover how beta cells function. 

Drug Lead Design and Synthesis  Join CDR Brown with doing research to develop treatments for understudied diseases in third world countries. Through the use of In Silico screening techniques you will identify possible lead compounds and synthesize them for biological testing to determine their usefulness for future development. 

Fisheries Law Enforcement Techniques  Work with LT Verlinden and collaborators at NOAA and CG District One Enforcement to develop an automated method of identifying fishing vessels violating fisheries laws, using GIS.  

Food Web Research  Work with Professor Wainright measuring isotope ratios of various plants and animals to discover their trophic level and their habitat. 

Geospatial Sciences Research – Work with LT Verlinden on research in Geospatial Sciences. Current collaborations include work with Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California Santa Cruz, Cascadia Research, NOAA, the CG R&D center, CG International Ice Patrol (IIP), CG Intel Coordination Center (ICC), Sector Long Island Sound, CG District One Enforcement, and a variety of others. Projects can be of the students own design, or they can pick from a list of existing projects including everything from tracking dolphins and designing oil spill response plans for CG units, to analyzing law enforcement and search and rescue data for CG operational and intelligence units. Any project with a spatial component is fair game.  

Mustard Gas Research – Work with Professor Gray uncovering the toxic mechanisms of mustard gas and other vesicant compounds on lung cells. Learn how to develop biochemical assays to screen for potential drugs to treat mustard gas injury.  

New Reaction Development  CDR Brown is searching for greener chemical reactions, which will allow for more efficient chemical synthetic schemes. Be part of the team that develops these new reactions allowing us to selectively engineer chemical compounds on the molecular level. 

Ocean Acoustics  Work with LT Verlinden and collaborators at the Office of Naval Research and Scripps Institution of Oceanography on research related to ocean acoustics. Potential research topics include passive acoustic source localization, tomography, passive fathometry, and volume attenuation coefficient inversions.  

Ocean Exploration – Work with Professor Bergondo and the Ocean Exploration Trust (OET) to analyze data collected from the Exploration Vessel (E/V) Nautilus during the 2015 exploration season in the Pacific Ocean. 

Plasma Physics Lab – The Coast Guard Academy Plasma Lab (CGAPL) offers students and faculty the opportunity to develop and explore problem posed, hands-on exploration of problems, challenging its members to apply principles of electricity and magnetism, fluids, nuclear physics, and optics in cutting edge experimental research. Research into Helicon plasmas, discharge plasmas, high temperature and density diagnostic development, plus advancements in the storage, and use of sustainable green energy in plasmas are currently underway. 

Petroleum and Oil Spill Analysis – Learn advanced analysis techniques in MATLAB and use them to determine the chemical changes that are occurring in oil left from the Exxon Valdez and Deepwater Horizon disasters. Apply these same techniques to further our ability to fingerprint these samples. Work with CDR Hall, Professor Frysinger, and our collaborators from Bigelow Laboratory and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. 

Potentially Polluting Wrecks  Application of subsurface technologies and corrosion models to survey and evaluate nearshore legacy structures. Work within a multidisciplinary research group to advance non-invasive methods to estimate corrosion rates of vessels identified in NOAA's Remediation of Underwater Legacy Environmental Threats (RULET) project. This project includes laboratory research, field imaging/sample collection, and historical/policy components, as well as an opportunity to engage with collaborators from the National Park Service, University of Nebraska, as well as NOAA and USCG directorates. PI: CAPT Sanders. 

Thames River Fisheries Conservation – Work with Professor Mrakovcich and Professsor Vlietstra on fishes of the Thames River. Research topics may include questions involving finfish diversity, population abundance and age structure, spatial distribution, and estuarine fish ecology. Projects could involve beach seining and/or sampling the Thames River with bottom trawl and fisheries sonar aboard the MES research vessel. Researchers will have access to a long-term data set. 

Thames River Hydrodynamics – Work with Professor Bergondo to better understand the physical and/or chemical/biological processes occurring in the Thames River. Use in situ instruments to measure currents, temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen, chlorophyll, and color dissolved organic matter (DOC) and determine what environmental factors influence the variability in these parameters. Requires fieldwork. 

Water Purification – Work with Professor Stutzman to generate and characterize plasmas and their effectiveness in neutralizing contaminants in water samples. Potential applications are in generating safe drinking water for regions otherwise unserved and in the treatment of ballast water microbes. Students will design and construct the plasma and diagnostic equipment as well as use off-the-shelf spectrometers and power delivery systems.