Today, Virginia Tech President Timothy D. Sands will sign the Virginia Sea Grant charter and in doing so will join the presidents of five other universities to advance marine and coastal science in the commonwealth. The charter will be the first in Virginia Sea Grant’s 30-year history and formalizes a commitment among partners toward collaboration on the challenges that face Virginia’s coasts and oceans.

“Virginia Sea Grant and Virginia Tech have a long history of collaborating with the Virginia Cooperative Extension seafood safety and development programs in Blacksburg and Hampton and have new emerging activities with the Departments of Fish and Wildlife Conservation and Civil and Environmental Engineering,” said President Sands. “The future is very bright for Virginia Sea Grant at Virginia Tech.”

Virginia Tech, Virginia Cooperative Extension, and Virginia Agricultural Experiment Station conduct extensive research, teaching, and outreach programs along the state’s coastline, doing everything from helping fisheries increase profits and ensuring a safe seafood supply to examining ways to protect endangered species along the shoreline and educating youth on the importance of protecting our waterways.

University presidents from William and Mary, Old Dominion University, Virginia Tech, University of Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth University, and George Mason University will be signing the document. Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, Secretary of Education Anne Holton, and Secretary of Natural Resources Molly Ward will also participate in the event.

“The charter is our way to operationalize our commitment to integrating our programs and enabling connections across our institutions,” said Troy Hartley, director of Virginia Sea Grant.

Founded in 1984, Virginia Sea Grant is a multi-university organization whose mission is to enhance the ecological, economic, and social sustainability of coastal and ocean communities in Virginia and the ecosystem services they depend upon through university-based research, extension, education, and communication that provide science-based information to decision makers.

Virginia Tech, Virginia Cooperative Extension, and Virginia Agricultural Experiment Station have numerous programs along the shoreline that promote the health of the state’s economy and ecosystem.

At the Virginia Seafood Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Hampton, Virginia, researchers and extension specialists are working on everything from seafood quality and food safety to Good Aquaculture Practices and Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point training.

In the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences’ Department of Food Science and Technology, David Kuhn is working with oyster hatcheries to boost profits and protect the watershed. 

Dan Kauffman, an extension seafood specialist in the Department of Agricultural an Applied Economics, has been working on developing a market for red crabs.

Bob Lane, an extension seafood specialist in the Department of Biological Systems Engineering, helps Virginia companies provide safe, high-quality seafood products.

Today’s charter signing comes on the heels of another major milestone for Virginia Sea Grant. In December, the Department of Commerce awarded Virginia Sea Grant’s home institutions William & Mary and the Virginia Institute of Marine Science with College Status, the highest status that any Sea Grant program can achieve. These formalized arrangements are essential to solving the issues Virginia’s coasts and oceans face today, said Hartley.

“It’s important to break down boundaries and to cross those boundaries, whether they are institutional, operational, or functional; extension, research, or communication; social science or natural science,” said Hartley. “That’s where innovation and problem solving comes from.”