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NSF awards Middlebury $1.7 million for research vessel

The National Science Foundation has awarded a grant of $1.7 million to Middlebury College that will provide funding for a new research vessel for use in science courses and student-faculty research on Lake Champlain. NSF grants are funded by U.S. taxpayers.

The new boat, which will be about 45 feet long and is currently unnamed, will arrive in Lake Champlain in the summer of 2012 when it will replace the R/V Baldwin, a 32-foot Maine lobster boat that Middlebury bought in 1985 and retrofitted for research and teaching.

The new boat will cost $1.5 million, and the remaining public taxpayer funds will go toward design modifications, scientific instruments, inspections and the transportation of the vessel to the East Coast.

All American Marine, located in Bellingham, Wash., will build the new research vessel. In May 2012, a transport ship will bring it to Port Everglades, Fla. Then Middlebury College Professor of Geology Pat Manley, Middlebury College Visiting Assistant Professor of Geology and Capt. Tom Manley, and two others will motor it north up the intracoastal waterway and the Hudson River system to Lake Champlain.

"It's a state of the art catamaran style and it reflects the new approach to research vessels with its twin hull, which will provide so much more stability," said Pat Manley, who worked on the grant application with others at Middlebury. "We'll be able to extend our class and research time in weather that we can't go out in with the Baldwin. It's much faster as well. At maximum cruising speed of 20-24 knots, we will be able to access distant regions of the lake that we have rarely been able to survey using our current boat."

She added, "We can burn biodiesel fuel as it becomes more available and, because the boat uses hydrofoil technology, it partially rises out of the water at faster speeds, creating greater fuel efficiency. Our plan is to use environmentally sustainable technology wherever we can, from the paint to the possible use of solar panels to run equipment."

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