There is more exciting news in the clean energy space as the state’s offshore wind project, Ocean Wind 1, and Stockton University announced an expanded partnership June 2 that will support monitoring and mitigation efforts related to marine wildlife.
NJBIZ has extensively reported on the Ocean Wind 1 project, which will be located off the coast of South Jersey and will provide energy to nearly 500,000 homes while supporting thousands of new jobs.
As part of the partnership, Ocean Wind 1 will support a first-of-its-kind program that will allow Stockton to train individuals to be Protected Species Observers (PSO)—certified professionals that monitor for protected species or for those federally protected under the Endangered Species Act or Marine Mammal Protection Act.
“This collaboration with Ørsted and Ocean Wind will support important research at Stockton and prepare Stockton students to participate in the new clean energy economy while using their education and talents to protect the marine environment and the most vulnerable of its species,” said Peter Straub, dean of the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics at Stockton University.
Once certified, the PSOs will monitor, record and share sightings of North Atlantic right whales and other protected marine life as required by federal permits.
The funding and multiyear project will also enable Stockton to monitor harbor seals in South Jersey.
“We are proud to support these innovative programs at Stockton University,” said Laura Morse, Ørsted marine mammal specialist. “Not only will they result in valuable data on the marine mammals and wildlife in and around our Ocean Wind 1 lease area, but they will also help to further protect and conserve the North Atlantic right whale, harbor seals and other protected species along the coast of New Jersey with whom we coexist.”
Stockton and Ørsted previously signed a Memorandum of Understanding in 2019 that allowed the company to support research and academic programs related to alternative energy, climate change and resiliency, while receiving academic study and research to assist with the development, construction, operation and maintenance of Ocean Wind 1.
“Both of these initiatives fill important needs as New Jersey moves forward with offshore wind energy development. Efforts to understand the population dynamics of these harbor seals, along with the establishment of a local Protected Species Observer Course is a step in the right direction for the conservation of New Jersey’s marine mammals,” said Toth Sullivan, adjunct professor and a noted marine mammal specialist with Stockton, who is leading the development of the PSO program.
The PSO application deadline is July 15. More information on the training and certification is available online at Stockton.edu/pso.