A group of high-ranking government officials from the Republic of Korea visited the Virginia Institute of Marine Science on June 17 to learn about the Institute's research and how it helps guide the sustainable management of marine resources in Chesapeake Bay and other coastal waters.
The 31-member delegation hailed from coastal Gyeonggi Province, home to Seoul—South Korea's largest city and national capital—and Incheon, Korea's third largest city and main Yellow Sea port.
The province is also home to the Korea Ocean Research and Development Institute. KORDI and VIMS have enjoyed a working partnership since 1998.
South Korea's coastal zone is similar in many respects to Chesapeake Bay, and its environmental challenges are perhaps even more pressing. Dr. Jae-Hac Lee, Director of KORDI's Biological Oceanography Division, notes that while South Korea and Virginia are similar in size, South Korea supports a population of approximately 44 million people, 11 times greater than Virginia's.
The delegation, which included officials and scientists from both city and provincial-government offices, was particularly interested in VIMS' role in monitoring and improving water quality in the coastal zone. As with most developed nations, South Korea's coastal waters suffer a host of ills, including harmful algal blooms and low-oxygen dead zones like the one that forms each summer in Chonsu Bay near Incheon. Also like the Chesapeake, South Korea's coastal waters are home to a growing aquaculture industry for clams, oysters, and other shellfish.
During their visit, the Korean officials met with a number of VIMS scientists who are active in areas related to water quality and aquaculture:
- Dr. Stan Allen, head of the Aquaculture Genetics and Breeding Technology Center at VIMS, discussed his group's efforts to breed disease-tolerant native oysters for use in aquaculture and restoration
- Dr. Mark Brush discussed the use of computer models to simulate and predict ecosystem processes in coastal waters
- Dr. Ryan Carnegie of VIMS' Shellfish Pathology Laboratory discussed the development of resistance to MSX and Dermo disease among wild oysters in Chesapeake Bay and implications for oyster restoration
- Dr. Steven Kaattari discussed efforts in his Immunology lab to create vaccines for use in aquaculture and to develop biosensors for detection of contaminants in water (pdf)
- Dr. Howard Kator discussed links between water-quality monitoring, shellfish sanitation, and public health
- Dr. Jerome Maa discussed the settling velocity of muddy sediments, and potential impacts on aquaculture operations.
VIMS Dean and Director John Wells says the visit "gave us a wonderful opportunity to share knowledge with international colleagues, and to further strengthen our partnership with KORDI and the Korean scientific community."
The tour was hosted by the Korea Local Government Center in New York City, an organization designed to foster cooperation and understanding between local governments in Korea and their equivalents in the United States and Canada.