Shutdown means slowdown for CCU marine research

The partial federal government shutdown is holding back some research being done at Coastal Carolina University.

Dr. Paul Gayes, director of CCU's Burroughs and Chapin Center for Marine and Wetland Studies, says the shutdown so far has led to uncertainty, confusion and a lot more paperwork.

A letter of apology from President Obama to furloughed federal employees is posted on the office door of a CCU grad student at the center, who had been working with the US Geological Survey monitoring water quality on rivers in our region of South Carolina, but is now out of a job.

The center scrambled to find other things for the student to do to keep him employed. Gayes says it hasn't been easy.

"That's how these people have been planning their education and paying for it, been working towards a goal and it was a very good arrangement for them, they were getting great hands-on experience working with professionals in the field and that's now in a hiatus."

Gayes says CCU had a research project in the works with the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in California to study the impact of tsunamis on coastal facilities like power plants.

That project has now been pushed back until next summer.

Another CCU project to feed ocean data from buoys to the National Weather Service appears to be ongoing, at least for the time being.

"That project we were informed is in place, but it is unclear because it's got to be processed by offices that are not in place," Gayes said.

He says the big problem is uncertainty.

Some research projects have been held back by the shutdown, some have not and others still may be.

Researchers have been told to keep careful logs of their time and expenses, just in case.

"Everyone's trying to work their way through and wait until a little bit of sanity comes back to the system."

Gayes says some projects, like the one in partnership with Scripps, require a good deal of equipment set-up, shipping and logistics.

A delay means they have to reconfigure all that and he says managing it is taking their focus away from the science they should be doing.