PROVIDENCE - The researchers called themselves "The Insomniacs," because they would take boats out on Narragansett Bay after midnight to measure oxygen levels in the water when they were at their lowest.
The late-night work - a collaboration by Brown University, Save The Bay and other groups to track conditions that are crucial to the health of native fish and mollusks - started in 1999 with a group of volunteers. It continues now (mostly during daylight hours) with the help of federal grants, but a key funding stream from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is due to expire at the end of this year.
"Either we just don't do it anymore, or we do it through volunteers again," said David Murray, a senior research associate at Brown University in geology and environmental studies.
The research that Murray and the other Insomniacs are doing is just the type of program that U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse says should be supported with dedicated funding from the federal government.
During a news conference Thursday overlooking Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island's junior senator announced legislation that would create a national fund with hundreds of millions of dollars that would distribute money to study, restore and conserve U.S. ocean waters and coastal areas as well as the Great Lakes.