UVA environmental scientists have been doing critical research on Virginia’s Eastern Shore for two decades. But until the August dedication of a new $2.5 million Anheuser-Busch Coastal Research Center, their base of operations was an aging farmhouse.

The new headquarters is a considerable upgrade. Located in the town of Oyster, Va., the center includes spacious dry and wet labs, a residence building that can accommodate 30 people, and a dock for its fleet of four shallow-water research vessels.

John L. Nau III (Col ’68) was instrumental in securing a $1.2 million gift from the Anheuser-Busch Companies to help build the center. Other funding included a $1 million donation from Paul Tudor Jones and $300,000 from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

UVA has been conducting research through the Long-Term Ecological Research project since 1986 with major support from the NSF, as well as various other research grants and private donations. “We are looking at long-term change to the coastal landscape, particularly related to global climate change and land-use change,” says Karen McGlathery, the lead scientist at the Coastal Research Center. “We use what we learn to make predictions of what may occur in the future.”

UVA’s research focuses on the barrier islands, lagoons, tidal marshes and watersheds of the 45,000-acre Virginia Coast Reserve, owned and managed by the Nature Conservancy. These undeveloped barrier islands are made of very fine-grain sand, making them one of the best places on the East Coast for studying barrier island geology and coastal ecology. They are some of the most rapidly changing islands on earth, altering shape about 10 times faster than those in other coastal areas.

The implications of this research are far-reaching—work at the reserve contributes greatly to the understanding of natural processes occurring all along the sandy coasts of the United States. The University will further expand the center in coming years, and is expected to draw top environmental scientists from across the country.