HIGHLANDS — Monmouth University is stepping up its game on the open ocean.

With a brief trip Wednesday afternoon on Sandy Hook Bay, Monmouth officially unveiled the newest and largest member of its research fleet — a 49-foot-long vessel named Nauvoo — that will enable the school's Urban Coast Institute to conduct research and other work at a larger scale than ever before.

"There's definitely a lot that I'll be doing on this boat for my senior year," said Kaitlyn Smith, who's majoring in marine and environmental biology and policy. "So I'm so blessed that I will actually be able to use this. It's very exciting."

Taylor Donovan, a rising senior also majoring in MEBP, said she's been waiting several months for the ship to hit the water for field work.

"There's so many things that we can learn and practice when we're on the boat that you can't do in a classroom," Donovan said.

Monmouth University faculty and students aboard new research vessel Nauvoo (Dino Flammia, Townsquare Media NJ)

Provided to the university at no cost by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Nauvoo came to the university in 2017 and has since undergone extensive maintenance and improvement work.

The larger ship makes it possible to take full classes on the water. Equipped with a restroom (known as a "head") and the capacity to sleep seven, overnight research trips are possible as well.

"The Nauvoo will provide students with a truly transformational learning experience, and further advance the UCI's mission to develop the best available science to support healthy and productive coastal ecosystems and sustainable communities," said UCI Director Tony MacDonald.

Among the state-of-the-art technologies aboard the ship is a side-scan sonar system that can provide highly detailed views of underwater terrains. The university's lengthy list of current projects includes the study of harmful algae blooms; water quality monitoring and testing; and ongoing research of endangered marine life.

"This boat is such a game changer that we already have other universities in the area who are asking to be able to utilize the boat for their research," Monmouth University President Grey Dimenna said at a press conference highlighting the ship. "And we certainly plan on partnering with them to do so."

Nauvoo joins two smaller vessels that have long served the university's marine field operations and research needs.

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Contact reporter Dino Flammia at dino.flammia@townsquaremedia.com.