The Orbis Blog

Orbis, Inc. Announces Partnership with West Virginia University for Project Connecting Underserved Communities with Ocean and Coastal Resources

Charlotte, NC (February 15, 2022): Orbis, Inc. has secured a partnership with West Virginia University (WVU) to complete work on the first phase of a project issued by the National Science Foundation (NSF) Convergence Accelerator program 2021 cohort.  The project aims to create research and awareness regarding equitable access to the Blue Economy, primarily focusing on underserved communities in the U.S.  As defined by the World Bank, the Blue Economy is “the sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods and jobs, while preserving the health of ocean ecosystems”.

Through a grant awarded by NSF and partnership with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, WVU has assembled a robust team including Orbis, additional academic institutions, non-profit groups and other industry-related agencies.  Leaning on Orbis’ expertise on data models and platform development, research will be gathered using social, economic and ecological data to better understand and address the challenges underserved communities face.

Historically, undeserved communities lack access to the benefits of the Blue Economy including recreational use, job opportunities, educational awareness and resources. Additionally, past research data that exists has primarily only been available for analysis surrounding predominately White, high-income populations. 

Leading the project for WVU is Robert Burns, principal investigator and director of the WVU Division of Forestry and Natural Resources, and Ross Andrew, a research assistant professor at the Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design. 

“We’re flipping the methodology to focus on people of color, whether they’re African American, Hispanic, Indigenous or Asian,” said Burns.  “The current Blue Economy is not structured to allow great access for these communities, and we’re aiming to help change that.”

During the first phase of the project, Orbis will play a key role in gathering research, then translating their research to an improved sustainability model.  This model will then be integrated into existing Orbis platforms to showcase possibilities for use and adoption.  Additionally, Orbis will assist the project by developing strategies for marketing, education and outreach.

Clarence Neese, Orbis cofounder and vice president, said partnering on this project was a no-brainer for the company.

“A lot of the work we do is already focused on services that help communities access recreational resources,” said Neese.  “We see the importance of taking that to another level by making resources available and accessible to everyone.  I think we can help provide some great solutions to accomplish that, all while helping the industry improve from an ecological standpoint, especially regarding environmental, social, governance (ESG).”

Twenty-eight research phase 1 teams from across the country are participating in the Convergence Accelerator’s 2021 cohort.  At the end of phase 1, teams will participate in a formal pitch and proposal evaluation. Approximately 10 – 12 teams from phase 1 will proceed to phase 2, with potential funding up to $5 million for 24 months.  During phase 2, teams will continue to develop a solution prototype, create partnerships and develop a sustainability plan to continue impact beyond NSF support. By the end of phase 2, teams are expected to provide a high-impact solution to address societal needs at scale. 


About Orbis:

Orbis, Inc., based in Charlotte, North Carolina, provides technological solutions that helps land asset managers and investors simplify the process of acquiring and managing large land holdings. For more than 20 years, Orbis has identified and created custom solutions to solve challenges surrounding land transactions and management with a unique mix of trusted, groundbreaking technologies and personalized support. Along the way, Orbis developed a diverse suite of solutions and services, all built to solve specific problems for the natural resource management industry. Visit the website for more details.

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