Gulf Coast Research Laboratory's Points of Pride - 2010

In addition, the grant supports the processing of beach and grassbed samples of shoreline invertebrates taken in May within the Gulf Islands National Seashore in Mississippi and Florida. These samples represent vital baseline data from sites potentially affected by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

"GCRL's collection holds samples and historical data from sites potentially impacted by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill," explained museum curator, Sara LeCroy. "In addition, we're a repository for several thousand northern Gulf plankton samples collected by NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service beginning in the 1980s."

The research museum houses a permanent collection of fish and marine invertebrates from all over the world. Mr. Charles E. Dawson began the formal, cataloged specimen archive at the lab in 1958. His vision, competence and energy resulted in the building of one of the most important regional collections of fishes in North America. The fish collection alone includes more than 355,000 specimens in 36,000 lots (jars) and contains one of the best collections of pipefishes and seahorses in the world.

Museum specimens are available for loan to researchers from qualified institutions worldwide and can provide essential information on biodiversity, systematics, morphology, ecology, distribution and life history of the species. Data from the fish collection is currently available online at http://www.usm.edu/gcrl/museum.

"At this point, our invertebrate collection is smaller than the fish collection and consists of approximately 3,000 catalogued lots," said LeCroy. "We also have a large number of uncatalogued lots from the northern Gulf. This grant will allow us to catalogue them and make the associated data available worldwide via the internet."

LeCroy became museum curator in 2000, after working in the lab's Invertebrate Zoology section for eleven years. Under her leadership, GCRL's museum has increased its invertebrate holdings, while simultaneously maintaining and improving the fish collection. She is an expert in marine crustacean taxonomy, and serves as one of ten researchers involved in GCRL's Coastal Ecosystems Group.

The current NSF grant is the third received by the museum and the first to support the enhancement of the invertebrate collection. It will involve the participation of four senior researchers, two graduate students and two undergraduates.