Archive - Gulf Coast Research Laboratory in the News
Dr. Maxwell Barson, a Fulbright Scholar working with GCRL’s Dr. Robin Overstreet, has been honored with the 2013 Young Scientist National Award from the African Union/The World Academy of Sciences (AU/TWAS) in his home country of Zimbabwe. Dr. Barson is a senior lecturer in the Biological Sciences Department of the University of Zimbabwe, teaching undergraduate Parasitology, Invertebrate Zoology, Cytology, and Histology. He also teaches Biomonitoring and Ecotoxicology to water engineering masters and Fish Pathology to veterinarians. Dr. Barson holds a B.Sc. Honours degree in Biological Sciences (University of Zimbabwe), an M.Sc. in Aquatic Health (University of Johannesburg), an M.Phil. in fish parasitology (UZ) and a Ph.D. in Biology (Catholic University of Leuven). In April 2013, Dr. Barson received the Fulbright African Scholar Award from the U.S. State Department to conduct collaborative research and receive advanced postdoctoral training on fish pathology at GCRL.
Dr. Barson became acquainted with Dr. Overstreet at a conference in South Africa pre-Katrina and had sent samples to GCRL to be analyzed by Dr. Overstreet. Before they could be tested, the samples were destroyed in August 2005 when Katrina struck the Gulf Coast, but the two scientists met again in Italy and continued their professional association. Dr. Barson said it was a natural choice to come and study with Dr. Overstreet when the opportunity arose.
TWAS, The World Academy of Sciences, is an international science academy founded in 1983 in Trieste, Italy and officially launched by the Secretary-General of the United Nations in 1985. TWAS represents the best of science in developing countries. Its main mission is to promote scientific excellence and capacity for science-based sustainable development.
GCRL graduate student Corey Russo is investigating the morbillivirus, which is being blamed for a rash of dolphin deaths along the East Coast during the end of August. According to the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the death rate for dolphins in 2013 is nine times higher than usual. Virginia was particularly hard hit, with 174 carcasses washing ashore. Such high numbers have not been observed for more than two decades.
Corey has conducted most of his investigation as an intern with Dr. Karen Nelson, the President of the J. Craig Venter Institute in Rockville, Maryland. He will be returning to GCRL to complete the project this fall.
Morbillivirus belongs to a family of RNA viruses that cause rinderpest in cattle, distemper in canine species, and measles in humans. In the oceans, viral particles constitute 1 million to 1 billion particles per milliliter of oceanic waters. Dolphin morbillivirus (DMV), specifically, is reported as causing disease in marine mammals. Morbillivirus suppresses the dolphin's immune system, causing infected animals to be susceptible to diseases and infections.
Since its emergence in the marine environment, morbillivirus infection is the most significant cause of mass mortality in odontocete cetaceans (toothed whales and dolphins). DMV exposure in non-immune dolphins leads to central nervous system disease, stranding, and ultimately, death. The first confirmed DMV epizootic (1987-1988) led to the death of approximately 2,500 bottlenose dolphins (BNDs) along the Atlantic Coast of the United States. The first DMV outbreak resulted in a 10-fold increase in average annual mortality rates and a loss of 50% of inshore bottlenose dolphins.
Viral infection in marine mammals is responsible for mass stranding events, unusual mortality events, chronic infection, clinically expressed disease, and inapparent/sustained infections. Virology studies on the bottlenose dolphins are of particular importance as the bottlenose dolphin is a sentinel species. To date, molecular techniques utilizing a specific primer approach have identified viral particles representative of eight viral families in bottlenose dolphin samples. The research at GCRL has focused on a random primer approach, followed by full genomic sequencing of purified viral RNA and DNA from bottlenose dolphin samples. The purpose of this study is to identify and characterize viromes, including dolphin morbillivirus, recovered from apparently healthy bottlenose dolphins. Corey Russo's research involves studying blood serum and blow-hole swab samples from the affected dolphins.
Russo is considering a variety of viruses in his research. According to Dr. Jay Grimes, Russo's advisor at GCRL, "I think this is important because if he only went after morbillivirus it would be a biased hypothesis. This way, he's looking at everything. And he'll be able to determine whether all dolphins carry moribillivirus. And if they don't carry it, are they becoming immune?"
Stories in the media about the dolphin die-off:
- WLOX, August 30, 2013 - Gulf Coast Research Lab student studying dolphin virus
- NBC News, August 27, 2013 - Big Break in Dolphin Die-Off: It's an 'Outbreak' of Measles-Like Virus
- Scientific American, August 29, 2013 - Dolphin Die-Off Tied to Virus Related to Human Measles
GCRL graduate student Alex Fogg has been awarded the Ron Schmied Scholarship which provides a $1,500 grant toward participation in the 66th Annual Meeting of the Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute (GCFI) in Corpus Christi, Texas in November. Alex's presentation will be titled "Northern Gulf of Mexico Lionfish: Distribution and Reproductive Life History Trajectories." Alex is particularly interested in the meeting due to the strong emphasis on the invasive lionfish, which is extending it's range in the Gulf of Mexico.
GCRL scientists also to attend the conference are Mark Peterson (Fogg's major professor and co-author on this presentation), Nancy Brown-Peterson (co-author), Jim Franks, and Read Hendon.
The Ron Schmied Scholarship supports travel for a qualified graduate student travel to the annual meeting of the Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute. Since students are the life blood of any educational organization, the intent of this scholarship is to make it possible for the next generation of fishery professionals to experience the benefits that come with participation in international meetings in the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean region. The Ron Schmied Scholarship is a GCFI initiative supported by the International Game Fish Association as well as numerous private individuals.
The University of Southern Mississippi’s Staff Council held their monthly meeting on October 1, 2013 at GCRL. The session was one of two meetings held on the Gulf Coast each year; the other ten meetings take place on USM's main campus in Hattiesburg. The group was fortunate to have Jim Franks, Senior Research Scientist with the Center for Fisheries Research and Development, as their speaker. Franks provided a brief history of GCRL, including the effects of Hurricane Katrina, before moving on to his research work on sargassum and the shark tagging program. Following the monthly business meeting, the group enjoyed an hour-long cruise aboard GCRL's Miss Peetsy B, which included pulling a sample trawl to collect marine specimens. Beth Jones, Educational Program Manager at the Marine Education Center, provided insights into inshore ecosystems and guided the group through an examination of the trawl catch.
The University of Southern Mississippi’s Staff Council, established in 1989, serves to provide a voice for staff members throughout the University, from the Gulf Coast to Hattiesburg. The stated purposes of the council are to:
- Facilitate discussion of issues, policies and activities relating to the USM staff;
- Advise and make recommendations as appropriate
- Promote interaction among the staff, faculty and administration in the enhancement of the goals, purposes and functions of the university and
- Promote excellence in service.
GCRL Grad Student Participates in NOAA Survey Cruise
Graduate student Kelsey Kuykendall participated in a NOAA Northeast Fisheries Science Center (NEFSC) Ecosystems Surveys Branch cruise out of New Bedford, New Hampshire, last month as a representative of the Science Center for Marine Fisheries (SCeMFiS). SCeMFiS is the Science Center for Marine Fisheries at The Gulf Coast Research Laboratory and the Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences. SCeMFiS provides an academic resource for the fishing industry throughout the Mid-Atlantic and Gulf Coast regions. NEFSC is the research arm of NOAA Fisheries in the northeast region.
The Ecosystems Surveys Branch conducts surveys that provide consistent, unbiased estimates of relative abundance for many finfish and shellfish species in the Northeast region. The program's bottom trawl surveys have been conducted since 1963 and serve as the basis for some of the longest time series of standardized fishery-independent indices of relative abundance in the world. The scallop and clam surveys began in the late 1970s and the fisheries acoustic surveys were initiated in 1998.
The six-day cruise aboard the 160-foot F/V E.S.S. Pursuit focused on the Atlantic surf clam and ocean quahog to determine the size and distribution of the populations to provide data for setting harvesting regulations for the fisheries. The cruise covered 146 sites in the Mid-Atlantic Bight, Southern New England, and Georges Bank.
According to Kelsey, "My specific duty was to aid in the sorting of surf clams, quahogs, and sea scallops, then to process a sample of each dredge for length and meat weights. Teams of four (two scientists and two volunteers) worked each 12-hour shift, with shifts running from midnight to noon and noon to midnight. I worked the midnight to noon shift; the sunrises were beautiful! The work done and data collected will be used by fishing industries to set harvesting limits and employ area management if needed. The cruise was particularly good for me because not only did I learn about the harvesting of surf clams, I also experienced many new species, including humpback whales and common dolphin."
The latest issue of Coastal Conservation Association's TIDE magazine includes a two-page article about the stock enhancement program at GCRL's Thad Cochran Center for Marine Aquaculture. The operation at Cedar Point and the long term partnership with the Department of Marine Resources are also addressed. Reg Blaylock, Assistant Director of the Thad Cochran Center for Marine Aquaculture, states in the article, “We would love to transfer our technology to the private sector. It’s difficult working with the red snapper, but we’re making positive strides. It’s exciting work.“ Read the article here.
TIDE is the official bimonthly magazine of the Coastal Conservation Association (CCA). The mission of the CCA is to advise and educate the public on conservation of marine resources. The objective of CCA is to conserve, promote and enhance the present and future availability of those coastal resources for the benefit and enjoyment of the general public. The local CCA chapters have been long time partners and very supportive of the stock enhancement program at GCRL.
GCRL was featured in the summer 2013 issue of Pointe Innovation magazine as part of the issue's focus on marine sciences in Mississippi. The article focuses on the new National Science Foundation Science Center for Marine Fisheries (SCeMFiS) as well as touching on the Shellfish Sanitation program and the Summer Field Program and other Marine Education Center activities. GCRL Director Dr. Eric Powell is quoted as saying, “All of the activities here are important to the state and to the region. My goal is to utilize academic science to foster job growth and economic development. With the group of people we have here, I know the future is bright.”
The Pointe Innovation article also addressed the USM Department of Marine Science, the Marine Technology Society-Gulf Coast section, the National Data Buoy Center, Jackson State University’s Environmental Cooperative Science Center, and Mississippi State University’s Northern Gulf Institute.
Read the entire article here.
Printed four times a year, Pointe Innovation magazine provides to its readers articles and features telling the story of Mississippi by highlighting the impressive companies, individuals, ideas and products the proudly call Mississippi home.
GCRL’s fall 2013 Science Café series was inaugurated by Dr. Theresa Levitt, associate professor of history at Ole Miss, speaking about the history and science of the modern lighthouse. Levitt literally wrote the book on the subject. “A Short Flash: Augustin Fresnel and the Birth of the Modern Lighthouse” examines the science and history of the invention of the Fresnel lens, an invention that forever changed lighthouses and their function. Levitt is a graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and earned a master’s degree from Iowa State University and a Ph. D. from Harvard University.
October’s Café will focus on local edible plants and medicinal plants. Our presenter will be Dr. Betty Sue O’Brian. The event begins at 6:30 p.m. on September 24. As always, Science Café is free and open to the public. Refreshments are provided by Coffee Fusion in Ocean Springs. For more information visit the GCRL Science Café webpage or contact Joyce Shaw at 228.872.4213.
GCRL Staff Participates in National Marine Educators Association Conference
Eight staff members from GCRL's Marine Education Center (MEC) attended the 2013 National Marine Educators Association annual conference in Mobile, Alabama during the week of July 22. The event was hosted by the Southern Association of Marine Educators on the picturesque campus of Springhill College. Three of the MEC group made presentations.
Dr. Jessica Kastler, Coordinator of Program Development, provided insights into the MEC's successful COAST program (Community Outreach for Accurate Science Translation) in “Spill Science: Learning from Citizen Scientists.” In his presentation titled “Student Active Watershed Stewardship," Marine Education Specialist Aaron Lamey described how the MEC provided watershed and environmental stewardship education programs for teachers and their students in two 2012 sessions of the B-WET Shifting Baselines Project. Beth Jones, Educational Programs Manager, presented “Using Charismatic Megafauna to Engage Citizen Scientists: a Successful Integration of Outreach into Research.”
The GCRL participants also provided an exhibit displaying information about educational opportunities at GCRL and the MEC.
Conference speakers also included Mark LaSalle, Director of the Pascagoula River Audubon Center and bestselling author Richard Louv, whose books Last Child in the Woods and The Nature Principle explore how children have become disconnected from nature and the effects on their health and education. Field trips helped participants explore the native habitats, eco-tourism opportunities, food, and rich culture of the area. Evening events included sessions at Dauphin Island Sea Lab and 5 Rivers-Alabama's Delta Resource Center.
The National Marine Educators Association (NEMA) is a vibrant and influential professional association that has been in existence since 1975. Through the national office, seventeen regional chapters and international partners, “make known the world of water, both fresh and salt.” The membership consists of about 1,000 classroom teachers, informal educators, college professors, ocean scientists, and outreach and communication professionals at non-profit organizations and government agencies.
The Southern Association of Marine Educators (SAME) is the regional chapter of the NMEA for the northern Gulf of Mexico, and includes Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and the panhandle of Florida.
The 2013 NMEA conference was dedicated to Johnette Bosarge, who was instrumental in bringing the 2013 meeting to Mobile. Johnette passed away suddenly in March and will be sorely missed by both the NMEA and SAME organizations of which she was considered in many ways the backbone. Johnette’s family joined conference participants on Monday evening in honoring her memory with a special service prior to the keynote speaker.
Johnette retired from the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory after 25 years of service and returned to work for an additional 10 years on a part-time basis. NMEA past president Craig Strang said, “Johnette held us together as an organization with her keen efficiency and relentless work ethic, but also extended her immeasurable warmth and boundless kindness to us as individuals. We will miss her deeply and for a very long time." The NMEA has created a special award/scholarship in Johnette's name that was presented for the first time this year to Beth Jewell, a high school science teacher at West Springfield High School in Springfield, Virginia.
GCRL researchers, both past and present, are at the heart of the 2013 investigation of whale sharks in the northern Gulf of Mexico. Whale sharks are the largest fish on earth, reaching 45 feet in length with a weight of more than 24 tons. Until recently, little has been known about the movements of the whale sharks in the northern Gulf. A joint project by GCRL, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) is shining new light on these magnificent animals.
The research team includes GCRL staff members Jim Franks, Jill Hendon, Sarah Ashworth, and Jeremy Higgs. Former GCRL employee Dr. Eric Hoffmayer, who cornerstoned the whale shark work at the lab before joining NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service in 2011, and continues to participate in the research. Jennifer McKinney, another former GCRL employee, earned a master’s degree on whale shark distribution from USM's Department of Coastal Sciences in 2010 and now works on the whale shark and other pelagic fish programs at LDWF.
At the core of the research is a multi-year tagging and monitoring effort that places satellite tracking tags on the sharks and monitors their movements for a year or more. A new one-day record for tagging success was established on June 20, 2013 when aerial spotters from On Wings of Care directed a LDWF boat carrying scientists to two groups of twelve whale sharks. Diving over the sharks with snorkeling gear, the team successfully attached satellite tags to ten sharks before depleting their supply of tags. The previous record was five tags in one day.
The scientists also obtained DNA samples and photographically documented the patterns of spots on each of the tagged sharks. The spot patterns provide a unique identifier for individual animals and are tracked in an international database.
Whale sharks come to the northern Gulf during summer and often feed on recently spawned fish eggs floating on the surface near the time of the full moon. The sharks swim slowly on the surface with their oblong mouths open, steadily filtering the fish eggs from the seawater. This surface feeding behavior provides an excellent opportunity for scientists to study the fish first hand in close quarters. The sharks congregate in numbers over Ewing Bank, Sackett Bank, and a few other locations near the edge of the continental shelf where bottom features cause upwellings of nutrient laden waters where pelagic fish like tuna and bonita prefer to spawn. The sharks are sometimes observed much closer to shore. The Florida panhandle produced an unusually high number of whale shark sightings during the summer of 2010.
Members of the public who see whale sharks are encouraged to submit a report to GCRL's Whale Shark Sighting Database by filling out a brief online form or calling 228.872.4257. Details for submitting reports and guidelines on safely observing whale sharks are available in an online flyer. The database documents more than 600 sighting reports since 2003.
Science Center for Marine Fisheries (SCeMFiS) Holds Productive Initial Meeting
The Industry Advisory Board (IAB) of the Science Center for Marine Fisheries (SCeMFiS) met for the first time on June 21-22 at the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory. SCeMFiS utilizes academic and fisheries resources to address urgent scientific problems limiting sustainable fisheries.
The University of Southern Mississippi is the lead academic institution in SCeMFiS with the Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences as the partner institution. SCeMFiS is sponsored by the Industry & University Cooperative Research Program (I/UCRC) of the National Science Foundation. The I/UCRC program brings participants from industry, government, and other organizations in need of science-based solutions into contact with academic scientists capable of providing that expertise. The organizational structure permits participants to set the science agenda in exchange for participant financial support.
Dr. Rodney Bennett, the University of Southern Mississippi President and state Senator Brice Wiggins, Ports and Marine Resources Committee, were on hand to address the group. This was Dr. Bennett’s first visit to the GCRL Cedar Point site and the Thad Cochran Marine Aquaculture Center. He and Senator Wiggins were treated to a behind-the-scenes tour. At the end of the day of meetings a cocktail reception was held in conjunction with a poster session featuring faculty and graduate students from GCRL. The 30+ posters displayed shared ongoing research projects with the group.
The IAB initiated eight projects at this meeting, fully funding four and providing initiation funds for four others. The IAB will review each of these projects at its next meeting that will be held in October at the Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences.
Fully-funded projects include:
- Optimization of survey methodology for black sea bass
Project leaders: Eric Powell, Jill Hendon, and Darcie Graham (University of Southern Mississippi)
- Breakage in surfclams and ocean quahogs during survey
Project leader: Roger Mann (Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences)
- Independent advisory team for marine mammal assessments
Project leader: Paula Moreno (University of Southern Mississippi)
- Juvenile survey for surfclams and ocean quahogs
Project leader: Roger Mann (Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences)
Projects initiated using seed money include a review of surfclam management options, development of a research program on biological reference points, and design studies for additional research on the biology and sampling of monkfish and yellowtail flounder.
The first SCeMFiS products are expected to be available by mid-August. Two of the surf clam/ocean quahog projects will provide information and gear for the federal survey expected to be at sea during that time. Further products will become available over the coming year.
Local news coverage:
The striped bass is GCRL's fish of the month for July 2013. Read more here.
The Gulf Coast Research Laboratory released more than 170,000 Phase I Gulf strain striped bass fingerlings into the major tributaries of coastal Mississippi during the last week of June and the first week of July. Releases took place in the Pearl River, Jordan River, Biloxi River, Tchoutacabouffa River, East and West Pascagoula River, and Fort Bayou. The fish were raised by the GCRL Striped Bass Restoration Project at the Lyman Fish Hatchery, just north of Gulfport. GCRL scientists have worked in partnership with the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources since 1967 to replenish the coastal striped bass population. More than 14 million striped bass have been released into Mississippi waters and striped bass are now caught regularly by recreational anglers.
Another 42,000 fingerlings are being retained for Phase II culture at the hatchery and restocking the ponds. These fish will be reared until they average 150 mm in total length, which should be late October or early November, when 20,000 of them will be harvested and tagged for release. The clearly visible external tags will be located just below the dorsal fin of the fish.
Four students were awarded scholarships to assist with their Summer Field Program (SFP) expenses at the GCRL this summer. Sara Mousel, a student at Northwestern Missouri State University, received the Dr. John S. Sharpe GCRL Endowment. Three students were awarded the Bennie A. Rohr GCRL Summer Field Program Scholarship Endowment: Megan McKenzie and Hannah Bahe, from the USM's Gulf Coast Campus, and Brondum Krebs, a student at the USM Hattiesburg campus.
The Dr. John R. Sharp Gulf Coast Research Lab Endowment provides scholarship money for summer graduate or undergraduate students at GCRL. The Bennie A. Rohr GCRL Summer Field Program Scholarship Endowment provides Summer Field Program scholarships to three students majoring in biology and reside in Hancock, Harrison, or Jackson County.
The SFP has had a record-breaking summer in terms of attendance, with more than 150 students enrolled. These students come to GCRL from 51 affiliate universities in 25 states. The program held classes in the new Field Studies Building completed only days before the start of the first session.
GCRL personnel have had two rather interesting interactions with birds recently.
Last month, GCRL converted the engine and fuel system on the vessel Miss Peetsy B to allow the use of waste vegetable oil (WVO) as fuel. The WVO is stored in a new tank, separate from the diesel fuel, and the engine can run on either fuel. The conversion was done by Randy Holton of Green World Innovations in Folly Beach, South Carolina. Randy explained, “The Detroit engine uses diesel to start and then switches to WVO once it warms up. Coming in from a trip, the engine is switched from WVO back to diesel so that the common fuel line is cleared of all vegetable oil.” Besides being less expensive than diesel fuel, the vegetable oil burns cleaner. Reduced emissions and the absence of heavy metals and carcinogens make for a more environmentally friendly fuel. The system components were installed so that they can be shown to passengers during cruises to explain the operation and environmental advantages of WVO fuel.
Randy says that his company has done many similar WVO conversions, including a recent conversion of two buses for a whitewater rafting business in North Carolina. Randy's involvement with GCRL came through the Buffett family, who came to know Randy when Jimmy Buffet needed WVO for "The Fried Green Tomato," his converted Ford Sportsmobile camper van, while traveling in South Carolina. A mutual friend introduced Randy as a source of WVO.
Soon after, Randy and Jimmy teamed up on the conversion of the local shrimp boat Hailey Marie to use WVO from the nearby Myrtle Beach Margaritaville restaurant. In return for vegetable oil fuel, the boat provides shrimp to the restaurant. It's a perfect example of a symbiotic relationship, and it’s green to boot!
The Miss Peetsy B is 33-foot fiberglass craft built as a U.S. Navy liberty launch in 1973 by Uniflite. It was donated to the lab in 2011 by Jimmy Buffett and his sisters Lucy Buffett and Laurie Buffett-McGuane. Miss Peetsy B is named in honor of the Buffett’s mother “Peets” Buffett, who passed away in 2003.
Mrs. Buffett was a 1940 graduate of the Gulf Park College for Women in Long Beach, Mississippi, which became a second campus for Southern Miss in 1972. To further support the University, the family created the Mary Loraine Peets Buffett Endowed Scholarship, which accepts contributions from the public. The family hopes this vessel will help educate students about their coastal environment, and ultimately, create a more informed citizenry to protect and maintain our local marine habitat.
The GCRL Marine Education Center offers bayou tours aboard the Miss Peetsy B as a field trip for school and community groups. The program consists of two 90-minute periods of instruction, one on the water and the other in the classroom. The program is tailored to 4th-12th grade students or adult groups.
- Miss Peetsy B - webpage with details on Miss Peetsy B and charters
- Peace Through Grease - 38-page case study of the shrimp boat Hailey Marie conversion to WVO, pdf file
7/16/13 update: Miss Peetsy B makes her maiden voyage with the new WVO fuel system. There is also collaboration with Lucy Buffett's restaurant, LuLu's at Homeport in Gulf Shores, Alabama, to begin using WVO from their kitchen. Media release
GCRL’s new Field Studies Building officially opened its doors on May 28, 2013 to a group of 75 students and several special guests. The 8400 sq. ft. Field Studies Building replaces the Hopkins Building destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The building, which includes four classrooms with complete lab facilities, will serve as the home of GCRL’s annual Summer Field Program for visiting college students. It will also house classes in the Department of Coastal Sciences and K-12 marine education programs. Since 2005, classes had been meeting in temporary modular buildings.
The new building sits in a spot directly north of where the Hopkins building once sat. The considerable elevation of this spot offers the best view on the entire property. The classrooms boast state of the art equipment and stained concrete floors with built in drains throughout that are designed to withstand the wear and tear of the field-based education that will happen there. The back porch with its soaring cathedral ceiling and Gulf view has already become the center of student life for the summer program. Picnic tables on the perimeter and a utility sink and workbench make the space both functional and attractive. GCRL’s executive director described the space as nice and open. Hopefully, you won't feel so much like you're in a classroom, even when you're in a classroom," Powell said.
More information: WLOX, May 28, 2013
The Mary C. O’Keefe Cultural Center was buzzing with activity last Saturday morning, June 1, as members of the GCRL COAST Team (Community Outreach for Accurate Science Translation) answered questions and provided information about the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill and its effects. The volunteer “citizen scientists” of the COAST Team spent seven Saturdays this spring working and learning alongside scientists from GCRL and Skidaway Institute of Oceanography of Savannah, Georgia. Specifically, they explored how oil and dispersants affect the growth of commercially important blue crabs and ecologically important grass shrimp.
Dr. Dick Lee of Skidaway began the team’s training with a discussion of his research on the effect of oil and dispersant on blue crabs and grass shrimp. Later sessions included work with GCRL's Harriet Perry and Jim Franks to understand the life cycles of blue crabs and blue fin tuna and how ocean currents influenced the vulnerability of those organisms to oil. Team members conducted laboratory and field explorations, learned about oil production and how spill research is funded, and sampled newly published research on the effects of the oil spill.
The culmination of the project was the public event at The Mary C. when team members communicated specific messages about oil spill research to the public through oral presentations,
information booths, and demonstrations. They illustrated the characteristics of spilled oil, explained why dispersants were used, and summarized what researchers are documenting about the effects of dispersants in the Gulf. Several team members focused their efforts on sharing this information with students. Another group addressed the Vietnamese community with bilingual posters and speakers. The Mary C.’s Culinary Arts program served delicious complimentary shrimp tacos with shrimp provided by GCRL. Local artist Carmen Lugo used comments and input from attendees to create an interpretive painting reflecting attitudes toward the spill and its impact on their lives. The event was sponsored by the EPA and the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium.
GCRL Librarian Joyce Shaw has been named Chairperson of the USM University Research Council (URC). The council serves as an advisory body to USM's Vice President for Research and Economic Development on matters pertaining to the development of research and creative activities. The council recommends policies and procedures to enhance the ability of the university to realize its potential for distinction in research and creative and scholarly activities. Two representatives from each college comprise the URC.
Joyce will serve a two-year term as Chairperson. Joyce hosted the council at GCRL for their May 6, 2013 meeting and provided the members a tour of the new Field Studies Building.
Read Hendon, Director of the GCRL Center for Fisheries Research and Development, received his Ph.D. in Fisheries Ecology in May after eight years of part-time study while working at GCRL. Dr. Hendon began his involvement with GCRL as a student in the Summer Field Program in 1995. Liking what he experienced that summer, he returned to GCRL in 1996 as an M.S. student in fisheries ecology and completed his degree 1998. Read then accepted a research position at GCRL where he has worked on programs ranging from monitoring and assessment of important coastal species to juvenile spotted sea trout ecology. He assumed the directorship of the fisheries center in January 2012.
Read recently served as project manager for GCRL’s involvement in the Port of Gulfport Restoration Program’s Environmental Services contract. He serves in several roles relative to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, including Inter-Agency Coordinator for USM's Oil Spill Response Team, Mississippi Trustee Representative for the Deepwater Horizon Natural Resources Damage Assessment (NRDA) Fish Technical Working Group, and GCRL Project Manager for the Mississippi Resource Restoration Group (the state's NRDA assessment team).
In 2009, the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council appointed Read to two-year terms on its Standing Scientific and Statistical Committee, Coastal Migratory Pelagics (Mackerel) Advisory Panel and Red Drum Advisory Panel. He is Field Party Chief for the Southeast Area Monitoring and Assessment Program (SEAMAP) offshore trawl surveys and serves as the Chairman of the SEAMAP Gulf Sub-Committee and as its Mississippi Representative. In February 2010, Read was recognized as the 2009 Fisheries Conservationist of the Year by the Mississippi Wildlife Federation. He is a Certified Fisheries Professional (FP-C) through the American Fisheries Society and a Certified Oyster Biologist through Louisiana's Department of Natural Resources.
The administrative offices of the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium (MASCG) are tucked away on the second floor in the Caylor Building on GCRL's East Beach location. The Sea Grant program supports coastal science research, outreach, and education, with a focus on four main areas: healthy coastal ecosystems, hazard resilient coastal communities, sustainable coastal development, and a safe, sustainable seafood supply.
Through grant competitions, MASCG funds local and regional applied research that improves and protects coastal communities and ecosystems. MASCG also supports the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Legal Program at The University of Mississippi School of Law. The legal staff conducts research on ocean and coastal law and answers research requests from lawyers, Sea Grant College Programs, and state and federal agencies from the Gulf Coast region. Extension specialists work with communities on many issues, such as water quality, coastal resilience, shoreline protection, water access, nature tourism, commercial fishing, and aquaculture.
The Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant program is one of 33 Sea Grant programs that make up the National Sea Grant College Program. There is a program in every coastal and Great Lakes state in the country. The Sea Grant network provides robust expertise ranging from informal educators to research scientists.
The National Sea Grant College Program is a partnership between our nation's universities and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The U.S. Congress created Sea Grant in 1966, and MASCG began operating in 1972.
While the administrative office is at GCRL, the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant program has nine member institutions: Auburn University, Dauphin Island Sea Lab, Jackson State University, Mississippi State University, The University of Alabama, The University of Alabama at Birmingham, The University of Mississippi, The University of Southern Mississippi, and the University of South Alabama.
In Mississippi, MASCG has outreach personnel at the Mississippi State University Coastal Research and Extension Center in Biloxi, at the legal program at The University of Mississippi in Oxford, and at GCRL. In Alabama, team members are at the Auburn University Marine Extension and Research Center in Mobile and the Gulf Shores Convention and Visitors Bureau in Gulf Shores. Outreach personnel work with communities in a number of ways: organizing educational workshops for nature tour operators, training commercial fishermen as safety drill instructors, helping community leaders lower insurance rates through the Community Rating System, working with water-dependent businesses to help make sure they have access to the water, and studying the economic impact of coastal storms and oil spills.
MASCG also supports educational programs for teachers, students, and the public at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab, the Mobile County Public Schools Environmental Studies Center and the GCRL Marine Education Center.
A good time and a fine educational experience were had by all at this year’s Stewardship Summit. Forty students and teachers from six schools attended the two-day event at GCRL's Cedar Point Teaching Site in May. The Stewardship Summit is the culminating event of GCRL's Meaningful Watershed Educational Experience funded under NOAA's Bay Watershed Education and Training (B-WET) program. The project uses maps, aerial photographs, and internet resources along with outdoor experiences to teach watershed concepts, science content, and environmental stewardship to middle and high school students.
During the summer of 2012, teachers from six participating schools in Mississippi and Louisiana came to GCRL for professional development programs and then returned to a GCRL program during the school year, bringing up to 25 students to practice their skills. Teachers also conducted projects in their classrooms focusing on an environmental issue and then presented them at the Summit. Each teacher was allowed to invite five exceptional students to return to GCRL for the Stewardship Summit.
The Summit began with a welcome reception and seafood dinner. The keynote speaker was Dr. Keith Mullin, Marine Mammal Program Manager at NOAA’s Southeast Fishery Science Center, who spoke about "NOAA Marine Mammal Research in the Gulf of Mexico." Environmental games filled the remainder of Friday evening. On Saturday morning, school teams made their individual presentations, participated in team building exercises, and brainstormed about ways to help the environment. The day also included a bus tour of the coast to view the changes caused by Hurricane Katrina and the human response to the storm. A group reflection session on what they had all learned concluded the Summit.
- "Watershed" the Movie - Five-minute YouTube video by Michael Raymond, a Stewardship Summit student participant from St. Stanislaus. Michael's teachers are Letha Boudreaux and Dan Munger. His video explains watersheds and the importance of protecting them.
Scientists at GCRL and Skidaway Institute of Oceanography in Savannah, Georgia, are exploring how oil and dispersants affect the growth of commercially important blue crabs and ecologically important grass shrimp. To help share their conclusions with the public, they have recruited commercial and recreational fishermen, environmental professionals, naturalists, teachers, and other interested members of the public to form the COAST Team (Community Outreach for Accurate Science Translation). These volunteer citizen scientists are now completing their field work and training. They will soon be conducting individual and group presentations for the public. The project is funded by a grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Administration.
COAST Team members have devoted six Saturdays to learning about the oil spill from project scientists and educators. Dr. Dick Lee of Skidaway initiated the training with a discussion of his research on the effect of oil and dispersant on blue crabs and grass shrimp. Later sessions included work with GCRL's Harriet Perry and Jim Franks to understand how the life cycles of Gulf residents (specifically blue crabs and bluefin tuna) and ocean currents influenced the vulnerability of those organisms to effects from the spill. Team members have conducted laboratory and field explorations, learned about oil production and how spill research is funded, and sampled the body of published research that is beginning to expand our understanding of the effects of the oil spill. They are currently developing ways to communicate their new expertise to members of the public. According to Dr. Jessie Kastler of GCRL, who coordinated the COAST training program, “We have been helping our citizen scientists recognize the role science plays after an accident with environmental consequences of this magnitude and now they can serve as a resource to share with their communities.”
The culmination of this project will be a public event at the Mary C. O’Keefe Cultural Center for Arts and Education in Ocean Springs on June 1, 2013 from 10:00 am until 1:00 p.m.. The event is sponsored by EPA and the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium. COAST team members will communicate specific messages about spill research to the public through oral presentations, informational booths, and demonstrations illustrating the characteristics of spilled oil, why dispersants were used, and what researchers are documenting about the effects of dispersants in the Gulf. Several team members are focusing their efforts on ways to share this information with students.
The Mary C.’s Culinary Arts program will offer a Gulf seafood tasting. Local artists will provide their unique perspectives on the spill. One will paint using comments and input from attendees to create a canvas reflective of the individual attitudes towards the spill and its impact on their lives. The other artist will provide an interactive opportunity for the public to create their own piece of art with unique media.
The Shark Fest day camp at the GCRL’s Marine Education Center (MEC) has much to offer the junior high or high school age camper. It provides a path for former Sea Campers to continue their marine education. For years, campers who had grown too old for Sea Camp had no alternative for a marine-oriented summer camp. Shark Fest fills this need and offers 12- to 18- year olds an introduction to the exciting world of sharks and shark research.
On board a GCRL research vessel, participants visit shark fishing hotspots around the barrier islands, where they catch and tag sharks to contribute to ongoing scientific research. Sharks are weighed, measured, and tagged with a unique number so that if the animal is caught again information about growth and movement can be obtained. After tagging, the shark’s condition is assessed and they are released. One shark tagged during a 2012 Shark Fest program was caught by a recreational fisherman who reported his catch to the Lab. Students involved in the initial tagging were notified that “their” shark had been recaptured.
Beth Jones, Educational Programs Manager at the MEC on the importance of Shark Fest, “This program enables us to take a subject that is appealing (sharks) and use it as a vehicle to convey an array of coastal science information, including sustainable fisheries, habitat change, and ecological principals.” Jill Hendon, research associate in charge of the shark lab at the Center for Marine Fisheries R&D, says, “Shark Fest is a wonderful program that really highlights the importance of sharks to our local ecosystem. It is amazing to see how the participants' perspective of sharks shifts from fear or curiosity to true fascination by the end of the program. It’s great that students get an up-close encounter with these fish and even tag the sharks to aid in our shark movement research. This kind of experience encourages students to understand the importance of the work that we do here at GCRL while observing the amazing diversity of the Mississippi Gulf Coast.”
The fourth lecture in the Jay and Bev Grimes Distinguished Lecturer series was presented April 22. The featured speaker was Dr. Karen Nelson, distinguished scientist and President of the J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI). Her lecture was titled "Omics – Insights into Your World and Mine". Her lecture discussed the pioneering work being done on the microbes that colonize the human body of which there are ten times more microbial cells than human cells. In many cases these microbes cannot be grown (cultured) hence the use of ‘omics’ or the identification of microbes based on their DNA ‘fingerprint.’ For example, the JCVI has shown that each tooth in the human body is colonized with a different community of bacteria and they know that the bacteria can activate hormones needed by their human host. Grimes, Nelson and Dr. Andy Evans hope to investigate the omics of sharks, a culture-based project that Grimes worked on in the 1980s before molecular methods had been discovered.
Dr. Nelson has been associated with JCVI for the past 16 years. Prior to her current position as President, she held various other positions at the Institute, including Director of JCVI's Rockville Campus, and Director of Human Microbiology and Metagenomics in the Department of Human Genomic Medicine at JCVI.
Dr. Jay Grimes, marine microbiology professor in the Department of Coastal Sciences and former GCRL director, and his wife Beverly, established the Grimes Distinguished Lecturer Series in 2007. The lecture series brings well-known marine scientists to address topics important to Southern Miss students, faculty and the coast community. The series is supported by the Grimes Distinguished Lecturer Fund through the University of Southern Mississippi Foundation.
The annual Mississippi Marine Fisheries Workshop was held at GCRL on Tuesday, April 30. The workshop featured Dr. Eric Powell, GCRL Director, who spoke about the newly funded NSF Science Center for Marine Fisheries (SCeMFiS). Read Hendon, director of the Center for Fisheries Research and Development (CFRD) at GCRL, provided an update on the Mississippi spotted seatrout fishery and the tag & release program. Darcie Graham, assistant director of the CFRD, addressed GCRL's blue crab research. Jill Hendon, CFRD research associate, summarized the Mississippi shark research program, and Eric Saillant, Assistant Professor in the GCRL’s Department of Coastal Sciences, spoke about the aquaculture of red snapper for stock enhancement. Wesley Devers from the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources (MDMR) gave a Mississippi Red Drum status update. The workshop concluded with an open discussion between public participants and presenting researchers. This annual workshop is held in conjunction with and funded by the MDMR through the Sport Fish Restoration Program.
The 2013 Graduate Student Symposium, hosted at GCRL this year, was a great success, with 33 oral presentations, four poster presentations and 71 students in attendance. The annual event is sponsored by the Marine and Estuarine Graduate Student Association (MEGSA) at GCRL, the Graduate Student Group from the Dauphin Island Sea Laboratory (DISL), and the Coast and Environment Graduate Organization from Louisiana State University.
Check-in began on Friday afternoon and lead into a welcome cookout on East Beach, adjacent to the lab. The gnats attempted to break up the party, but a good time was had by all despite them. Saturday began early with breakfast and opening remarks followed by the keynote address by Dr. Wolfgang K. Vogelbein. His address was titled "Pfiesteria: 'The Cell from Hell' or Laboratory Artifact? A Retrospective Look." (Note: Pfiesteria are a genus of tiny dinoflagellates. In conjunction with harmful algal blooms or HABs, they have been associated with fish kills along the coasts of North Carolina and Virginia.)
Oral presentations followed throughout the day and a poster session wrapped up the formal portion of the symposium. Participants were then treated to a social and awards ceremony at the Treasure Oaks Country Club. Dinner was boiled crawfish with locally brewed libations provided by Lazy Magnolia Brewing Company. The group was entertained by GCRL Marine Invertebrate Research Associate Jerry McLelland and his band, the Hound City Ramblers. The award presentation concluded the evening. Chris Manley, from GCRL, won the Student’s Choice award. Whitney Scheffel from DISL won the award for best poster and Andrea Kroetz from DISL was honored for the best student presentation.
Additional photos and details are available here.
Sport fishing research and education at GCRL received a boost from Mississippi Gulf Coast Fishing Tournaments, Inc. in the form of a $2000 check from the proceeds of the Dr. Chris Sprayberry Memorial Trophy Trout Tournament. John Rea, president of the group, made the presentation to Read Hendon, director of the GCRL Center for Fisheries R&D, at the April 28 tournament awards ceremony at The Dock Bar & Grill in Gulfport, Mississippi.
Board members John Rea (left) and Andy Hermitz (right) with Read Hendon of GCRL (center)
In describing the donation, Rea said, “We, as the corporation’s board, have all agreed that not only are we going to fund the Sprayberry Endowment Fund in honor of our dear friend every year, but we are also going to help out with conservation in any way we can. This is what we thought would help the most.” The foundation’s generous contribution will go into the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory Sport Fishing Research Fund to support undergraduate research and Sea Camp scholarships.
Mississippi Gulf Coast Fishing Tournaments, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) corporation founded in 2011. Read more about their objectives here and find them on Facebook. To donate to the GCRL Sport Fishing Research Fund, please contact GCRL or the University of Southern Mississippi Foundation at 601.266.5735 or
GCRL's Cedar Point teaching site will be the location of the second annual Stewardship Summit on May 17-18, 2013. The Stewardship Summit is part of the Meaningful Watershed Educational Experience (MWEE) program developed under the B-WET Shifting Baselines Project. During the school year, the grant paid for each teacher to bring up to 25 students to GCRL to gain hands-on experience on these subjects. The program teaches watershed concepts, science content, and environmental stewardship using maps, aerial photography, internet resources and field experiences. Participating teachers could invite five exceptional students to return to GCRL for the culminating event of the project, the Stewardship Summit.
Participants at the Stewardship Summit will learn more about watershed connections to the coast and how we can all be better stewards of our natural environment. Teachers and selected students spend a full day in games, presentations, and field experiences that allow them to share their stewardship activities and learn more about those of other students. They interact with natural resource scientists, such as Dr. Keith Mullin of NOAA, who conducts marine mammal research, and with groups working to make Mississippi’s coastal communities more resilient to storm damage. By the end of the Summit each participant will identify and describe an action he or she can take to be a better environmental steward. The teachers and students who will participate are from schools in Mississippi and Louisiana.
Participating schools and teachers for the 2013 Stewardship Summit were Philadelphia High School (Jim Luke), Philadelphia, MS, St. Stanislaus College (Letha Boudreaux, Dan Munger), Bay St. Louis, MS, St. Thomas More High School (John Dupuis), Lafayette, LA, Blackburn Middle School (Bridget Harkins, Marian Howze), Jackson, MS, St. Martin Middle School (Virginia McLaughlin), Ocean Springs, MS, and Sumrall High School (Jamie Sorrell), Sumrall, MS.
NSF Funds Science Center for Marine Fisheries at GCRL
A grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) is supporting the creation of the Science Center for Marine Fisheries (SCeMFiS) at The Gulf Coast Research Laboratory and the Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences (VIMS). The Center is a cooperative venture led by Dr. Eric Powell at GCRL and Professor Roger Mann at VIMS. It will provide an academic resource for the fishing industry throughout the Mid-Atlantic and Gulf Coast regions. The Center will be be co-located at GCRL and VIMS.
The new Center joins a network of NSF Industry/University Cooperative Research Centers (I/UCRCs). I/UCRC centers are designed to provide the business community with the opportunity to gain access to science to help fulfill their needs. In its 40-year history, the I/UCRC program at NSF has become a model for collaborative research between industry and universities throughout the country.
Powell says SCeMFiS is “unique in being the only federal-industry partnership that permits the fishing industry to retain a leadership role in designing the science program. This assures that sustainable fisheries will remain a focus of project design and that the science products will directly address the issues faced by the fishing industry.”
Mann adds that Center activities will “benefit both the commercial and recreational fishing industries while helping to sustain the nation's fish resources.” Research at the center, he says, “will use peer-reviewed science to help improve sampling methods for fisheries surveys, enhance population-dynamics models, develop new approaches to reducing discard, reveal geographic and biological variations in stock structure and dynamics, among many other benefits.”
Successful management of U.S. fisheries is limited by insufficient information on finfish and shellfish stocks and fisheries and insufficient analytical and modeling applications. The mission of the SCeMFiS is to use academic, recreational, and commercial fisheries resources to address urgent scientific problems limiting sustainable fisheries. The Center seeks to simultaneously achieve the goals of sustainable fish and shellfish stocks and sustainable fish and shellfish fisheries. An Industry Advisory Board (IAB) for the Center will be made up of business and federal partners that have agreed to support the Center. The IAB is expected to meet for the first time on June 21, 2013.
The National Science Foundation’s initial support of SCeMFIS is an initial five-year seed grant of $529,340, with a statement of intent to provide additional future support if funds are available and results warrant. NSF officials say that investment in SCeMFIS and other cooperative research centers is seed money, with the centers expected to gradually become fully supported by university, industry, state, and/or other non-NSF sponsors. To date, more than 80% of the centers established under the program continue as successful centers without NSF funding.
Chris Snyder, Director of the MEC and Beth Jones, MEC Educational Programs Manager recently accompanied a group of students from Vancleave High School to the fourth annual National Student Summit on Oceans and Coasts in Washington, D.C. The four-day summit provided an opportunity for the Mississippi students to share their experiences and conclusions from studying ocean science and coastal environments at GCRL. The summit is sponsored by the Coastal America Partnership, which brings public and private groups to collaborate in addressing the challenges to our nation’s coastal ecosystems. GCRL's MEC is one of 24 Coastal Ecosystem Learning Centers across the country which foster awareness and education to promote better management of coastal resources. The group also visited Mississippi's U.S. Senator, Thad Cochran.
Students, teachers, and MEC staff visited Mississippi's Senator Thad Cochran.
Pictured (left to right) – Robert Bawcum (student), Leslie Salter (teacher), Beth Jones (MEC Educational Programs Manager), Christian Davis (student), U.S. Senator Thad Cochran, Chris Snyder (MEC Director), Matthew Summerlin (student), and Micah Longmire (student).
The Vancleave students have chosen to take on the problem of marine debris as a special project. They conduct a volunteer cleanup day on Saturday, April 27, 2013 in Vancleave, the first of its kind in their community. The event will educate residents on the need to be a responsible part of the watershed and how their actions regarding litter and trash have a direct effect on our oceans and streams.
On April 4, GCRL partnered with local agencies to host the 2013 Jackson County Chamber of Commerce Leadership Class at the Cedar Point teaching site. The class’s Environmental Day introduced participants to the diversity of groups, facilities, and programs that focus on environmental issues in and around Jackson County.
The Chamber with the assistance of Mark LaSalle from the Pascagoula Audubon Center, conducted an Environmental Fair that allowed local facilities, organizations, and nature-based businesses to share details about what they do.
Participating organizations included Mississippi Sandhill Crane Refuge, Grand Bay NERR, Land Trust for the Mississippi Coastal Plain, Habitat Stewards Program of the Mississippi Wildlife Federation, Coastal Rivers, NOAA Pascagoula Lab, The Nature Conservancy, Jackson County Soil and Water Conservation District, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Pascagoula River Audubon Center, South Coast Paddling Company, McCoy’s River & Marsh Tours, and Eco-Tours of South Mississippi.
Linh Pham, GCRL graduate student, was honored as the Yarbrough Scholar winner at the 2013 USM Graduate Student Research Symposium on March 21 in Hattiesburg. She was also author of the Department of Coastal Sciences' top paper in Life and Physical Sciences II. Linh's presentation was titled "Seagrass assessment on Northern Chandeleur Islands, LA". Her major professor is Dr. Patrick Biber.
Bayou field trips are available to local schools and community groups. The field trips consist of two 90-minute sessions, one onboard Miss Peetsy B and one in the waterfront classroom. Student programs are aimed at 4th - 12th grade students in groups of 30 to 60 and cost $20 per student. More information is available here. Programs for adults are tailored to suit the group.
GCRL’s Dr. Jay Grimes was recently selected to serve as the new chair of the Committee on Environmental Microbiology of the American Society for Microbiology (ASM.) The announcement came at the annual meeting of the ASM Public and Scientific Affairs Board (PSAB) in Washington, D.C. The Committee on Microbiology, one of ten PSAB committees, promotes the adoption of sound science policies on environmental microbiology by reviewing and analyzing pertinent federal programs.
The PSAB monitors legislation and regulation and develops positions for ASM on public policy issues. With 37,000 members, ASM is the largest life sciences society in the world.
GCRL faculty and staff celebrated the 103rd anniversary of The University of Southern Mississippi with a gathering and commemorative cake in the dining hall. 20-year service pins were awarded to Dawn Rebarchik and Angelia Bone. Chris Snyder was honored for 10 years of service. Kathy Vanderkooy was not in attendance, but has earned her 10-year service pin. Megan Burkes, Manager of Annual Giving and Special Projects for the USM Foundation spoke to the group about the Campaign for Southern Miss and donation opportunities.
|We welcome Dr. Rodney Bennett, USM's new president, who comes to us from the University of Georgia. Dr. Bennett officially takes office on April 1, but he has already had a eventful couple of weeks since being named the University’s 10th president. On Sunday, February 10, an EF-4 tornado hit Hattiesburg, causing considerable damage to parts of the Southern Miss campus. Dr. Bennett immediately returned to Hattiesburg to help his new Eagle family. The volunteer cleanup effort was so effective that the campus was able to re-open for classes on Thursday, February 14.
Dr. Bennett made his first visit to GCRL on February 27. He is shown here touring the Lab with Director Dr. Eric Powell.
GCRL’s Center for Fisheries Research and Development (CFRD) has again participated with the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources in removing derelict crab traps from coastal waters. Derelict traps pose a navigation hazard and can kill marine organisms by "ghost fishing." Since the program's inception in 1999, nearly 20,000 derelict traps have been removed from coastal waters.
CFRD personnel maintain an electronic database on each derelict trap, using information submitted by the volunteers who find and turn in traps. The data includes the location of the trap, disposition (on shore, submerged, etc.), the condition of the trap, and the number and condition of animals found as bycatch in the traps.
GCRL also assists in locating and removing derelict traps, helps prepare the traps for recycling, and assists MDMR at the three trap drop-off locations.
GCRL’s Dr. Eric Saillant is one of three featured speakers at the upcoming Spring Science Seminar on artificial reefs sponsored by the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources (MDMR) and the Grand Bay National Research Reserve (NERR). Dr. Saillant's presentation is titled "Red Snapper Aquaculture and Stock Enhancement: Opportunities, Issues and Research Needs."
Keynote speakers will be Kerwin Cuevas, Director of the Mississippi Artificial Reef Program and Jimmy Sanders, fisheries scientist in the MDMR Artificial Reef Bureau. Others speaking are Mike Pursley, MDMR State Aquatic Invasive Species Coordinator and Capt. Lenny Maiolatesi, with Fighting Chicken Sportfishing Charters.
Dr. Wei Wu, assistant professor of landscape ecology in the Department of Coastal Sciences at GCRL recently published a paper in Environmental Research Letters, an open-access research journal intended as the meeting place of the research and policy communities concerned with environmental change and management. The paper, titled "Modeling photosynthesis of Spartina alterniflora (smooth cordgrass) impacted by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill using Bayesian inference" is available online.
A brief description of the work appears on the Environmental Research Web website: “Insight: how did Mississippi shoreline marsh grass react to oil contamination?” Dr. Wu and GCRL colleagues Dr. Patrick Biber, Dr. Mark Peterson, and Dr. Chongfeng Gong measured the effect of the oil spill on wetlands by using a novel multi-scale hierarchical Bayesian (HB) model.
In February, 22 faculty, staff, and students from GCRL's Department of Coastal Sciences participated in the 39th annual meeting of the Mississippi Chapter of the American Fisheries Society (AFS) at Percy Quinn State Park in McComb, Mississippi. Five students, two faculty, and four staff members gave presentations, Jeremy Higgs received the third-place award for Best Student Presentation.
Nancy Brown-Peterson, Jill Hendon, and Jim Franks received Mississippi Chapter Distinguished Service Awards for their efforts as Local Arrangements Chair, Treasurer, and Fund Raising Chair, respectively, for the highly successful 2012 Biloxi meeting of the Southern Division of AFS. Mark Peterson received the Mississippi Chapter's Meritorious Service Award, acknowledging more than 20 years of service to the Chapter, including General Meeting Chair of the 2012 Biloxi meeting. 2013 Officers of the Mississippi Chapter include Darcie Graham, Secretary-Treasurer, and Nancy Brown-Peterson, Past President.
GCRL's Center for Plant Restoration (CPR) is responding to a growing need for practical information and local plant sources for coastal resoration projects. The Center is acting as a catalyst to encourage local private coastal plant nursery businesses and assure that suitable plant stocks are available for restoration projects on the Mississippi Coast. To accomplish this, the Center is creating a scientific knowledge base and information exchange hub for growers, restoration teams, and decision makers. The effort is particularly important in light of the anticipated increase in demand for plants for restoration projects in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
The CPR is directed by Dr. Patrick Biber, Associate Professor of Marine Botany. Dr. Biber created the Center in 2010 with the support of a grant from the Coastal Impact Assistance Program (CIAP). Since joining GCRL in 2004, Dr. Biber has also established a native plant nursery for propagating coastal plants for habitat restoration. The nursery is not intended to be a commercial source of plants, but supports research objectives and assists local businesses and organizations who can be commercial plant suppliers. Interested parties are encouraged to contact Dr. Biber.
There are significant opportunities to increase local sourcing of native plants for restoration work. At present, local supplies of native restoration plants are not adequate to meet the demand. The benefits of using local suppliers include local economic development and improved planting and growth results. Dr. Biber points out that local genotypes of a plant species adapted to that area are much hardier and grow better than genotypes of the same species brought from another area. For instance, a locally grown smooth cordgrass plant will out perform a plant from South Carolina. The local economic benefits of locally sourced plants are apparent.
The CPR is developing a proposal to study the native plant market, supply system, and organizations involved in coastal restoration projects. They intend to meet with local native plant growers, the Corps of Engineers, and local NGOs and governments to understand the impediments to using local stocks and develop ways to encourage the development and use of local sources. The Center hopes to increase the awareness of opportunities and benefits of locally sourced native plants and help remove the administrative and procedural barriers that impede local suppliers. In parallel, the CPR will be provide a readily available source of information and advice to all involved.
Restoration Plant Propagation Guides
As a practical first step, Dr. Biber and the CPR have developed propagation guides for seventeen of the most useful coastal plants. The guides provide "how to" instructions for propagating plant stocks, with information and instruction specific to each species. Guides for seventeen plants may be viewed or downloaded on the Web. They provide a useful resource for large-scale growers, restoration project teams, and homeowners. It's anticipated that approximately six additional guides for other useful plant species will be added. The team developing the guides includes Dr. Biber, J. D. Caldwell, Scott R. Caldwell, and Matthew Marenberg.
Plant of the Month - Smooth Cordgrass
With the February 2013 issue, the GCRL News e-newsletter will feature a new native coastal plant every month. This month's featured plant is smooth cordgrass or Spartina alterniflora, one of the most common plants in our intertidal wetlands and salt marshes. The propagation guide for this species is available here. Smooth cordgrass is particularly important in preventing erosion, building new marsh, and providing habitat for estuarine creatures.
Annual Meeting: Southeast Chapter of the Society for Ecological Restoration
On a related note, the Southeast Chapter of the Society for Ecological Restoration will hold its annual meeting on March 12–14 at the Gulf Hills Hotel and Conference Center in Ocean Springs, Mississippi. The meeting welcomes restoration practitioners, scientists, researchers, students, and anyone else who wants to share or learn from the experience of others in managing the human dimensions of ecological restoration. More information
The new Aquatic Science Laboratory at Bel-Aire Elementary School in Gulfport makes hands-on learning available to students in discovering and learning about the creatures and habitats of our Gulf Coast region. The facility is the only one of its kind in the Harrison County School District. It was made possible by donation of approximately $10,000 worth of equipment from the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory’s Marine Education Center and a $5500 grant from the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources (MDMR).
The MEC’s donation included aquariums of various sizes, touch-tanks, and complete filtration systems. GCRL also donated a myriad of creatures. Some were raised in GCRL’s aquaculture program while others were caught in the waters adjacent to the Lab. A few had been brought to the MEC in need of rehabilitation. A special donation of a brown banded bamboo shark was made by the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, California.
The grand opening of this unique lab was Wednesday, January 30, 2013. Representatives from MDMR and GCRL were on hand for the excitement as teachers and students began enjoying the new resource.
Brinton Barnes, graduate student at GCRL and marine educator at the MEC, was instrumental in the transfer and setup of the donated tanks and creatures. He worked side by side with an energetic educator at Bel-Aire, Mr. John Leon, to make sure the animals were in the correct environment and the tanks were working properly. Bel-Aire’s principal, Heather Blenden, complimented Brinton on his hard work and energy, saying that he had visited the school so frequently during the project that he had become like one of her staff!
GCRL's Dr. Joe Griffitt has been invited to speak at the upcoming annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, (AAAS) in Boston, February 14-18, 2013. Griffitt is the co-organizer of a session titled, The Toxicological Impact of the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill on Human and Wildlife Health, during which he will make a presentation on Effects of Dispersed Oil on Larval Sheepshead Minnows.
Dr. Griffitt explained, “The sheepshead minnow is a good indicator species to assess the impact of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill on the Mississippi estuarine community. Studies using the water accommodated fraction retrieved from mixtures of water, COREXIT® 9500, and crude oil found decreases in hatching success and larval growth rates in sheepshead minnows. This presentation will discuss the impact of the dispersed oil on growth and reproduction dynamics in the sheepshead minnow.”
(The Sheepshead Minnow, Cyprinodon variegatus, is is a subspecies of killifish found in salt marsh estuary environments. It is not related to the larger sheepshead fish.)
AAAS or "Triple A - S," is an international non-profit organization dedicated to advancing science by serving as an educator, leader, spokesperson, and professional association. AAAS publishes the journal Science, as well as many scientific newsletters, books and reports, and spearheads programs that raise the bar of understanding for science worldwide.
The Coastal Nature Destinations Group (CNDG) is a new partnership of nature-based non-profits and government entities on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Their mission is to encourage residents and visitors to visit nature-based destinations, explore the amazing lands and waters in our own backyard, and learn something while having fun.
The founding members are in Jackson County, but membership will be opened to other organizations along the coast.
- Pascagoula River Audubon Center
- Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge
- Grand Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve (NERR)
- Gulf Coast Research Laboratory Marine Education Center
- Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium
- Land Trust for the Mississippi Coastal Plain
The CNDG has developed a series of Media Tours and Briefings to begin telling this story to the public:
- Coastal Mississippi has some of the most diverse, pristine, and productive natural environments in the world.
- Coastal Mississippi has a stellar array of nonprofit organizations and government entities that care for these environments and sponsor high quality outdoor adventures and learning opportunities for the public. These opportunities are free or low-cost and open to all.
Shrimp raised at GCRL’s Thad Cochran Aquaculture Center were featured at the January 9, Gulf Coast Legislative Reception for the Mississippi Legislature in Jackson. The shrimp were prepared and served by students in the Culinary Arts Technology program at the Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College (MGCCC).
This annual event, which drew approximately 1500 people from around the state, is a culinary celebration of what the Gulf Coast has to offer. Served alongside the shrimp from GCRL, there was eggplant seafood casserole, seafood pasta, corn and crab bisque, barbeque, and king cakes that added just the right touch to the evening’s Mardi Gras theme. The event provides an outstanding opportunity for Coast representatives, including city officials, business people, and GCRL representatives to network with Legislators and promote the Coast.
Representative Hank Zuber, from Ocean Springs, was quoted in the Sun Herald, saying,“After this experience, they do get it," he said. "They appreciate our quality of life, the way we live life, our food, how we celebrate Mardi Gras -- not only that, but they have told me over and over that hands down, this is the best legislative reception every year.”
The Gulf Coast Research Laboratory (GCRL), the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources (MDMR) and Aqua Green LLC are partnering to produce popular recreational fish such as spotted sea trout, red snapper, and cobia for release into Mississippi waters. The group released hundreds of red snapper fingerlings onto an offshore artificial reef on January 24, 2013. WLOX video
The fish were produced at GCRL’s Thad Cochran Marine Aquaculture Center located at GCRL's Cedar Point site in Ocean Springs, Mississippi. GCRL is a pioneer in red snapper aquaculture and is the only facility in the world actively culturing red snapper. GCRL began investigating aquaculture of this notoriously difficult species more than 10 years ago and released several thousand fish around the year 2000.
In 2011, GCRL, MDMR, and Aqua Green formed the current partnership with the goal of increasing snapper production and release capability. The January 24 release is the first of of three during 2013 that will put more than 1000 juvenile red snapper into Mississippi's Gulf waters.
Dr. Mark Peterson, professor of Fisheries Ecology at the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory has been named Fisheries Conservationist of the Year by the Mississippi Wildlife Federation (MWF). Mark, who has been with GCRL for eighteen years, is also the Editor-in-Chief and Chair of the Advisory & Editorial Boards (1996-2001 and 2003-present) for Gulf and Caribbean Research (formerly Gulf Research Reports).
The Fisheries Conservationist of the Year award is given for outstanding contributions to the management, enhancement, and restoration of fisheries resources in Mississippi. The award is sponsored by Chevron.
The Mississippi Wildlife Federation will host the Conservation Achievement Awards Banquet on February 16, 2013 in Jackson, Mississippi to recognize and honor those whose achievements in natural resource conservation deserve statewide recognition. MWF's Conservation Achievement awards is among the most prestigious for conservation efforts. They are presented annually on behalf of MWF's members and supporters and its statewide network of affiliated organizations.
Other GCRL employees who have been honored by the MWF are Read Hendon, Director of the Center for Fisheries Research and Development, the 2010 recipient of the Fisheries Conservationist of the Year and Marie Mullen, the 2012 recipient of a Special Merit Award. Jim Franks, Senior Research Scientist in the Center for Fisheries Research and Development, is a director of the MWF.
MWF's mission is to conserve Mississippi's natural resources and protect our wildlife legacy.
Rachelle E. Williams, Graduate Research Assistant in Marine Microbiology, has been chosen as a 2012-2013 ASM-BWF Science Teaching Fellow. Rachelle is conducting research on Vibrio populations in bottlenose dolphins in Sarasota Bay, Florida and Barataria Bay, Louisiana. Her adviser is Dr. Jay Grimes.
The American Society for Microbiology (ASM) and Burroughs Wellcome Fund (BWF) are partners in bringing new professional development opportunities to U.S. graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and early-career scientists. One result of the partnership is the ASM-BWF Science Teaching Fellows Program, which aims to help prepare doctoral-trained students for science teaching positions at a variety of non-doctoral institutions. Fellows in the program take part in a 10-month training experience that combines in-depth webinars, pre- and post-webinar assignments, structured mentoring, and a community of practice. The experience is designed to help fellows deepen their understanding and strengthen their skills for science teaching positions at community colleges, minority-serving institutions, regional or state colleges, and primary undergraduate institutes.
The program offers professional development opportunities that highlight four areas of critical importance:
- Teaching science to undergraduate students
- Curriculum and course design and assessment
- Student-centered, active and engaged learning
- Students as research collaborators
When asked about the honor, Rachellle stated “I applied to the fellowship because I have been interested in teaching at a community college or college, rather than a research institution for a while. I would not be in graduate school without the help of educators who loved their job and had a passion for teaching and an interest in helping their students achieve their goals. I want to be an educator like that - one who not only teaches their students but is able to help them prepare for their next step in life.”
Joyce Shaw's new book, Images of America – Ocean Springs is now available. Joyce is the head librarian at the Gunter Library at the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory and manages GCRL's popular Science Cafe series.
Joyce's family ties to the area began with her grandfather Hobart Doane Shaw's arrival on the Mississippi Coast in the early 1900s. He is credited with designing the seawall that protects Harrison County. Joyce's father, Philip W. Shaw, Sr., is a former mayor of Gulfport. The book's coauthor, Betty Hancock-Shaw, is a native and lifelong resident of Gulfport. She became keenly interested in historic preservation after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. Betty works in the library at the USM Gulf Coast campus in Long Beach.
Chapter 8 of the book is devoted exclusively to the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory and includes 28 photographs. Joyce has been at GCRL for more than 17 years as head of the Gunter Library, which serves as the archive for the history of GCRL. Joyce also published a history of GCRL in “Gulf of Mexico Science” in 2010.
The publisher's description of the 128-page book reads: "Nestled at the heart of the beautiful Mississippi Gulf Coast, lined with white beaches, shaded by majestic live oak trees, and caressed by gentle sea breezes, Ocean Springs has grown over the last century from a small fishing and agricultural village into a lively arts community. With rich historical roots beginning with the establishment of a French beachhead in 1699, Ocean Springs was incorporated in 1892 with fewer than 600 residents and has grown to a population of 17,442 as of 2010. Ocean Springs is a modern cosmopolitan mix of creative arts, fine dining, light industry and seashore recreation. A visit to Ocean Springs is a pleasant mix of old and new, with quiet tree-lined streets, busy galleries and museums, restful parks and treasured memories of the past."
Copies of the book may be ordered here. Autographed copies are available from Joyce at the Gunter Library.
On December 8, 2012, the Coastal Conservation Association (CCA) once again provided live speckled trout for use as brood stock in GCRL's stock enhancement program. CCA conducted The Ernie Zimmerman Friends and Family Tournament on December 8, 2012 with GCRL employees on hand to answer questions and collect the live trout.
Thirty-two adults and seven children registered to fish and it was a beautiful day on the water. Although the fishing was not great, the anglers did manage to provide 50 fish to GCRL. Thanks go to Bay Marina for hosting the tournament, to Joe Castoro for cooking, to Ernie Zimmerman for organizing the tournament, and of course, to the anglers. Everyone had a great time and looks forward to the next tournament. The first place winner in the children's division was Hamp Fairey.
This unique tournament began with the desire to expand the Seatrout Population Enhancement Cooperative (SPEC) project to include speckled trout from the western portion of the Mississippi coast. The necessary brood stock were collected during the First Annual Ernie Zimmerman Friends and Family Live Catch Tournament in December, 2007. That first tournament collected ninety-six trout for the hatchery, with an additional ninety male trout subsequently collected.
In 2008, the first release in the Bay of St. Louis of approximately 40,000 fingerlings was split between the Merlin Necaise Ramp in Wolfe River and the Cedar Point Ramp at Jourdan River. These releases have increased each year, and to date more than 300,000 fingerlings have been released into local waters. The Mississippi Bay Chapter of CCA made a $1300 donation to the hatchery in 2008 and followed up in 2012 with a $2500 donation. CCA's support in the form of brood stock and monetary donations is much appreciated, and GCRL hopes to continue fostering this wonderful relationship with CCA.
The Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute Annual Meeting
- The Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute held it’s annual meeting November 5-9, 2012 in Santa Marta, Columbia. GCRL attendees were Jim Franks, Nancy Brown-Peterson, Mark Peterson, Jeremy Higgs, Eric Saillant, Harriet Perry, and Don Johnson. Jeremy, Eric, Harriet, and Don all gave oral presentations and Nancy gave a poster presentation.
Jim, Nancy, and Mark are all on the Board of Directors of GCFI. Jim is the Chairman of the Board, and Nancy was appointed to the Executive Committee for 2013. Nancy is Chair of the Student Awards Committee for GCFI. Mark and Jim are also members. This Committee is responsible for choosing two Travel Award winners and two Student Achievement Award winners and running the annual silent auction.
- Jeremy Higgs, Master’s Graduate Student and Fisheries Technician, received the Ronald L. Schmied GCFI Scholarship to attend the Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute conference in Santa Marta, Columbia in November 2012. He presented a talk on the diet of Atlantic sharpnose sharks in the northcentral Gulf of Mexico.
GCRL’s Lee Fisher has received a University of Southern Mississippi Staff Excellence Award. The awards are presented annually to five University staff members who have demonstrated excellent leadership ability and professionalism in their job performance. Stipends of $1,200 and a certificate of appreciation were awarded to each recipient during a reception in Hattiesburg, on Tuesday December 2, 2012. Lee is a Maintenance Mechanic I in the Physical Plant Department.
Staff Council Scholarship Awards
Two GCRL employees were recognized by the staff council for their dedication and services to the University and received a $250 scholarship. The award recognizes staff members who have completed one semester or more of study towards a degree at USM with a 3.0 cumulative grade point average. The employee must be enrolled in a minimum of six hours of study and not have been awarded the Staff Council Scholarship within the last year.
|Jeremy Higgs, Master’s Graduate Student and Fisheries Technician. Jeremy is working toward an M.S. degree from USM's Department of Coastal Science. He's investigating reproductive parameters of fine tooth sharks||Cassidy Jacquet, Grant Administrator, Center for Fisheries Research and Development. Cassidy is working toward an M.B.A.|
2012 Bays and Bayous Symposium
Nineteen GCRL staff members gave presentations at the November 14-15, 2012 Bays and Bayous Symposium in Biloxi. Details
Dr. Jay Grimes made an invited presentation at the South Central Branch of the American Society for Microbiology at Mississippi State University in Starkville on October 27, 2012. The presentation was entitled “Utilization of Hydrocarbons by Pathogenic Vibrios.” It outlined the research he is conducting on the ability of the three primary human pathogens, Vibrio cholerae, V. parahaemolyticus and V. vulnificus, to utilize petroleum, including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, as sole sources of carbon and energy.
Dr. Grimes also made an invited presentation to the National Academy of Sciences’ Ocean Studies Board annual meeting, held in New Orleans on November 8, 2012. The presentation was titled “Recovery and Restoration at the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory" and it outlined the petroleum-related research being done at the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory.