y Gulf Coast Research Laboratory in the News - Research, Academics, Extension

Gulf Coast Research Laboratory in the News

August/September 2014

What's Next for Dr. Overstreet?

In July, GCRL's Dr. Robin Overstreet was honored by the American Society of Parasitologists with their Eminent Parasitologist Lectureship Award, which recognizes "Eminence and international visibility for a substantial contribution to parasitology over a substantial period of time." Looking back on Dr. Overstreet's 45-year career in marine parasitology and pathobiology, it's easy to see why he was selected for the honor. His work includes 300 peer-reviewed papers, direct research funding of 20 million dollars, collaborative project funding of 50 million dollars, and service as affiliate faculty or the equivalent at 13 institutions of higher learning around the world. To date, fellow scientists have honored Dr. Overstreet by naming 27 newly discovered species of parasites for him. In addition to parasitology, Dr. Overstreet has conducted research on viruses, cancer, and pathological alterations that afflict humans and fish, as well as aquaculture issues.

Dr. Robin Overstreet in his office at GCRL
Dr. Robin Overstreet in his office at GCRL

Dr. Overstreet retired from GCRL in February 2014 and you might think that he would slow down and take a well-deserved break from work. You'd be wrong. Instead, he's simply altering his path a bit and forging ahead. Dr. Overstreet returned to GCRL this summer as Professor Emeritus, working without compensation and donating his time to GCRL and Southern Miss. With four dozen scientific papers in progress and three Ph.D. students, he shows no signs of reducing his pace. When asked about his plans, he responded, "I'll be focusing more attention on my graduate students and their work, and I want to work on collections I have made throughout the world, including Australia, Asia, Africa, and the Americas. There are about 50,000 specimens that date back to 1963."

Given Dr. Overstreet's intense and wide-ranging curiosity, new projects are certain to be added. "Things just seem to pop up," he says. Parasitology Lab technician Jean Jovanovitch-Avillar observed, "You never know what's going to come through the door. Dr. Overstreet is the "go-to guy" for parasitologists and other scientists around the world. He considers support for other researchers and community service to be innate parts of being a good scientist, and his sense of community is global."

People who have worked with Dr. Overstreet describe him as passionate about science and intensely curious. They admire his problem solving orientation and the way he combines the scientific method with common sense and logic. One interesting example centered on a series of mysterious deaths of brown pelicans in the inner basin of the Ocean Springs Boat Harbor back in 2003. Brown pelicans were rare and endangered at the time, so the deaths were cause for substantial concern. Locals suspected disease, parasites, pathogens, and pollution as probable causes and Dr. Overstreet was asked to investigate. Upon collecting and examining several specimens, he quickly observed that each bird exhibited scorching of the flesh and feathers from one wing to another and other signs of electrocution. A visit to the harbor revealed that the birds were perching on power lines near the fish cleaning station, waiting for scraps from fishermen cleaning their catch. When they flapped away from their perch, the birds' wing tips closed the circuit between two power conductors with fatal results. A call to the power company brought a crew out to separate the wires and the problem was solved.

"Fifty percent of the animals on Earth are parasites," Dr. Overstreet observed, "and essentially all the rest are hosts." Many parasites move from one species of animal to another in various developmental stages of their lives, from marsh snails to fish or crabs to raccoons or birds in which they mature, for example. Some can take multiple paths through host species, depending on conditions in their environment. Hosts often harbor multiple species of parasites; seventy or more occur in local mosquitofish and croakers, for example. Parasites are an integral part of the web of life in any marine or terrestrial community and it's impossible to study and understand parasites without studying and understanding their hosts. That interconnectedness also means that parasites can be used to make conclusions about the biology or health of other animals and even entire ecosystems. Regarding local concerns, Dr. Overstreet has investigated how parasites can serve as indicators of recovery in ecosystems after disturbances such as hurricanes and oil spills.

Any conversation with Dr. Overstreet about his work is almost certain to pique the listener’s curiosity, incite questions, and maybe raise an eyebrow, too. In his quiet way, he casually mentions experiences that could easily form the basis for an hour or two of discussion for each. He might speak of spending a week in Russia finally meeting face-to-face with colleagues that he had had considerable correspondence. Perhaps you'd hear about his correspondence with Masahito, Prince Hitachi, the younger brother of current Emperor Akihito of Japan about tumors in Medaka (a Japanese fish similar to our killifish) and then having him and the former finance minister as tour guides in the cancer hospital where the Prince conducted research; Overstreet was in Japan to present papers in Tokyo and Sapporo. Have you ever wondered how a curious and dedicated parasitologist visiting Finland might bring home a specimen of an eight-meterlong intestinal broadfish tapeworm that can't survive outside its host? Think about it. Or, ask Dr. Overstreet.

One consequence of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill is the emerging recognition that the Gulf of Mexico has received far less research attention that the country's Atlantic and Pacific waters. Dr. Overstreet is frustrated by the lack of research and the lack of research funding for the Gulf of Mexico. "With its warm, nutrient rich water, the Gulf and its marine life are extremely interesting, but not yet well understood. And the opportunities and needs are even more significant with parasites than with fish, oysters, and mammals. I have a lot of ideas for student work if we can find funding." Dr. Richard Heard, a former student turned longtime friend and collaborator, said, “He and I both have already solved another lifetime of research problems we'd like to publish."

After 45 years of enthusiastically exploring the interconnected webs of parasites, hosts, and the environment, Dr. Robin Overstreet has a rare and wonderful understanding of the living world. As Jean Jovonovitch-Alvillar reflected, "He's a natural resource of scientific knowledge." Other than shedding a few administrative duties upon his retirement, Dr. Overstreet shows no sign of slowing down. He's still exploring, learning, and asking questions.

One Coast Triathlon starts from GCRL

GCRL was the starting point for the recent One Coast Olympic Distance Triathlon. Some 500 athletes converged on the campus for this USA Triathlon sanctioned event on Sunday, August 31st. The event was hosted by Run-N-Tri and sponsored by the cities of Ocean Springs, Biloxi, Pass Christian, Gulfport and Bay St. Louis. The day started with a 1.4k swim in the waters of the Gulf right in front of the laboratory and was followed by the bike portion which was a 40k ride from GCRL to the Belle Fontaine Beach and back. The final leg of the event was a 10k run through town ending at Fort Maurepas.

GCRL Director presents to Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council

Dr. Eric Powell, GCRL Director, spoke at a recent meeting of the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council. The meeting was held at the Beau Rivage Resort and Casino on August 27 -28. Dr. Powell made a presentation introducing the National Science Foundation Industry/University Cooperative Research Center (I/UCRC) – SCeMFiS (Science Center for Marine Fisheries). The University partners for the center are University of Southern Mississippi and Virginia Institute of Marine Science with Dr. Powell as the Center/USM site director and Roger Mann as the VIMS site director.

SCeMFiS utilizes academic, commercial, and recreational fisheries resources to address urgent scientific problems limiting sustainable fisheries. In addition, the center seeks to simultaneously achieve sustainability in both fish and shellfish stocks and fish and shellfish fisheries.

The next meeting of the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council will be October 20 – 24 at the Renaissance Battle House in Mobile, Alabama.

Joe Griffitt – Mentorship award

Joe Griffitt and Lynday Carrigee.
Joe Griffitt and Lynday Carrigee. Click for larger image.

Dr. Robert Griffitt, Assistant Professor of Toxicology at the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory (GCRL) has received the inaugural Don Drapeau Mentorship Award, given by the Center for Undergraduate Research. Dr. Griffitt is being recognized for his mentorship efforts with Lyndsay Carrigee and her research project, which was conducted last spring.

Carrigee was among four students from Southern Miss Gulf Coast who were chosen for the Eagle Scholars Program for Undergraduate Research (Eagle SPUR). These students, in collaboration with their faculty sponsors, received funding for independent research, as well as scholarly and creative activity. Students were expected to devote at least 150 hours of work to their projects.

Under the advisement of Dr. Griffitt, Carrigee completed her project entitled,  “Effects of Metal Nanoparticulates on the Micrbiome of Zebrafish.” Her research focused on the microflora in the gut of zebrafish and the direct effects that nanometals have on the delicate balance of the environment. Carrigee commented, “Hopefully this preliminary research will prompt further investigation into the usage and effects of nanometals in our environment.”

GCRL represented at AFS Meeting in Canada

The Gulf Coast Research Laboratory (GCRL) was well represented at last month’s American Fisheries Society Conference in Quebec City, Canada. This was the 144th Annual Meeting and was hosted by Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and the Northeastern Division, the Atlantic International Chapter and the Canadian Aquatic Resources Section of the American Fisheries Society (AFS). The following presentations were made by GCRL personnel:  Jim Franks - Occurrence of Tarpon, Megalops atlanticus, leptocephali in Mississippi coastal waters, Patricia L. Luque -Genetic Variation and Stock Structure of Blackfin Tuna Inferred from Microsatellite Loci, Luca Antoni - Genetic Variation and Stock Structure of Yellowfin Tuna in the Atlantic Ocean, Adrienne Norrell - A Genomic Approach to the Conservation and Management of Red Snapper, a Non-Model Species Candidate for Stock Enhancement and Eric Saillant - An Integrated Multidisciplinary Program to Develop Aquaculture for Stock Enhancement of the Red Snapper.

The following presentations were made at the Larval Fish Conference which was held in conjunction with the AFS Conference: Jesse E. Filbrun – Investigating Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Impacts on Foraging and Growth of Larval Atlantic Bumper and John T. Ransom – Exploring the Effects of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill on Diet, Growth, and Condition of Larval Spanish Mackerel in the Northern Gulf of Mexico.

The theme for AFS 2014 was “From Fisheries Research to Management: Think and Act Locally and Globally”


July 2014

Blue Crab Aquaculture Ready for Next Step to Commercial Production

Cindy Hyde-Smith, Mississippi Commissioner of Agriculture, joined state legislators and representatives from the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources (MDMR), USDA, and Alcorn State University on June 20 to discuss an exciting opportunity for commercial production of softshell blue crabs. With support from MDMR, USM and GCRL have invested in basic research that has yielded the knowledge and techniques to successfully produce blue crabs in the laboratory and ponds.  Today, Mississippi hosts one of only two facilities in the U.S. with that capability.  The June 20 gathering called together the people who can help initiate the next step toward commercial production – a pilot program on a Mississippi farm to provide softshell crabs for the seafood market.

Students from the USM Center for Community and Civic Engagement, led by Steve Carrion and Alex Sandoval, begin an elevation profile that will span Deer Island.
State legislators and others hear about blue crab aquaculture opportunities for Mississippi farmers.  Click for larger image.

Research Scientist Harriet Perry explained, “The ultimate goal is commercial production of softshell blue crabs on Mississippi aquaculture farms.  Softshells are the money crab; they present the best economic opportunity.  The demand for softshells far exceeds the supply and retail prices are now $25 to $60 per dozen, depending on size.”  The state’s catfish industry has been severely hampered by competition from low-priced foreign imports and many farmers have idle production ponds.  Blue crabs can be a means to put idle catfish production capacity back into operation with a readily marketable, sustainable, high-value product. 

GCRL, MDMR, and Alcorn have applied jointly for a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to support a pilot production program.  Under the program, Alcorn State will work with a Mississippi farmer through its extension service and GCRL will provide technical support. Seed crabs will be raised from eggs to juveniles at the GCRL facilities on East Beach and Cedar Point and DMR’s Lyman Hatchery. The pilot project will provide opportunities to investigate commercial production methods and continue research into ways to reduce the cost of production.

State Senator Brice Wiggins summed up the meeting, “Scientists at GCRL, with support from MDMR, have determined how to raise blue crabs in a sustainable way that produces delicious and healthy high-value seafood.  The next step is putting the science to work in the real world.  It’s a great economic development opportunity for Mississippi farmers and seafood dealers and a great home-grown source of healthy food for America.”


Dr. Jay Grimes Moderates Session at Capitol Hill Ocean Week

Dr. Jay Grimes, Professor of Marine Microbiology, recently moderated The Oceans and Human Health (OHH) session June 10-12 at the Capitol Hill Ocean Week (CHOW) annual event in Washington, D.C.  CHOW is sponsored by the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation and provides marine professionals, government officials, and ocean enthusiasts a venue for networking and advancing policy goals. 

The OHH session included panelists from the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Marine Mammal Commission, and the pharmaceutical industry.  The group explored the linkages between human health and the health of marine environments, in particular the threats posed by pollution in the Chesapeake Bay, marine mammal strandings, harmful algae blooms and pathogenic marine microbes, as well as the means for addressing those threats. The marine mammal discussion focused on mercury in seals, sea lion strandings caused by domoic acid being produced by diatoms growing on urea from agricultural runoff, and antibiotic resistant bacteria, including MRSA, found in many marine mammals.

Students from the USM Center for Community and Civic Engagement, led by Steve Carrion and Alex Sandoval, begin an elevation profile that will span Deer Island.
State legislators and others hear about blue crab aquaculture opportunities for Mississippi farmers.  Click for larger image.

The panel also discussed recent research programs by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), NSF, and the pharmaceutical industry. NSF and NIH's National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences have created four centers of excellence on OHH. Pharmaceutical companies have begun isolating bioactive compounds from ocean organisms, including Halichondrin B, found in sea sponges, and used as an anti-cancer agent which is especially active against metastatic breast cancer.



Jill Hendon, right, and Sarah Ashworth measure a bull shark caught in Mississippi Sound during a periodic longline shark survey.
Jill Hendon, right, and Sarah Ashworth measure a bull shark caught in Mississippi Sound during a periodic longline shark survey. Click for larger image.

Sun Herald Features Jill Hendon's Shark Work

Long-term shark research work by GCRL Research Scientist Jill Hendon was featured in the June 22 issue of the Sun Herald:  Coastal Waters Have a Variety of Sharks.  The article describes traditional tagging with hand-line, gillnet, and long-line techniques as well as acoustic and satellite tracking, and includes a photo gallery.

Read more about shark research at GCRL.

View or download the GCRL Shark Identification Guide.


May/June 2014

Fishing Tournament Nets Donation to Fisheries Research

For the third consecutive year, a portion of the proceeds from the Spraberry-Schankin Memorial Trout Tournament has been donated to GCRL to support fisheries research.  Tournament organizers John Rea and Andy Hermetz of Mississippi Gulf Coast Fishing Tournaments, Inc., recently presented a $2,000 check to Read Hendon. The donation will help fund research on spotted seatrout (a.k.a. “speckled trout”) and other important recreational fishery species in GCRL's Center for Fisheries Research and Development.    USM media release   

Grimes Distinguished Lecturer Series brings Dr. Bill Hogarth to Ocean Springs

On April 22, Dr. William T. Hogarth, director of the Florida Institute of Oceanography, delivered a free public lecture at The Mary C. O’Keefe Cultural Center of Arts and Education in Ocean Springs.  The lecture, titled “U.S. Fisheries:  Emphasis on the Gulf of Mexico,” was the fifth in the Grimes Distinguished Lecturer Series begun in 2007.

Dr. Hogarth discussed the status of the country’s fisheries industries and the challenges faced in meeting our growing demand for seafood in the face of intense foreign competition.  Two million American jobs are fisheries dependent and annual U.S. fisheries sales amount to $185 billion.  Yet the U.S. ranks fifth among nations in production, and we import far more seafood than we export.  In fact, the negative U.S. balance of trade for fish and fishery products is larger than that for automobiles and petroleum.  With shrimp, the single most popular seafood in America, we annually import seven to eight times as much shrimp as we produce.   Dr. Hogarth suggested that with the global catch of wild seafood remaining nearly static, increased demand for seafood must be met by aquaculture.  GCRL’s aquaculture programs and research are directed toward stock enhancement and also toward supporting a sustainable and sound aquaculture industry to provide healthy products to American consumers while boosting the U.S. economy.

Dr. Hogarth was previously the director of the National Marine Fisheries Service and also served as Commissioner and Chairman for both the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna (ICCAT) and the International Whaling Commission (IWC).

The Jay and Bev Grimes Distinguished Lecturer Series is sponsored by GCRL professor Jay Grimes and his wife Bev.  The series brings well-known marine scientists to address topics important to Southern Miss students and faculty and the Gulf Coast community.

Annual Fisheries Workshop a Success

The annual Mississippi Marine Fisheries Workshop brought local anglers to GCRL on April 23 for presentations by five GCRL scientists and the Finfish Bureau Director of the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources.

Please contact Martha Brown if you would like to receive email notification of similar events at GCRL.

The Mississippi Marine Fisheries Workshop is an annual event. Workshops are coordinated with and funded by the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources through the Sport Fish Restoration Program.

Popular Fishing Seminar Series Continues in June

The popular Fishing With Science seminar series continues for one final session in  June with the focus on tripletail (blackfish). The seminars pair GCRL scientists and local fishing guides to help anglers understand popular local sport fish and how to catch them. A casual discussion session follows the formal presentation with a local seafood sampling and displays of tackle and equipment. The March session provided a general overview of coastal fishing and in April the focus was on cobia. The May session was designed to provide fisherman with the information needed to make the most of spring and summer trout fishing. The last session will help anglers prepare anglers for the annual arrival of tripletail to Mississippi waters.

Details and registration

Proceeds from registration fees are applied to scholarships for summer programs and fisheries research. According to program host Sam Clardy, "A portion of the fees from our March and April sessions has already provided scholarships to Shark Fest and Angler Camp for seven local kids who would not have been able to attend otherwise."

Add Tripletail to Your List of Targeted Species, Fishing Seminars at the Gulf Coast Research LaboratoryJune 19 - Add Tripletail to Your List of Targeted Species  

Jim Franks, Senior Research Scientist, GCRL Center for Fisheries Research & Development
Captain Ronnie Daniels, Fishing Guide, Fisher-Man Guide Service

Tripletail, or blackfish, show up in our waters every year, usually in May, and remain until the early fall. They are unlike any other game fish. Jim Franks will share information on the biology and unusual behavior of this species. Captain Ronnie Daniels will provide tips for how to catch his favorite species, the tripletail.

Let's Talk Tarpon!

Students from the USM Center for Community and Civic Engagement, led by Steve Carrion and Alex Sandoval, begin an elevation profile that will span Deer Island.
Captain Ernest Desporte with the first known tarpon caught on rod and reel in Mississippi, 1895.

More than 80 people gathered at GCRL on June 3 for a casual evening of stories about tarpon and tarpon fishing legends, science, and how-to advice. The event was a joint effort of GCRL, the Historic Ocean Springs Saltwater Flyfishing Club (HOSSFLY), and CCA Mississippi.

Three speakers were featured on the informal program: Krissy Wejebe, Brandon Shuler, and Jim Franks. Krissy described growing up and fishing with her father Jose Wejebe, legendary Keys fisherman and television host, and about the foundation she directs that continues his charitable activities. Captain Brandon Shuler, Ph.D. contributed information about tarpon fishing from his perspective as a fishing guide, writer, and editor of Glory of the Silver King: The Golden Age of Tarpon Fishing” which details the history of tarpon fishing in Texas and nearby Mexico. Jim Franks, Senior Fisheries Scientist at GCRL, concluded the formal program with a presentation on the life history of tarpon, ongoing tarpon research at GCRL, and the rich history of tarpon fishing in Mississippi. A lively discussion followed, with audience members relating their experiences with Mississippi tarpon and Jim encouraging local anglers to pass along their observations of tarpon in Mississippi waters.

CCA provided refreshments after the session and Brandon Shuler signed copies of his book, donating $5 from the sale of each copy to HOSSFLY. HOSSFLY, in turn, donated the funds to GCRL's Marine Education Center to help fund scholarships for local children to attend GCRL summer camps.

GCRL Researchers Receive NSF EAGER Grant to Study Bacteria in Elasmobranchs

Is it possible that healthy elasmobranchs (sharks, skates, and stingrays) can have a mutually beneficial relationship with bacteria residing within their tissues? Until now, the presence of bacteria in the tissues and organs of vertebrate animals has typically indicated a potentially harmful infection. However, previous bacterial culture work by Dr. Grimes indicates that elasmobranch fishes can remain perfectly healthy even though they harbor bacteria within tissues including muscle, liver and kidney. This exciting discovery may lead to a basic paradigm shift in our understanding of the relationships between bacteria and their hosts.

Dr. Andy Evans (Lead Principle Investigator) and Dr. Jay Grimes (Co-Principal Investigator) will explore the possibility of this previously unknown mutualistic relationship between the host fish and the bacteria with the support of an EAGER grant (Early-Concept Grants for Exploratory Research) from the National Science Foundation. The $289,885 grant includes a sub-award to the J. Craig Venter Institute. Work began in May and will continue for two years.

The research team will use cutting edge DNA sequencing technology to characterize the elasmobranch microbiome - the array of bacterial species present in tissues from two elasmobranchs common in Mississippi waters - the Atlantic sharpnose shark and the Atlantic stingray.  They will also verify the presence and specific locations of bacteria within tissues using transmission electron microscopy and fluorescence in-situ hybridization (FISH) methods.  Characterization of the elasmobranch microbiome will provide critical data for future proposals and studies examining the roles of resident bacteria in elasmobranch physiology. Understanding the nature of this novel relationship will provide valuable insight not only for elasmobranch research but also comparative physiology, immunology, and vertebrate health. Future work may examine the  immune mechanisms that allow for bacterial residence in healthy individuals.

Project abstract and additional details

April 2014

Graduate Students at GCRL Sweep Presentation Awards at AFS Meeting

Student Award winners at the recent MSAFS Chapter meeting.  Pictured (left to right) are Stephen Brown, MSAFS President, Faith Lambert, First Place, Jeremy Higgs, Second Place, Jennifer Green, Third Place, and Peter Allen, Chair of the Student Awards Committee.
Student Award winners at the recent MSAFS Chapter meeting.  Pictured (left to right) are Stephen Brown, MSAFS President, Faith Lambert, First Place, Jeremy Higgs, Second Place, Jennifer Green, Third Place, and Peter Allen, Chair of the Student Awards Committee.

Best student presentation awards were won by three Department of Coastal Sciences graduate students at the recent joint meeting of the Mississippi and Tennessee Chapters of the American Fisheries Society.  Sixteen USM/GCRL employees and students participated in the March 18-20, 2014 meeting at Pickwick Landing State Park in Tennessee. 

Darcie Graham, outgoing Secretary-Treasurer of MSAFS, receiving a service plaque from new MSAFS president Wes Neal.
Darcie Graham, outgoing Secretary-Treasurer of MSAFS, receivies a service plaque from new MSAFS president Wes Neal.

Additional presentations at the meeting were given by other GCRL attendees.

Finishing their terms on the Executive Committee and attending the meeting were Nancy Brown-Peterson (Past President) and Darcie Graham (Secretary-Treasurer).  Jennifer Green was elected as the new Secretary-Treasurer of the Mississippi Chapter.  Also attending were Mark Peterson, Andy Evans, Greg Crochet, Danielle Bailey, and Ginger Fleer.

Summer Rohe, SAME Marine Educator of the Year, receives her award from Dr. Jessie Kastler, new President-Elect of SAME, on USM Founder's Day.
Summer Rohe, SAME Marine Educator of the Year, receives her award from Dr. Jessie Kastler, new President-Elect of SAME, on USM Founder's Day.

Summer Rohe Dorcik - Marine Educator of the Year

The Southern Association of Marine Educators (SAME) award for outstanding marine science educator has been awarded to only six educators since 2004.  The seventh individual to earn this honor is Summer Rohe Dorcik, a marine education specialist at GCRL.

Summer holds a B.S. in Marine Biology with a minor in education from Central Methodist University in Fayette, Missouri.  While an undergraduate, she took three classes in GCRL’s Summer Field Program that inspired her to return to the Mississippi Gulf Coast.  From 2009 to 2011, she served as an instructor at Newfound Harbor Marine Institute and the Texas State Aquarium in Corpus Christi, before coming to work at GCRL in 2011. Summer is now director of the Sea Camp program which serves approximately 1000 students each summer. During the rest of the year, she introduces K-12 students to the coastal and marine environments in programs designed to get students out in the environment. Summer helps them gain a hands-on field learning experience through Coastal Science Camps and the Miss Peetsy B program.  Summer has been a member of the National Marine Educators Association for more than three years and presented at the NMEA conference in Anchorage, Alaska in 2012.

GCRL Conducts Service Learning Program on Deer Island

Dr. Jessie Kastler and Aaron Lamey have recently conducted a Tidelands-funded service learning project in which students from four colleges and universities examined the results of restoration efforts on Deer Island. Service learning programs fulfill a community need while giving students a valuable field experience in which they both learn and serve.

Deer Island has lost 300 acres of its area to erosion since 1850 and The Mississippi Department of Marine Resources and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have been engaged in projects to restore and stabilize the island. The most recent effort included the beneficial use of dredged material to create new island and marsh. After the material is deposited, natural processes take over as vegetation and animal communities move into the new area.

Students from the USM Center for Community and Civic Engagement, led by Steve Carrion and Alex Sandoval, begin an elevation profile that will span Deer Island.
Students from the USM Center for Community and Civic Engagement, led by Steve Carrion and Alex Sandoval, begin an elevation profile that will span Deer Island.

Dr. Kastler and Lamey established monument markers to establish three study sites for the current work and future projects. Student groups came from the University of Southern Mississippi, the University of Central Florida, Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, and Northwest Missouri State University. Each group spent four days at GCRL. At Deer Island, students monitored the development of landscapes. Students collected data on dissolved oxygen, temperature, salinity, and pH in the water and made seine/yabby pump collections in the waters around the island. On shore, they measured elevation profiles and made vegetation transects. The students' efforts provided valuable information on the ecosystem changes as the dredge material was incorporated into the island. In return, the students learned new scientific skills, experienced the process of science in the field, and received a preview of potential careers in science.

This initial effort established a baseline of data and methods that will be used annually to continue monitoring Deer Island restoration with the Oceanography class in GCRL's Summer Field Program

Binnaz Bailey, Sam Clardy, Ruby Drieling and Devaney Cheramie (left to righ) marked ten years of service at GCRL
Binnaz Bailey, Sam Clardy, Ruby Drieling and Devaney Cheramie (left to right) marked service anniversaries at GCRL - 20 years for Ruby and 10 years for Binnaz, Sam, and DeVaney..

GCRL Celebrates USM Founders Day

GCRL celebrated the 104th anniversary of the founding of the University of Southern Mississippi in a brief gathering in the dining hall on March 27, 2014. Verlee Breland and Ruby Drieling were honored on their completion of 20 years of service. 10 year service awards went to Binnaz Bailey, Devaney Cheramie, Sam Clardy, and Margaret Firth.


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