University of Southern Mississippi President Martha Saunders has appointed an Oil Spill Response Team that is coordinating the university efforts in dealing with the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the northern Gulf of Mexico.
Scientists, faculty, staff and students from the Southern Miss Gulf Coast Research Laboratory (GCRL), the Stennis Space Center, plus the Gulf Park and Hattiesburg campuses are already working with federal, state, and private agencies to monitor the spill and, to the extent possible, manage and mitigate its impacts on the Gulf Coast. Southern Miss scientists, are working with the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources, Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality, the Northern Gulf Institute, the National Oceanographic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in a multi-pronged effort to examine the oil spill and its impacts.
“The Gulf Coast is critical not only to those of us who live here, but to the entire nation for its fisheries resources and pristine national seashore as well as other tourism destinations and thriving economy,” declared Saunders. “We endured Hurricane Katrina and have emerged stronger and better, but now face another unprecedented disaster. By bringing our best talents, minds and hearts together, we will also manage and move beyond this crisis.”
Efforts include those by members of the Southern Miss Department of Marine Science at Stennis Space Center who have been using remote sensing techniques to monitor the spill. They are working in conjunction with NOAA to set up a coastal radar array that will provide maps of ocean surface currents to allow for more accurate forecasting of the spill’s trajectory. Scientists at GCRL are working closely with the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources and the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality to examine the biological and chemical effects of the spill.
“This massive spill, now estimated at 5,000 barrels of oil per day, threatens a most sensitive ecosystem and has the potential to harm delicate marine life and fisheries resources,” explained Saunders. “Some of the most pristine regions of the Gulf Coast, including the barrier islands of the Gulf Islands National Seashore, are also those most vulnerable to the spill,” she said.
President Martha Saunders
The explosion and subsequent sinking of the Deepwater Horizon off the coast of Louisiana has created this event which the White House has termed a "spill of national significance." Oil is now flowing toward the Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana coastlines. The timing of this disaster is particularly troublesome as it coincides with breeding seasons for marine birds and other wildlife, as well as happening during the active fishing season.
“I am in regular communication with our team of highly capable professionals so as to remain informed about the status of this catastrophic event and its impacts. I am proud to say our scientists, students, faculty and staff are working non-stop. Many have volunteered to participate in clean-up and animal rescue efforts if needed,” said Saunders.
The University of Southern Mississippi has experts available for comment to media.
-- Dr. Steve Lohrenz at Stennis Space Center and Dr. Bill Hawkins, at the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory (GCRL) are available to speak on joint efforts to assist/study the effects of the spill.
-- Read Hendon at GCRL can speak to present day sampling of grasses, plankton and other marine life.
-- Dr. Frank Moore is available to speak about the consequences of this oil spill on migratory birds. Southern Miss houses the Migratory Bird Research Group (MBRG). -- Dr. Shiao Wang is available to discuss his research in the fields of marine biology, environmental biology and microbiology.
The contact persons to arrange interviews are either: Beth Taylor, News & Media Relations Manager at 601.297.4077 or Jana Bryant, Assistant to the President for Communications at 601.549.1124
About The University of Southern Mississippi
The University of Southern Mississippi, founded in 1910, is a comprehensive doctoral and research-extensive university fulfilling its mission of being a leading university in engaging and empowering individuals to transform lives and communities. In a tradition of leadership for student development, Southern Miss is educating a 21st century work force providing intellectual capital, cultural enrichment and innovation to Mississippi and the world. Southern Miss is located in Hattiesburg, Miss., with an additional campus and teaching and research sites on the Mississippi Gulf Coast; further information is found at www.usm.edu.