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Released August 11, 2003


HATTIESBURG - NASA has awarded a $3 million grant to build The University of Southern Mississippi's capability for applying remote sensing technologies to coastal zone research and management.

Southern Miss President Dr. Shelby Thames announced today that the two-year grant will fund continued development of the Gulf Coast Geospatial Center, a research program and data warehouse established last year with the support of the NASA Earth Science Applications Directorate at Stennis Space Center.

The geospatial center is located at the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory in Ocean Springs.

"A major component of the center's mission is to train students and researchers in the use of geospatial technologies," Thames said. "This opportunity ensures that our students and faculty will remain on the cutting edge of this rapidly evolving field."

With physical facilities, hardware and personnel now in place, the center will focus on acquiring geospatial data primarily related to Mississippi's coastal region, starting up the research component of the program and expanding efforts to equip researchers, students, resource managers and planners with the tools available through geospatial sciences.

Principal investigators for the program are Dr. William E. Hawkins, professor of coastal sciences and executive director of the GCRL, and Dr. Cecil Burge, associate vice president of research and technology transfer.

Hawkins said scientific personnel at the geospatial center will continue development and teaching of Southern Miss courses in applied geospatial sciences this fall. The center and NASA are also organizing a conference that will bring to the coast the latest information on geographical information technologies.

"The Mississippi Gulf Coast Geospatial Conference is scheduled for Oct. 22-24 at the Palace Casino Resort in Biloxi," Hawkins said. "The conference will feature national leaders in the fields of geographical information systems (GIS) and remote sensing."

The event's workshops, panel discussions, training sessions and demonstrations are designed for professionals who work with environmental, natural resource and development issues of coastal Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.

"For many researchers, the use of geospatial tools across the spectrum of scientific disciplines requires a major shift in perspective, but agency and university scientists in our region are recognizing the analytical power that remote sensing and GIS add to their work," Hawkins said.

"Our expertise and facilities are already being tapped by researchers and students. Scientists with the university and with state and federal agencies are working on an invasive species project. Southern Miss and Jackson State University graduate students are incorporating geospatial sciences into their thesis and dissertation research.

"That is what we are here for."


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April 20, 2004 4:09 PM