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Released August 04, 2004

ALCORN STUDENTS BUILD HIGH-TECH SKILLS AT SOUTHERN MISS LAB

OCEAN SPRINGS - High-tech mapping of The University of Southern Mississippi's Gulf Coast Research Laboratory is adding new skills to the résumés of a group of Alcorn State University students this summer.

The mapping team is a mix of Alcorn undergraduates and recent Alcorn graduates who are headed to Southern Miss as master's students this fall. They are using global positioning system technology--a satellite-based navigation system--to map buildings, roads, sewer, utilities and protected trees on the GCRL's 52-acre site.

The mapping project is part of an internship following a geospatial sciences class in the GCRL's summer field program.

"Until you start looking at the campus in this detail, you don't realize how many oak trees we have," said Dr. Ed Pinero, class instructor. Pinero, associate director of the Gulf Coast Geospatial Center headquartered at the lab, said the exercise benefits both the students and the GCRL.

The geospatial center is expanding the capability of Southern Miss scientists as well as government and industry planners to apply remote sensing and other geospatial technologies to research and planning related to Mississippi's coastal zone.

"The students will receive certification in GPS and in the geographical information systems software that is the industry standard, ESRI ArcView, and their work will help to project the growth and development of the lab."

In addition to the focus on training in the technology for capturing and using data about Mississippi's coastal zone, students also experienced the ecology of the coast firsthand through field trips aboard the laboratory's research vessels.

"The experience has given them the opportunity to do hands-on work in a real-world project," Pinero said. "These are skills they will use in private industry, economic development, environmental services, resource management, coastal research. Anything on this planet can be georeferenced."

Jhocques Jordan, a resident of Goodman and one of the four Alcorn graduates who are enrolled in master's degree technology programs at Southern Miss, said the entire experience has been valuable.

"It has given me another option and broadened the fields I can choose to enter," Jordan said. He said he especially liked going into the field and taking data points with a GPS unit.

"Then we would come back in (to the computer lab) and put the data into the GIS system to do the mapping."

Of the 11 Alcorn students who attended the GCRL summer field program, nine took the geospatial course and seven participated in the mapping project. Jordan, Cory Dixon of Vicksburg, and Sky Chambliss and Elisha Gabriel Harris of Fayette are the Southern Miss master's students. Other Alcorn geospatial interns were Tawane' Burks of Lorman, Kimberly Howard of Hermanville, and Jarvis Perryman of Fayette. Class members Erica Franklin and Helen McComb interned at the GCRL investigating parasites and diseases of marine and aquatic animals. Two other Alcorn students, QueTerrial Hughes of Port Gibson and Samario Council of Lorman, explored Mississippi's coastal environments in the GCRL's marine biology course.

Dr. Bruce W. McGowan, Alcorn assistant dean, worked with Anitra Blake of the Southern Miss geospatial center to recruit the students, all recipients of GCRL science scholarships funded for minorities through the state college board.

The GCGC and the GCRL are part of the Southern Miss College of Science and Technology.

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August 31, 2004 3:01 PM