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Released January 7, 2003

SCOTT AQUARIUM NEW OCEAN SCIENCES CENTER OF EXCELLENCE
By Linda Skupien

BILOXI –The University of Southern Mississippi's Scott Aquarium will soon be home to a new regional center of excellence in ocean sciences education.

The National Science Foundation, the nation's largest science research and education agency, has awarded eight grants to form seven centers around the country, plus a central coordinating office in Washington, D.C.

Biloxi's J.L. Scott Marine Education Center and Aquarium will serve as headquarters for the Central Gulf of Mexico Center for Ocean Sciences Education Excellence. The new program is designed to integrate ocean sciences research into the delivery of high-quality education programs, and will pull together universities and agencies from Florida to Texas. In addition to NSF, agencies contributing to the $1.1 million, three-year start-up for the gulf region are the Office of Naval Research and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Sea Grant College Program.

The central gulf center will launch its first program for Mississippi teachers this summer at the Scott Aquarium — a five-day institute for teachers of grades 5-9. Teams composed of teachers and researchers will explore the topics of deep sea technologies, habitats and organisms and coastal processes. Full scholarships are provided for participants. For registration information, call (228) 374-5550 or e-mail scott.aquarium@usm.edu.

Satellite centers in Florida, Alabama, Louisiana and Texas also will host summer institutes for teachers and researchers from those states.

Dr. Sharon H. Walker, Scott Aquarium administrator, has been in the forefront nationally in developing such programs to "bridge the gap" between the newest knowledge discovered by researchers and knowledge available to teachers, students and the general public.

"It can take years for new research findings to filter down into science textbooks," Walker said. "Since the early 1990s, we have developed programs here at the aquarium that bring classroom teachers and informal educators together with scientists. Educators learn firsthand about the newest discoveries and knowledge related to marine plants, animals and processes, ocean technology and global change.

"We will be incorporating into the work of the new center all that we have learned about the process of preparing educators. This new program will expand our capability for equipping teachers to deal with complex, rapidly changing scientific issues."

James Yoder, director of the NSF's division of ocean sciences, said the work of the COSEE network as a whole will promote better understanding of the key role that the oceans play in global environmental cycles and processes.

"COSEE activities will also highlight the contribution that ocean science researchers make to scientific knowledge in these important areas," Yoder said. "We at NSF are encouraging the ocean science research community to become more involved in education at all levels. The establishment of the COSEE network is an important milestone in our work to promote and catalyze such efforts."

The new centers will link people with ocean sciences research organizations and education and outreach leaders in diverse communities. COSEE will ensure that under-represented groups have improved access to ocean sciences education and research. COSEE will also provide expertise to researchers involved in education; provide incentives for school districts and teachers to include ocean sciences in their educational efforts; and help develop and disseminate educational materials on ocean sciences research results.

Other COSEE regional headquarters include the New England Aquarium, Boston; University of California at Berkeley; University of Southern California; Rutgers University, New Jersey; University of South Florida; and the South Carolina Sea Grant Consortium. The Consortium for Oceanographic Research and Education in Washington, D.C., will serve as the network's coordinating office.

The Scott Aquarium and its parent organization, the university's Gulf Coast Research Laboratory in Ocean Springs, are part of the Southern Miss College of Marine Sciences.

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April 20, 2004 4:09 PM

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