Dr. Sharon H. Walker, administrator of The University of Southern
Mississippi's Scott Aquarium, relishes introducing people of all
ages to the wonders of oceans and estuaries. Throughout her career,
Walker has strived to create greater educational opportunities for
people in Mississippi and beyond to learn about marine environmental
the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration named her Team
Member of the Month in recognition of her local, regional and national
impact on environmental education, Dr. LaDon Swann, director of
the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium, announced this week.
The NOAA award
honors outstanding non-NOAA partners for excellence in advancing
the agency's mission. Walker's association with the agency began
in 1981 when she started a marine environmental chemistry class
at Ocean Springs High School. Her funding to develop the class came
through the local Sea Grant Consortium. The consortium is one of
a network of regional and state programs under the auspices of NOAA's
National Sea Grant College Program and is headquartered at the Gulf
Coast Research Laboratory in Ocean Springs.
became an intern and then later a marine education specialist with
the Sea Grant Consortium. With the backing of Sea Grant and the
laboratory, she began launching marine education programs on the
coast for children and securing funding from NOAA and other agencies
for teacher education.
A suite of
Project Marine Discovery programs at Scott Aquarium started with
a planned field trip program for school groups and grew to include
the popular summer PMD Sea Camp, mini-camps of one to three days
for school groups, a field trip for pre-school groups and mini-camps
for teachers. Summer teacher institutes that she developed and piloted
have expanded to nationwide programs conducted by multiple universities
and laboratories with support from multiple agencies.
continues her Sea Grant connection as director of education for
Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant, which nominated her for the award.
In the nomination,
Swann described Walker as a leader in helping NOAA understand opportunities
for a new mission in environmental education and literacy.
A NOAA article
also cited Walker's contribution to Sea Grant nationally. During
a year on loan to the national office from Scott Aquarium, Walker
set the precedent of securing funding from other sources for Sea
Grant education at the national level and encouraging partnerships
among agencies to accomplish mutual objectives in education related
to ocean and coastal sciences. She has also assisted in developing
national policy through contributions to agency strategic planning
and working with the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy, the Consortium
for Oceanographic Research and Education and other groups.
funded projects, Walker "has extended the NOAA mission significantly
and increased NOAA's visibility and presence in environmental education
and literacy at the national level," said Dr. Ronald C. Baird,
national Sea Grant director.
The J.L. Scott
Marine Education Center and Aquarium is an outreach component of
the Southern Miss Gulf Coast Research Laboratory, a unit of the
university's College of Science and Technology.