pair of fish biologists with The University of Southern Mississippi
have published a special "south-of-the-border" section
in the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory's scientific journal.
articles in a recent issue of the journal "Gulf and Caribbean
Research" are just a glimmer of the gold mine of new knowledge
that research associate Nancy Brown-Peterson and her husband Dr.
Mark Peterson, professor of coastal sciences and editor-in-chief
of the journal, discovered on an academic exchange two years ago
at an undergraduate campus of a Mexican university.
said the Iztacala campus of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma
de México serves about 20,000 students and has a strong biology
department whose faculty maintains research programs despite limited
funding and heavy teaching loads. The invitation for the five-week
exchange was for Brown-Peterson to teach a course on her research
focus, reproductive biology of marine fish, and for Peterson to
collaborate on projects and manuscripts on one of his principal
research interests, nursery habitats of juvenile coastal fishes.
we were down there, we saw stacks of undergraduate theses in the
faculty offices," Brown-Peterson said. "None were published,
but many of them contained important information on little-known
species in an understudied area - the southern Gulf of Mexico."
learned that in Mexico and many other Latin American countries,
students must research, write and defend an undergraduate thesis
to receive their licencia, the equivalent of a bachelor's degree
in the United States. Brown-Peterson read 40 to 50 of the Spanish-language
papers during the visit.
this was a lot of information that needed to get out," Brown-Peterson
said. "We developed a plan with our colleagues down there to
publish in English some of the better theses. It is a gold mine
of unpublished, unknown knowledge. Even though the students' sampling
sizes are small and the scope of a project is often limited, it
is a good starting point.
who are going into the region to work on those systems may be redeveloping
the wheel. These reports of student research results provide at
least some data as opposed to starting from zero."
To help with
translation and publishing expenses, the couple pulled together
modest financial support from the Environmental Defense Fund, the
Hart Research Institute of Corpus Christi and Southern Miss' College
of Science and Technology.
said the translation, review and editing process turned out to be
staggering. She and Peterson assembled a team of bilingual GCRL
students and their spouses to help translate articles into English.
From that point,
the Petersons and a number of coastal sciences graduate students
updated references, worked with figures and tables, and rewrote
manuscripts to publication standards.
a coastal sciences master's student with Peterson, has already expanded
her professional network as a result of her labor on the project.
Her role as third author on an article on needlefish led to a recent
call from a world-renowned fish taxonomist at the Smithsonian Institution.
currently working on needlefish and had seen the GCRL journal and
wanted an article that the student paper had referenced," Brown-Peterson
said. "All the Smithsonian resources had been unable to secure
a copy for him. The article was in the journal published by the
campus where we did our exchange, and we had brought back a copy.
Gretchen just walked over to the GCRL library, found the copy, photocopied
the reference and mailed it to him."
agreement between the GCRL and Mexican journals, plus the publication
of the student papers, is evidence that the long-term collaboration
the couple had anticipated is on the way. Both researchers also
hope that the special section in the GCRL's journal will encourage
other universities and agencies to take an interest in publishing
Mexican students' papers.
been a considerable amount of work for both of us and for colleagues,
but it is starting to show positive results," Peterson said.
"Two of my students have assisted us and are authors with our
Mexican colleagues. Publishing in English-language journals is important
for their careers. This publication and the next one in August or
September are also good for the Gulf and Caribbean research as it
enhances the information on rare fish and processes for our readership."
of Coastal Sciences is a unit of the GCRL within the university's
College of Science and Technology.