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Released May 5, 2004


OCEAN SPRINGS -- University of Southern Mississippi ocean and estuarine scientists have launched the university into12th place in the nation for marine research funding.

President Shelby Thames said a national survey ranked the marine sciences program in the top dozen institutions in two categories for the 2001-2002 academic year: federal funding and total funding. Federal support for Southern Miss marine research for that period totaled $14,227,309 and composed two-thirds of the $21,449,266 total support for the university's ocean and estuarine research activities.

"Our faculty and researchers' expertise in the disciplines of ocean-related sciences, as well as their aggressiveness and persistence in pursuing funding, is a principal reason that Southern Miss is in the top 12 and designated as a Carnegie doctoral/research-extensive university," Thames said.

Southern Miss marine sciences received about 19 percent of its support from state funding, less than one percent from private corporations or foundations and about 14 percent from other sources such as fees and admissions.

"We were surprised to learn we were ranked ahead of Gulf of Mexico heavyweights," said Dr. Jay Grimes, Southern Miss provost on the coast. Grimes served as the university's first dean of marine sciences prior to accepting the provost appointment.

Southern Miss units contributing to the total were the Department of Marine Science at Stennis Space Center, an ocean and atmospheric modeling program that has since been folded into the marine science department; the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory, which includes the J.L. Scott Marine Education Center and Aquarium in Biloxi; and the Department of Coastal Sciences at the GCRL.

More than 77 percent of the federal funding for 2001-2002 came through GCRL grants, contracts and self-generated funds. Included in that total were programs conducted through the coastal sciences department, the Center for Fisheries Research and Development and the Gulf Coast Geospatial Center, all headquartered at the lab, plus the Scott Aquarium in Biloxi. The marine science department accounted for 23 percent of the 2001-2002 federal funding and included such stellar programs as the hydrographic science master's degree program and the Hydrographic Science Research Center.

The units are now part of a new School of Ocean and Earth Sciences within the Southern Miss College of Science and Technology. The geography and geology departments have also moved into the new school.

Dr. Rex Gandy, dean of science and technology, said chairs of the departments and the executive director of the GCRL make up a newly formed executive coordination team for the school. The team will meet for the first time Thursday. Gandy said the meeting will be largely organizational to elect a chair, set meeting times and touch base on upcoming national and international scientific meetings.

"These researchers are already charting a course for expanding the scope of research programs to address needs and opportunities that face Mississippi and the nation," Gandy said. "This ranking is one more confirmation of the excellent work they are doing."

The U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy contracted with the Consortium for Oceanographic Research and Education (CORE) for the survey of academic institutions. The fact-finding project was part of the commission's exploration of the state of the nation's oceans in preparation for a report and recommendations to President George W. Bush and the U.S. Congress.

The commission released its draft of the report April 20 to state governors for review. It was the first comprehensive review of the nation's ocean policies in almost 35 years. The final report, with input from the governors, goes to the president and Congress in June.

"University research is a well-known economic engine," said John Blossman, chairman of Blossman Gas and former chair of the board of advisers for the university's marine research program. "We are fortunate on the Mississippi Gulf Coast to have this valuable Southern Miss program. It is providing scientific knowledge that will help sustain the resources of our coastal and gulf waters."


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May 14, 2004 3:35 PM