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Released October 7, 2003


BILOXI - Local educators joined teachers from five states at The University of Southern Mississippi's Scott Aquarium in Biloxi Wednesday, Oct. 1, to learn about the latest research by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on strange environments in the Gulf of Mexico.

The one-day event was the first of two workshops at the Scott Aquarium that focus on recent NOAA expeditions to investigate unexplored deepwater habitats and living organisms of the Gulf of Mexico.

"I am trying to get ahead of the textbooks to find out what researchers are discovering and how they are going about learning about the deep sea communities," Hancock High School teacher Shani Bourn said. "If I wait for the textbooks, it will be five years before my students see this information. And this (workshop) is about the Gulf of Mexico. The Gulf of Mexico is our own backyard!"

Dr. Shelia Brown, workshop organizer for the Scott Aquarium, said teachers learned about deep continental margin communities, including cold seeps where cold water rich in gas and oil comes out slowly from the seafloor

"The seeps also release hydrogen sulfide, a compound toxic to most animal life but essential to the life of these communities," Brown said. "The teachers became acquainted with the geology as well as the living organisms."

Nancy Price, marine sciences teacher at Pascagoula High School, said she found the up-close look at the chemosynthetic organisms of the gulf fascinating. "I teach basic concepts, but the new teaching activities and knowledge allow me to illustrate those concepts with the latest technology and cutting-edge research results," Price said.

Price and other workshop participants also become Ocean Exploration educators.

"Their schools will be designated Ocean Exploration schools, and their students will be able to interact via the Internet with researchers aboard NOAA vessels on the different expeditions," Brown said. Brown will be on board the upcoming NOAA expedition, helping log data that can be accessed by students at Ocean Exploration schools.

Ocean Springs resident and a former research scientist in oceanography and marine microbiology, Gesa M.B. Capers has high hopes that such interaction with working scientists will spark interest among her honors marine science students in Mobile.

"My students act like they live 1,000 miles from the ocean," Capers said. "I want to get them interested in oceans and in research."

Other Mississippi gulf coast participants were Edith L. Flores, Picayune Junior High School; Ocean Springs resident Susan Lewis, Gulfport Central Middle School; Kimberly Wittmann-Necaise, St. Paul Catholic School, Pass Christian; and Noel Lamey, Trent Lott Middle School, Pascagoula.

The second NOAA Ocean Exploration workshop is scheduled for Nov. 13 for teachers of grades 5-12 and will run from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

For more information or to register, contact Dr. Shelia Brown or Kay Baggett at (228) 374-5550 or

The J.L. Scott Marine Education Center and Aquarium is part of the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory, a Southern Miss marine research, education and outreach enterprise in Ocean Springs.


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April 20, 2004 4:09 PM