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Released September 26, 2003


STENNIS SPACE CENTER - The University of Southern Mississippi's Department of Marine Science at Stennis Space Center has produced more than $5.3 million in research funding for fiscal year 2003 - a new department record.

"What is unique about this accomplishment is that it was a true team effort with every member of our faculty and research staff applying their expertise to forward scientific endeavor in their fields," said Dr. Denis Wiesenburg, chair of the Department of Marine Science.

Fiscal year 2003 research dollars included 14 awards of more than $100,000 each. Dr. Stephan Howden spearheaded the year's largest grant for the Office of Naval Research titled "Hydrography Research for Marine Vertical Positioning and Seabed Classification." The $1.6 million grant will fund the construction, deployment, and maintenance of a 3-meter discus buoy in the Gulf of Mexico.

"We're conducting research into ways to improve precise GPS positioning in marine environments," Howden said.

Data collected from the new buoy will help researchers better determine sea-level elevation through advanced GPS modeling.

"Changes in water vapor in the atmosphere change the accuracy of positioning with GPS," Howden said. "If we can estimate and account for those changes, there will be numerous applications for the more accurate data."

In one such application, more accurate GPS data will allow more precise charting of the underwater landscape, enabling ships to load more goods, maintain deeper drafts, and benefit from larger economies of scale.

A second part of this research project will address new procedures for classifying the sea bottom using acoustical multibeam and side-scan sonar data that are routinely taken as part of surveys for charting the seafloor. This research, led by Dr. Jerald Caruthers, Southern Miss professor of marine science, will provide a value-added product to the sea floor soundings that are routinely taken for NOAA, the U. S. Navy, and other organizations.

Under current research grants, marine science faculty and staff will take on projects for such agencies as the U.S. Department of Commerce, the U.S. Department of Navy, the Naval Research Laboratory, NASA, the National Science Foundation, the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium, the U.S. Department of the Interior, and the U.S. Naval Oceanographic Office. These projects will include worldwide marine research into such areas as underwater acoustics, marine sediment classification, numerical modeling, undersea vehicles technology, remote sensing of sea surface salinity, and optical properties of harmful alga.

The Southern Miss Department of Marine Science is strategically located at Stennis Space Center in Hancock County, Miss., home to the world's largest population of oceanographers and hydrographers. The department offers both master's and doctoral degrees in marine science and a master's degree in hydrographic science.


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April 20, 2004 4:09 PM