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Released September 30, 2004


OCEAN SPRINGS - Joining more than 100 scientists in a recent survey for invasive species in the Mississippi Sound was one more step in Zachary Roth's road to his goal of a career in ecological research and teaching.

A Student Conservation Association intern with the Gulf Islands National Seashore, the Ocean Springs resident was a member of the "beach walk and seine" group scouring the barrier islands during the Alabama-Mississippi Rapid Assessment Team survey.

The survey operated out of The University of Southern Mississippi's Gulf Coast Research Laboratory Aug. 30-Sept. 2. Organizers of the 2004 AMRAT effort were the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory, Mississippi Department of Marine Resources, Mobile Bay National Estuary Program and the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium. The 29 participating organizations supplied personnel, boats and sampling gear.

Fiscal support was provided through GCRL from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and from the Mississippi Coastal Impact Assistance Program, through the Mobile NEP from the Environmental Protection Agency, and from Sea Grant.

Roth and fellow volunteers contributed to a "snapshot" of the Mississippi Sound that documented 19 invasive species. From approximately 500 samples collected from coastal waters and shorelines from state line to state line, scientists identified hundreds of different plant and animal species. The collections included 17 invasive plant species and two animal invaders - Asian clam and tilapia, also known as St. Peter's fish.

"A barrier island is like a self-contained ecosystem on a smaller scale," Roth said of his collection area. "It is easier to see the effect of invasive species and the impact that humans have on it."

Roth is the son of Glen and Bettye Roth of Ocean Springs. He earned his degree in biological sciences from Southern Miss in December 2003 and then interned with a zoo in Tyler, Texas. He entered his current internship with the Gulf Islands Seashore in May.

At the zoo he worked with the small animal department-"lions and tigers on down." His focus was on animal care, and he worked up close and personal with his charges. At the Gulf Islands Seashore he helps monitor conditions and animal health more from a distance. His closest encounter has been climbing trees to osprey nests to check chicks for methylmercury.

"This job (at Gulf Islands Seashore) has changed my focus," Roth said. "I feel like this is making more of a difference. I want to help preserve wild and endangered animals. I am doing more of that at Gulf Islands and by studying ecology."

Roth plans to teach while working toward a master's degree and eventually a doctorate in ecology. He credits his internships through the Student Conservation Association with giving him the experiences that have helped him chart his course for the future.

"You join the association, and they help you find jobs," Roth said.

His experiences with Gulf Islands and the recent survey of Mississippi coastal waters have not, however, lured him into the field of marine ecology.

"My sister has gone the marine route," he said. "I am definitely terrestrial."

The Gulf Coast Research Laboratory is part of The University of Southern Mississippi College of Science and Technology.


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October 25, 2004 5:30 PM