OCEAN SPRINGS - Lauren Byrd is not one to
stand around doing nothing all day long. She keeps herself busy -
a little studying here, a little working with snapper in Florida there,
a little tagging of sharks at times, and don't forget the whale watching
somewhere. Yes, this 20-year-old from Biloxi, the daughter
of Anita and Scott Byrd, dabbles in many surprising, and seemingly
unrelated, things. But looks can be deceiving.
"I like variety," Byrd says matter-of-fact.
"I like being busy and each year it gets more in-depth."
Some of Byrd's work can be found in the seas of summer.
Through the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory, where she's volunteered
for five years, Byrd has helped collect data and specimens of fish
over the years. "This summer, we studied the age, growth and
development of fish," she says. By analyzing various biological
samples of different offshore game fish, they studied the fish biology
"using the second anal fin and the stomach content of the Wahoo
to analyze what they liked to eat."
What's interesting is not only that Byrd knows what
a Wahoo is ("a tropical marine food and game fish (Acanthocybium
solanderi) of the mackerel family, having a pointed snout, narrow
body, and long dorsal fin"), but that she also enjoys getting
her hands on shark, yellow fin and mai mai.
"I started volunteering because I originally
wanted to go into marine biology, the study of fish," she says
of her unusual summer job. "I've always been one to have a
camera in one hand, a fishing pole in another."
Byrd combines her love for photography and history
with her desire to become an outdoor and wildlife photographer to
"promote the educational aspect of marine research and ecology
But that's not all that keeps Byrd busy: For all four
years of high school, two years at Jones County Junior College,
and now her first year at Southern Miss, Byrd has been a featured
baton twirler on the fall football field. She's been twirling for
12 years, but she still gets butterflies before a performance: "I'm
nervous every time I get out there" on the field, she says.
"But I've been told the day you aren't is the day you should
She's a little apprehensive about this new year because
it will be more demanding here at Southern Miss, "those higher-level
classes," she says, "and (the precision needed) on the
GCRL fisheries biologist Jim Franks doesn't think
she has much to worry about. "She's a very capable young lady
who enjoys a good challenge," he says with confidence. "We
were very happy to have her as part of our research team this summer
- she basically had so much energy that she kept us all on our toes
around here. She contributed in many ways and she did a little bit
Franks says Byrd not only worked in the lab and out
in the "field," working on boats in coastal waters, but
she also communicated with the public about the facilities work.
"She's even good at that, too," he says.
Franks says that Byrd's work is excellent and they
were pleased to have her around. "We hope she comes back to
work with us," he says.
No doubt it won't take much to convince her to make
plans to do so, once the fall football season is done.