OCEAN SPRINGS – Despite the estimated $298 million
in losses that Katrina inflicted on the University of Southern
Mississippi along the Gulf Coast, fisheries biologists at the
University's Gulf Coast Research Laboratory (GCRL) in Ocean
Springs are restarting their research, sampling coastal fish
as part of ongoing programs.
Estimates on the GCRL's losses were approximately $50 million
of the total, including a figure on lost research and intellectual
property, originally estimated at $15 million, that has since
been approximated at $20 million.
"I thought Camille was bad, but this was much worse,"
said Jim Franks, fisheries biologist who rode out the 1969 hurricane
at the Lab as a graduate student. Destruction at GCRL is "mind
boggling" with five buildings destroyed and others damaged
GCRL boats, however, were undamaged. Also safe was more than
30 years of fisheries data.
""We have taken samples of fish species' early life
history stages since the early 1970s at the same sites, a line
of sampling stations that extends from Bayou Bernard to Horn
Island. It gives us a baseline to measure change," said
Harriet Perry, director of the GCRL fisheries center. "We
were back in the field in time to get September and October
samples for our long-term database."
Before they could get back to their pre-Katrina mission of
helping Mississippi fisheries stay alive and healthy, Southern
Miss faculty and staff all pitched in to clear debris from offices
and labs. They set up an outdoor lab for processing samples
under a donated pop-up canopy and cleaned Katrina mud out of
a small wood-frame structure for sorting samples, measuring
and recording data.
The field work in progress is important to state and federal
agencies that are GCRL partners and supporters, but Perry's
teams are going a step further. While they are out sampling
for their own projects, they are also collecting biological
samples and water quality data for other agencies. The information
they provide is critical to the health and safety of people
as well as the environment.
"All the different marine resource agencies and institutions
suffered losses of various kinds," Perry said. "We
pooled our resources in order to keep operating. In the aftermath
of Katrina we are strengthening relationships, and that will
serve Mississippi well."
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