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Date    11-7-05
Contact Linda Skupien (228) 806-7718


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 and flooded.

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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Last updated: 12/23/05

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