"I've got boats to build" is a familiar lyric on the License to Chill album of Southern Miss alumnus Jimmy Buffett, and building boats was on his mind as he visited the USM Gulf Coast Research Laboratory (GCRL) in Ocean Springs Sunday. The singer, songwriter and 1969 graduate consulted with Southern Miss President Martha Saunders and her Oil Spill Response Team of scientists. Discussions focused on possible solutions to rescuing wildlife and marine life following the sinking of the Deepwater Horizon drilling platform and the subsequent oil spill disaster. Buffett is interested in strategies for creating a “voice for the Gulf of Mexico.”
“It’s always a great day when a distinguished alum comes to visit, but this was especially rewarding,” Saunders said. “Jimmy Buffett is a person who cares about the Gulf and the people who make their living on it. He puts his money where his mouth is.”
Buffett has teamed with Dragonfly Boats of Vero Beach, Fla., to create and donate shallow water attention terminal (SWAT) boats for the lab. According to designer Mark Castlow, these 17’ boats are capable of navigating in as little as 8”-10” of water through the estuaries of Mississippi.
“We’re not pointing fingers at anybody,” said Castlow of himself, Buffett and fellow boatbuilder Jimbo Meador. “We’re just trying to lend a helping hand and get this tool into the hands of the people who have dedicated their lives to working with marine life.”
As with almost every aspect of life in today’s world of technology, the SWAT boats will have an internet link. Loaded with laptop computers and web cams, anyone with an Internet connection will be able to watch – in real-time – the rescue of oiled animals.
On April 30th Saunders formed a team of Southern Miss scientists, faculty, staff and students from GCRL, the Stennis Space Center, plus the Gulf Park and Hattiesburg campuses to work with federal, state, and private agencies to monitor the spill and, to the extent possible, manage and mitigate its impacts on the Gulf Coast. Members of the team are working with the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources, Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in a multi-pronged effort to examine the spill and its impacts.
Accompanying Buffett to GCRL were representatives from MIHI Advisory Group who conducted impressive demonstrations of oil eating microbes – demonstrating low-cost solutions to oil-covered waters and beaches.