The University of Southern Mississippi Department of Marine Science will get a new neighbor and potential research partner with the recent announcement by Gov. Phil Bryant that the National Oceans and Applications Research Center (NOARC) will be located at the Stennis Space Center in Hancock County, Miss.
NOARC will employ the expertise and technology developed by NASA, NOAA and U. S. Navy teams to analyze data to provide scientists a "space to sea floor" understanding of the entire Gulf of Mexico watershed and other oceans that NOAA monitors. It will be supported with remaining funds that BP granted to Mississippi during the response to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion, with an initial allotment of $500,000 to provide for basic startup needs.
Southern Miss manages several programs in residence at Stennis, including the Department of Marine Science, Gulf Coast Geospatial Center and the Centers for Higher Learning, the latter a consortium of IHL universities offering educational opportunities at Stennis.
"We have so many outstanding resources already at our fingertips here at Stennis," Bryant said in making the announcement. “This new center will allow for enhanced research into our own Gulf, but we won’t see just research for the sake of research. The scientists who work at this center will focus on getting information into the hands of those who can use it to develop new tools and products, expand businesses and technology industries and improve lives.”
Officials say NOARC data could be used to develop environmental management best practices, help identify optimal sites to build critical infrastructure and help guide coastal restoration efforts.
“Southern Miss welcomes the National Oceans and Applications Research Center, and we are grateful to Gov. Bryant for his efforts in bringing it to Stennis,” said Southern Miss President Martha Saunders. “Having this new center as another important partner further supports our role as a premier research university.”
In addition, NOARC will leverage a partnership with the Mississippi Enterprise for Technology to help encourage the development of small businesses benefiting from NOARC data, and potentially increase Mississippi's notoriety as a technology destination.
In the early 1980s, the State Institutions of Higher Learning designated Southern Miss as the flagship university for marine studies, leading to marine science research and education programs established at Stennis. The university’s Department of Marine Science is the only degree granting program at Stennis, offering both a master’s and doctorate in marine science as well as in hydrographic science, which is the study of the technology behind and application of nautical charting.
Southern Miss houses about 90 faculty, students and staff and represents the largest academic unit at Stennis.
“Gov. Bryant’s announcement today shows the foresight and enthusiasm to capitalize on existing partnerships at Stennis,” said Dr. Monty Graham, chairman of the department of marine science. “NOARC crystalizes the obvious mission we all share, and Southern Miss will clearly play a major role in both the research and education areas of NOARC.”
Other federal agencies at Stennis Space Center include NASA, U.S. Navy, NOAA, EPA, U.S.G.S., and the Army Corps of Engineers. Stennis also boasts the world’s largest concentration of oceanographers, and Southern Miss is positioned right in the center.
“This is the perfect location, centrally located, federally operated, and with access to the Gulf as we enter decades of ecosystem and economic restoration following the oil spill,” Graham said.
For more information about the Southern Miss Department of Marine Science, online visit www.usm.edu/marine