October 1, 2014  

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Southern Miss Hydrographic Science Program Earns Distinction

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The Hydrographic Science program includes survey exercises on the Pearl River. (Submitted photo)

When it comes to exclusive, expansive, exciting post-graduate programs offered at The University of Southern Mississippi, few provide more unique opportunities than the Hydrographic Science program within the Department of Marine Science.

The Master of Science program features a joint partnership between Southern Miss and the U.S. Navy. The degree plan is designed to provide students with technical and practical expertise in the advanced hydrographic methods and standards that will enable them to assume leadership roles in using modern techniques in academic, government, military and private organizations engaged in hydrographic activities.

Earlier this summer 10 graduates of the program were recognized in a special ceremony held at Stennis Space Center, home of the Southern Miss Department of Marine Science. To date more than 150 students representing 18 different countries have completed the degree program.

“This program is important to Southern Miss because there is nothing like it elsewhere in North America except for the University of New Hampshire,” said Program Coordinator  Maxim van Norden. “Its uniqueness puts Southern Miss on the map. In fact, there are only 14 other universities in the world that have similar programs.”

Hydrography is the branch of applied sciences that deals with the measurement and description of the physical features of oceans, seas, coastal areas, lakes and rivers – as well as with the prediction of their evolution, for the primary purpose of safety of navigation and all other marine purposes and activities, including economic development, security and defense, scientific research, and environmental protection.

Students enrolled in the program include new graduates with technical undergraduate degrees, U.S. Navy officers, Navy civilian employees, U.S. government employees and officers from foreign navies.

“Our international officers have enjoyed great success upon graduating from our program,” said van Norden. “Many have assumed high positions within their hydrographic offices or navies. They come away with a good impression of our university, our local area and our country. We have developed relationships with future leaders influential in the decision-making process on international hydrographic issues.”

In addition to a master’s degree, students also earn a Category A certificate (highest level) from the International Hydrographic Organization. This certification enables graduates to secure top-paying positions within naval organizations, government agencies, offshore surveying firms and related organizations working in the marine environment. Van Norden emphasizes that a goal of the program is to increase admissions from the local Gulf Coast region.

“The IHO certification officially recognizes our pre-eminence in underwater mapping,” said Dr. Gordon Cannon, vice president for research at Southern Miss. “This certification and the scholarships that come with it will no doubt increase our profile in international oceanographic circles.”

This year the program received even greater recognition with the awarding of the IHO-Korean capacity building program to educate hydrographers from under-developed nations like Bangladesh, Mauritius and Jamaica.

“The Koreans could have gone to any of the other 14 universities in the world but instead came to Southern Miss due to strength and reputation of our program,” said van Norden.

According to van Norden, there is a huge demand in private industry for qualified hydrographers who can expect to make six-figure incomes. Recent graduates were among the first responders to ensure international disaster aid could be conveyed by ship after the 2004 tsunami in Indonesia; conducted clearance surveys for opening the ports of New Orleans and other Gulf Coast harbors after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and conducted clearance surveys for re-opening Port-au-Prince immediately following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti.

For more information about the Hydrographic Science master’s degree program, call 228.688.3177 or visit http://www.marine.usm.edu/hs.php