April 20, 2014  

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Southern Miss Hydrographic Science Program Gains Six-Year Recertification

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What began as a fledgling idea 11 years ago has blossomed into a successful, internationally recognized post-graduate program offered by The University of Southern Mississippi.

Due to its continued growth and exemplary research leadership, the Master of Science program in Hydrographic Science, offered as a joint project between Southern Miss and the U.S. Navy, has been recertified for another six years by an international agency that governs hydrographic standards.

“We are delighted that the Board of Standards of Competence for Hydrographic Surveyors has recertified the USM-Navy Hydrographic Science program,” said Dr. Denis Wiesenburg, vice president for research at Southern Miss. “We are one of only two Category A certified programs in the U.S. and the most productive with more than 110 graduates in 10 years. With this master’s degree program, USM is meeting a national educational need and providing a well-trained work force to both the surveying industry and the military.”

The master’s program is one of the degree programs in the Southern Miss Department of Marine Science located at the John C. Stennis Space Center in Hancock County, Miss. 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.

Hydrography is the branch of applied sciences which deals with the measurement and description of the physical features of oceans for the primary purpose of safety of navigation. In short, hydrographers collect depth measurements and make the nautical charts we use for navigation.

Maxim F. van Norden, coordinator of the Hydrographic Science Graduate Degree Program, notes that the master’s program began in 1999 in response to specific needs by the U.S. Navy, private industry and the international hydrographic community.

“In addition to the needs of government organizations, commercial survey companies must have certified hydrographers sign off on hydrographic survey contracts,” said van Norden. “Offshore hydrocarbon exploration in the Gulf of Mexico and other offshore areas around the world, plus maintenance of the nation’s infrastructure of waterways have created an increased demand for qualified hydrographers trained in state-of-the-art methods and techniques. We prefer that these hydrographers be educated and trained at Southern Miss.”

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.

There are currently 16 students participating in the Hydrographic Science program – 14 master’s degree students and two in the doctoral program. Initially, all students were from the United States, but the program’s enrollment list has expanded over the years to include students from 17 foreign countries from as far away as Australia, Egypt, Nigeria, Sweden, Thailand and Turkey.

“On an international basis, through our graduates we have developed relationships with future leaders influential in the decision-making process on hydrographic issues,” said van Norden. “Our long-range goal is to make a similar impact on the commercial hydrographic survey industry whereby our graduates provide leadership and innovation.”

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