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USM Brings Students and Scientists Together in New Ocean Science and Technology Camp

Wed, 06/26/2019 - 10:39am | By: James Skrmetta

The University of Southern Mississippi’s Marine Education Center (MEC) has teamed up with camp-sponsor Pelagic Research Services (PCS) to create a summer camp designed to provide a gateway to a career in ocean science. The weeklong camp began on Monday, June 24 at USM’s Gulf Park campus in Long Beach.

“The Ocean Science and Technology camp is designed to give STEM focused pre-college students a window into a wide variety of opportunities and future career paths in Ocean Exploration,” said MEC Director Chris Snyder. “The campers will receive hands-on experience with technologies used in a wide range of ocean sciences and exploration. These activities will expose students to both academic and research facilities as well as ocean exploration vessels.”

Campers will meet Dr. Leila Hamdan, associate professor in SOSE’s Division of Coastal Sciences, and monitor her team researching deep-sea microbiology on shipwrecks, which will provide campers with a view into the life of marine scientists and engineers. The camp is centered on Dr. Hamdan’s research project, which is funded by The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Office of Ocean Exploration and Research (OER).

“The ocean is vital to all life on Earth, and teaching ocean literacy has never been more important,” said Dr. Hamdan. “This camp, however, goes beyond literacy to provide students a glimpse into a career as a marine scientist, technician, engineer, or mariner. I hope this camp provides students a vision of their own future, and a model in one of the scientists on my team for them to emulate.”

Campers will also tour USM’s R/V Point Sur and go aboard the R/V Jim Franks for a scientific expedition to receive hands-on education of the various technology and equipment the scientists use on a daily basis.

PCS sponsored the camp with a $5,000 donation going towards scholarships, residential opportunities for campers, and to broaden the scope of possible activities and exercises for the camp.

“We continue to discover the intricacies of the ocean’s role in supporting our very existence on this planet,” said Ed Cassano, founder and CEO of PRS. “Uncovering the secrets of the world’s oceans requires the advanced technologies and forward thinking of outstanding universities, while inspiring, supporting and educating the next generations of educators, researchers, and engineers.”

With USM being a global leader in hydrographic science, and offering the only ocean engineering program in Mississippi and the only certificate in Unmanned Maritime Systems in the nation, the camp heavily focuses on the use of remote operated vehicles (ROV) such as ROV Odysseus from PRS.

“The University of Southern Mississippi’s School of Ocean Science and Engineering has emerged as an international leader with a strong vision of growth and innovation,” Cassano said. “Its unique partnership with government and the private sector continues its success, which is why Pelagic Research Service and USM have formed a strong and dedicated partnership.”  

PRS is an ocean services company that brings expedition planning, execution and sub-sea research tools to the ocean community on a global basis.

“As the founder of Pelagic Research Services, and on behalf of the entire PRS Team, I am honored to support the new Ocean Science and Technology Camp experience,” Cassano said. “We are humbled to play a small role in supporting USM’s Marine Education Center and to inspire students to seek higher education—and ultimately find careers in one of the many disciplines to help uncover more of the secrets of the world’s oceans.”

MEC faculty believes this is just the beginning of tapping into ocean exploration as a valuable career path for future generations. Continuing to provide campers with the most cutting-edge technology is pivotal for its growth.

“One of things that most exciting about ocean exploration is the wide array of new and evolving technologies available to marine scientist,” Snyder said. “Without the help and support of Pelagic Research Services this camp could not provide the hands-on, real world exposure to these expensive technologies our camper will receive. Thanks to PRS’ understanding and support for this type of career experience, we are able to offer this unique and valuable opportunity to potential future ocean explorers.”