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USM’s Summer Field Program Offers Students Unique Coastal Research Opportunities

Mon, 04/01/2024 - 11:01am | By: Gabriela Shinskie


Jump aboard a research vessel and take in the beauty of the Mississippi Sound and unique barrier islands with the University of Southern Mississippi (USM) Gulf Coast Research Laboratory’s (GCRL) Summer Field Program, in which students can study marine science in a coastal environment.

Located in Ocean Springs, Miss, the Summer Field Program was established in 1947 at Magnolia State Park; for decades, the program has helped students gain valuable experiences in ocean and marine sciences. It is housed in USM’s School of Ocean Science and Engineering (SOSE), and is offered in two summer sessions, with in-person and online options for undergraduate and graduate students looking to learn more about the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

Dr. Laura Blackmon, associate director of the Marine Education Center, looks forward to the Summer Field Program’s 77th year.



“The Summer Field Program will again bring expert marine science instructors together with students from across the region for amazing education experiences,” Dr. Blackmon said. “It has produced a wide network of alumni, including marine science researchers and educators working across the Gulf Coast and Coastal USM, as well as at numerous other colleges, universities, and marine labs nationwide.”

Classes are set both in a laboratory and field work setting, with USM research vessels allowing students to explore the Mississippi Sound. Overnight trips to the middle of the Gulf of Mexico allow students to fully study the beauty of the coastal habitats. On-site amenities include a dormitory, dining hall, library, and a research specimen museum.

The first session, offered in June, features courses such as shark biology, marine ecology, oceanography, coastal environments and restoration, and environmental photography. An online session offers a comprehensive overview of the biology of marine mammals.

The second session, offered in July, will focus on marine conservation and ichthyology, marine biology, and toxicology. An online session will be offered with a focus on marine invertebrate zoology. Academic credit will be awarded upon completion.


Dr. Kelly Darnell, director of the GCRL, described the uniqueness of the program and all it has to offer.

“Our Summer Field Program gives students the unique opportunity to live at the Gulf Coast Research Lab and be fully immersed in the environment and ecosystems they’re studying,” Dr. Darnell said. “For many students, this is their first experience with marine biology – I can’t think of a better or more memorable way to learn than to dive right in.”

A complete cost of undergraduate and graduate course fees along with room and board can be found online. A complete list of course offerings are available for both sessions. Admission deadline for early selection is April 5, 2024. The final deadline for all application materials to be submitted is May 1, 2024. For questions email, or call 228.818.8812.