USM Researchers Study The Health Of Gulf Of Mexico

How healthy is the Gulf of Mexico? Researchers at the University of Southern Mississippi hope to answer that question by not only looking at their own findings, but also listening to what other experts have to say.

On Wednesday the Gulf Coat Research Laboratory in Ocean Springs sponsored the first of a series of seminars on the Gulf. Some research is being done on the grounds. Several times a week Ronnie Bond collects water samples at sites from Pascagoula to Waveland then brings them back to the laboratory. He says if the test results find enough harmful bacteria to put your favorite swimming spot off limits, sewage is usually to blame.

"You have ruptured lines, you have an increased flow of runoff, [and] you have stations backing up," said Bond. "Eventually it's gonna flow into the Gulf of Mexico."

To find out what exactly is flowing in the Gulf of Mexico, researcher Harriet Perry is reconstructing a 1975 study on jellyfish. She hopes by comparing the population and types of species found then and now, she can find out whether the marine environment is better or worse off.

"I think people need to be aware of what's going on in the Gulf because each individual can make a contribution no matter how big or how small to help improve the quality of our ecosystem and our coastal waters," Perry said.

Environmental agencies have closed coast waters to swimmers 24 times since 2000. Researchers say even with all the sewage problems the Gulf still gets a good health report overall.

"Being that we monitor it and more times than not, it's clean so the health of the water is great," Bond said.

The Gulf Coast Research Lab will sponsor a seminar every Wednesday through April on a topic surrounding the health of the Gulf. The public can attend at a cost of $5 and that includes lunch. If you are interested please call 872-4256.