GCRL Cedar Point campus expanding

By Steve Phillips - bio | email

OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - The Gulf Coast Research Lab in Ocean Springs is expanding its Cedar Point campus. Several new buildings are taking shape, while others are in the planning stages.

"You're at a research facility," said Dr. Tom McIlwain, as he gave visitors a tour of the Cedar Point campus, "We've got a lot of innovative research going on. A lot of young researchers."

Since Hurricane Katrina destroyed so much of the GCRL campus, many of the replacement facilities are being built at the Cedar Point site, which is farther inland.

"By virtue of Katrina, we've been able to provide some absolutely state of the art facilities and equipment for these folks to use," said Dr. McIlwain.

The former GCRL director oversees the development on this 214 acre site.  A new red snapper lab is among the newest buildings under construction.

"We're excited about it moving forward and coming out of the ground. Currently they've got all the pilings in and are beginning to put the forms up to pour the slab. And the steel, they're unloading off the truck today," said the director.

By early next year, visitors will be able to watch the aqua culture through large windows. The speckled trout program will be on display.

"This is where we take the eggs and put them in the hatchery here. You can handle several million eggs in that one little room here," said Dr. McIlwain, pointing through one of the large windows.

The speckled trout brood stock came from Biloxi Bay and the Bay of St. Louis.

"Each one of these big tanks has twenty large speckled trout. We're going to have video cameras in the tanks, where you can actually see the brood fish moving around," he explained.

As the young fish grow, they're transferred to different tanks throughout the research facility.

"I want to reiterate the fact that this is a zero discharge facility. We have a very, very minimum impact," said Dr. McIlwain.

Along with speckled trout, shrimp are also on the research menu.  A prototype commercial shrimp culture operation is up and running.

"We use these feeding trays so we can get a handle on how much they're eating and we can also get an estimate on the number of shrimp."

So far, $20 million has been invested at Cedar Point. When it's finished, the total investment will be double that.

The Cedar Point campus is an expansion of the Gulf Coast Research Lab. Katrina destroyed many of the research buildings at the lab. Dr. McIlwain said it made good sense to rebuild those facilities at Cedar Point, which is much farther from the water.

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