Marine scientists from around the world meet in Biloxi

By Steve Phillips - bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Marine scientists and researchers from around the world are meeting in Biloxi this week. More than 1,300 are attending the Oceans '09 conference at the coliseum convention center.

They're sharing information about ongoing projects and networking with colleagues.

South Mississippi is a logical choice to host such a conference since we have such an abundance of marine science interests. There's plenty of oceanography work happening at Stennis, USM has a world class marine science program and we have a commercial fishing fleet that depends on the health of the oceans.

You might call Oceans '09 the Super Bowl of marine science conventions.

"The instrument connected via cable so we have real time communication," said one company representative, as he demonstrated an environmental measuring device.

High tech instruments compete for attention on the exhibit floor.

"The micro processor based developments of the cell phone have been applied and implemented in the oceanographic field," explained Dick Butler, as he showed the workings of the device.

One that measures ocean currents has a data recorder that looks a lot like the card on a digital camera.

A surfboard-looking thing with the solar panels caught our attention.

"This is an energy harvesting, unmanned surface vehicle. It's a robot boat. Uses natural energy, so it can stay in the ocean essentially, indefinitely," explained the company representative.

"The surface of the ocean is wavy like that. And we capture that vertical motion and we convert it into forward thrust," said Justin Manley, with Liquid Robotics.

One booth has products we TV news folks can relate to:  Cameras designed for ocean research. There's even one that shoots in high definition.

Down the aisle, we found the lights.

"Really powerful LED lights with a lot of controllability, dimability," said the salesman.

The NOAA buoy must be the largest display.  The work horse of water measurements has been updated over the years.

Dr. William Burnett is with the National Data Buoy Center.

"We use new wind sensors that can record high wind speeds from hurricanes. New types of moorings. More instrumentation that are on platforms. So we can observe more of the environment and provide that to the public," he said.

Along with the many product demonstrations, scientists will be sharing information about environmental issues that hit close to home.

"Things like wetlands restoration. And how we can also look at our overall coastal and marine eco systems and be able to improve them through better understanding of science and applications of that," said Dr. David Shaw, Director of the Northern Gulf Institute.

Along with being a great event for the marine science community, Oceans '09 is also a big boost for the tourism industry. Those conference participants will be spending their money at hotels, restaurants, shopping centers and casinos.

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