NOAA releases funds for gulf research involving MS universities

WASHINGTON, D.C. (WLOX) - Funding secured by U.S. Senator Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) to support an undersea research institute led by the University of Mississippi has been released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

NOAA has released $4.87 million to the National Institute for Undersea Science and Technology (NIUST), which is based at Ole Miss. NIUST was established in 2002 through a cooperative agreement among the University of Mississippi, the University of Southern Mississippi and NOAA's Undersea Research Program.

"The oil spill is likely to affect marine life in the Gulf of Mexico for quite some time, which makes the work by the Institute for Undersea Science and Technology and other university-led programs that much more important," Cochran said.

The congressionally-directed funding for NIUST will be used by the University of Mississippi to fund infrastructure costs associated with operating and managing the Institute. The funding will also go to individual research projects that enhance NOAA's ability to support scientists who carry out underwater research.

In addition to the NIUST funding, NOAA has also released $999,000 secured by Cochran in the FY2010 omnibus appropriations bill for the nonprofit Institute for Marine Mammal Studies (IMMS) in Gulfport.

This funding is intended to be used to continue development of the Center for Marine Education and Research and support exhibits, aquariums and life-support systems for the Ocean Expo Complex.

Both the University of Southern Mississippi and Mississippi State University participate in IMMS research projects.

Finally, NOAA recently awarded $400,000 to the University of Southern Mississippi to fund community-based habitat restoration initiative. This competitive award will support the Gulf of Mexico Sea Grant Program, a consortium based in Ocean Springs that involves the University of Mississippi, Mississippi State University, the University of Southern Mississippi and Jackson State University.

The funding will allow university researchers to work with the NOAA Restoration Center to inventory, prioritize, implement and monitor hydrologic restoration projects over the next three years.

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