Gulf Coast Research Lab busy with oil spill studies

OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - Ocean Springs is home to one of the premier marine science facilities in the country.

"Gulf Coast Research Lab" employs more than 200 people and is part of the University of Southern Mississippi.

The lab's primary focus is studying the abundant natural resources found in the Gulf of Mexico.

And though it's been a fixture in Ocean Springs for decades, last year's BP oil spill brought some national attention to the lab and launched several studies about the oil's long term impact on gulf waters.

Large red crabs slowly move at the bottom of a lab tank. The crabs were taken from an area not far from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the gulf.

They are one part of the ongoing oil-related studies happening at Gulf Coast Research Lab.

"We have a number of studies here. Scientists looking at the effect of the oil and dispersant on the larval stages and young stages of our shrimp and our crabs and some of our fishes. We also have studies ongoing about what the effect of the oil was on larval fishes offshore," said GCRL Director, Dr. Jeffrey Lotz.

Dr. Lotz would like to see a greater public awareness about the significance of the Gulf of Mexico and what it means to our country.

"It's a unique body of water and it's extraordinarily important to the United States generally. Most of the seafood that's produced by the United States comes out of the Gulf of Mexico and certainly much of the oil the United States produces comes from the Gulf of Mexico," he said.

"With the focus that came to the gulf with the oil spill that occurred, the BP oil spill, the nation was more focused on it. I think there's more interest in it. And I think that will continue. We hope that will continue in the future," says Dr. Lotz.

"The gulf is an extremely fertile fisheries area. We're always seeing things that are rare. Some things we haven't seen before. It's always exciting to make those discoveries," said fisheries biologist, Jim Franks.

When Franks isn't at the lab, you're likely to spot him at area fishing tournaments and rodeos.

"It's a chance to meet a lot of the anglers. Get to know them. Get to know what they're fishing for. Sample their catch. And from that we get to learn an awful lot about the biology and the ecology of our fisheries resources here on the coast. That's just one aspect of our fisheries work, but we get to interact with the community," he said.

It's an Ocean Springs community that can be proud of the ongoing work happening at Gulf Coast Research Lab.

"The lab is poised to address many questions and conduct a lot of research that will help ensure viable fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico," said Franks.

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