Students Search For Answers In Gulf Of Mexico

Some South Mississippi students are spending the weekend on a floating classroom somewhere in the Gulf of Mexico. They are aboard the NAVOCEANO survey ship "Pathfinder" where they will conduct all sorts of experiments and collect data to help keep our Navy ships safe.

Oceanographer Mark Jarrett asked a group of middle school and high school students "How many of you have been to sea before"?

When a few hands went up, he said "Oh, we have a few hardy souls here".

The students are diving into an adventure of a lifetime. For the next few days, they will work side-by-side with Navy oceanographers and engineers aboard a 330-foot floating laboratory.

"What we hope to do is saturate them. We're going to run them hard. They start at 7:00 in the morning and we finish at 10:30 at night," Jarrett said.

The teens will use their math and science skills to collect data and search for marine life deep in the Gulf of Mexico.

Jaimie Daley is from St. John High School.

"It's been amazing. At first I wanted to be a Biologist when I grow up, and it's been really, really cool to see what they all do and what it's like out here in the middle of the ocean".

"I think it's awesome working with them. I know they've been studying hard and I want to be like them," North Gulfport 7th and 8th Grade student Rachael Stewart said.

All the data will be used by Navy ships worldwide to help them navigate safely, avoid mines and underwater obstacles, and help predict hazardous weather. This mission mixes a lot of work, with a little bit of fun.

For instance, in the Gumby contest, the teens had a blast racing to put on their survival gear. Scientists hope to whet the students' appetite for future jobs at sea.

Mark Jarrett said "Hopefully, they'll leave here with a better appreciation of careers in marine science, and also understand that our country needs good scientists. We need these kids to learn more about math and science because it's very important today".

15-students and teachers from St. John High School and North Gulfport 7th and 8th Grade are part of the "Oceans Alive" research program. A few students are from Oklahoma and Tennessee. The Naval Oceanographic Office hosts four trips a year. About 350 students and 16 teachers from around the country sign up for the free program.

By: Trang Pham-Bui