GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - The Institute of Marine Mammal Studies in Gulfport has launched a new partnership with Mississippi State University. IMMS will be working with the university's College of Veterinary Medicine to focus research efforts on the Gulf of Mexico.
A panel of educators, scientists and government officials gathered Wednesday morning for the formal announcement of the partnership.
"We have issues with epidemiology, toxicology, pathology. There's some very, very serious issues of ecological health that require a much more structured approach," said IMMS President, Dr. Moby Solangi.
Veterinary students at MSU interested in dolphins and sea turtles and marine science will find increased opportunity.
"They come to college with interest in marine mammals. And it's been a case where occasionally they would get down here. We hope to eventually have facilities down here where they can come and stay," said Dr. Kent Hoblet, with the College of Veterinary Medicine.
DMR Director Dr. Bill Walker says one "silver lining" of the oil spill may be the new interest and focus on the Gulf of Mexico. Not long ago, he says, various research groups were reluctant to share with one another.
"But that's changing. And it's really been changing over the last ten or so years when we realized there's a lot to do. We all have a piece of it. And if we put all our pieces together, we can build a heck of a team," said Dr. Walker.
"It's really our privilege that we are seeing a major university with that type of assets and intellectual capabilities to come and help us resolve some of the issues, study some of the issues and come up with some answers," said Dr. Solangi.
The research attention will be on the long term health of the Gulf of Mexico, with a focus on species like dolphins and sea turtles, which are good biological indicators of the marine environment.
IMMS and Mississippi State already have several research projects underway related to the Gulf of Mexico. One such study involves the post-oil spill deaths of marine mammals. MSU pathologist, Dr. Tim Morgan, is studying the tissues of the animals that died.