OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - USM's Gulf Coast Research Lab dedicated a new education facility Tuesday morning.
Visiting college students from around the country are already using the new field studies building. But they took a break from their marine education studies to help celebrate the grand opening.
College students filled the large porch of the new $1.9 million education building.
"I welcome you here. I think this is a great facility. It takes a lot of people to make these things happen, from the Department of Marine Resources, to the staff at the research lab," said state Senator Brice Wiggins.
This field studies facility is the first new building on the GCRL campus since Katrina.
"It's nice and open. Hopefully, you won't feel so much like you're in a classroom, even when you're in a classroom," said GCRL Director, Dr. Eric Powell.
"Get them to the boat in two minutes, take a blood sample," said Research Associate Jill Hendon, as she taught a course about coastal sharks.
She's impressed with the design of the new building, which is meant to accommodate samples taken from nearby waters.
"This building is amazing. I took summer field program classes here years ago in 2000 and 2001. I was down in the Hopkins Buildings. Started teaching in 2006. I've been over in the trailers, so this is a nice treat to be moving into this beautiful building," Hendon said.
College students from across the country come there to study marine education. This year's summer enrollment is a record: 156 students from 25 different states and 56 different institutions.
"Right now, we're teaching shark biology, marine ecology, marine embryology, marine biology and marine parasites," said Chris Snyder, Director of the Marine Education Center at GCRL.
Students took a quick break from their studies to celebrate the dedication. Scholarship winners popped a champagne bottle to mark the occasion.
The next project for GCRL is the construction of a new marine education center at the nearby Cedar Point campus.