USM hits it big with almost $73 million in research money

USM hits it big with almost $73 million in research money

SOUTH MISSISSIPPI (WLOX) - For Dr. Joe Griffitt at University of Southern Mississippi's Gulf Coast Research Lab in Ocean Springs, the more money for his discipline, the better.

"Much of us has spent a very large amount of time and effort and money over the last five years trying to understand what the effects of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill were on the Gulf of Mexico eco-systems," said Griffitt.

USM struck it big in 2015 with funding for research, receiving nearly $73 million - a 24 percent increase from the previous year. Of that amount, the College of Science and Technology was given $43 million in research money. And a big part of that amount - almost $17 million - is dedicated to studying the oil spill.

Griffitt says the highly competitive grant, led by interim director Dr. Monty Graham, could yield huge benefits.

"I think it's safe to say that, depending on what they find, that may have a very large impact on our understanding of how oil moved and therefor the effects it had on different parts of the eco-system," said Griffitt.

Graham, who is also chair of the department of marine science at Stennis Space Center, says the money available indicates the strength of the university's research.

"The university, by being a research university, has cut its teeth a long time ago on integrating research with academics and training of students," said Graham. "This is really an indicator of the overall growth of the university as a major research university."

Graham also says the new research relative to river flow influences have been tied to the oil spill, but has additional benefits.

"You may think of that in terms in just oil spill, but that actually has a relationship back to fisheries," Graham said. "That has a relationship back to the recent alga blooms, the red tides that we were having. And it has a relationship to the flooding we're having in the Mississippi River right now."

In addition to other research disciplines, the Gulf Coast Research Lab is actively sampling waters to study the effect of the Bonnet Carre Spillway opening on the Gulf eco-system.

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