Gulf Coast Research Lab Still At Work

Scientists at the Gulf Coast Research Lab are learning to improvise. Hurricane Katrina destroyed a significant portion of that USM campus in Ocean Springs.

But the storm hasn't stopped researchers from their assigned experiments.

"This is what we managed to salvage from inside the building," said Jim Franks, as he pointed toward a few office furnishings outside his building.

"Fisheries Biologist: Book cabinets. A few desks. A few things of that sort we were able to salvage some of the contents of the building," he added.

The longtime biologist faced a formidable assignment after the storm: How best to salvage decades of research. Mud and muck from the nearby bayou came splashing into the building with Katrina.

"Knee deep in mud and water. And we managed to shovel all of that out. All our faculty and staff and students. Everyone pitched in. Lab wide. Cleaned out the offices and cleaned out the buildings," Franks explained.

With lab space being cleaned up and restored, researchers learn to make do.

"Well, this is our new wet lab. So, when we bring samples from the field we'll do the initial sorting under the tent," said biologist Harriet Perry.

"This building lacks doors. The doors were taken off during Katrina. So we have tarps and sort of temporary doors," she explained.

Obviously the portion of the research lab facing the water bore the brunt of the storm damage. At least a half dozen buildings in that area were destroyed. The toxicology lab was heavily damaged.

As the clean up around campus continues, so does the research. A small work space designed to grow crabs, now serves as a central lab instead.

"We use these lights to sort. We look for very small crabs, fish and shrimp. They would sort those out and work them up," said Perry.

The scientists are getting good at improvising. Katrina left little choice.

"We've been able to make do and be successful," said the biologist.