Ocean Springs Lab Marks Major Milestone

"The top teeth are larger. The bottom teeth are more narrow," said an instructor as he held up a large set of shark teeth.

The gaping jaw and slimy specimens were familiar sights for the class. The group was made up of teachers, assistants and volunteers who were learning how to run the Project Marine Discovery Sea Camp.  The camp is temporarily housed at the Gulf Coast Research Lab.

"We're relieved and we're very, very excited," said Dr. Shelia Brown, who is the Coordinator of Education Programs. "We're relieved because we have a facility, where we can have campers back this year. This will be our 18th year."

Another program that's making a comeback is the Summer Field Program. The class introduces marine science to college students, who come from all over the country.

"What I've been doing the past four months is marketing," said Summer Field Program Director Dr. Ed Pinero. "I just wanted to let everyone know we are alive and 59th year of the program will happen."

Nine months ago, many people thought the programs would not return this summer, after Katrina caused more than $50 million in damage to the Ocean Springs facility. But the lab is bouncing back.

"Buildings have been cleaned, repaired, and repainted," GCRL Director Dr. Jay Grimes said during the ribbon cutting celebration Tuesday. "Labs have been reconstructed and re-equipped. Boats are back in the water and research is continuing."

Despite the progress, you can still see reminders of Katrina's devastation. The lab is still trying to settle with FEMA, MEMA, and the insurance company before some of the damaged buildings can be torn down and rebuilt.

Still, lab leaders are proud of the recovery and they praise the unbreakable spirit of the people who work there.

Dr. Brown said, "We have a very dedicated staff and they were determined not to be on their knees for long, but to get on their feet and run."

The Sea Camp program begins June 5th. As you know, it was once held at the J.L. Scott Marine Education Center in Biloxi, until Katrina destroyed the building.