USM Research Lab Moving Forward & Beyond

Katrina took out five buildings at USM Gulf Coast Research Laboratory in Ocean Springs. Researchers say the lab is moving toward a future that goes much farther than just hurricane recovery.

It wasn't enough for USM researchers to bring back every aquaculture study underway before Katrina hit. The laboratory went a step further and added the Red Snapper to the tag and release program.

Jeff Lotz is the chairman of the Coastal Sciences program.

"When you have the best facilities it attracts the best people and certainly the best graduate students."

At the Cedar Point campus, developing the best facilities means rebuilding structures there that were destroyed at the beach front campus and constructing $40 million in new research facilities. That includes the Aquaculture visitors center set to open in mid September.

"Everybody that's been here they're very versed in aquaculture center around the county as well as around the world and they say this is the finest marine aquaculture center that they've seen," said Lotz.

There is also progress over at the hard hit beach front campus.

GCRL director Bill Hawkins said, "We have rebuilt our harbor. We are now able to dock the boats.  Some of the boats that were over at Point Cadet are in our harbor on this campus making it very easy for students to board here rather than go over to Biloxi."

The main campus has two new green houses. One replaces the one Katrina destroyed and the other for an innovative study on native coastal plants.

"In the research business that we're in you can't stand still. You've always got to be moving forward," said Hawkins. "That was one of the really gratifying things after the storm that we saw is how responsive that all our faculty and staff and students were to help account for the losses that we have but also move their programs forward."

Officials expect some $40 million in construction will be underway over the next five years.