Ocean scientists at the University of Southern Mississippi say the recent addition of two new vessels is improving both student experiences and our knowledge of the Gulf of Mexico. MPB’s Evelina Burnett reports.
Monty Graham, the director of the School of Ocean Science and Technology at the University of Southern Mississippi, gives a tour of the R/V Point Sur, a 135-foot research vessel acquired by USM last year. It joins the new 60-foot R/V Jim Franks and the fisheries-focused R/V Tommy Munro research vessels in giving USM students the opportunity to roam far and wide in their research.
"This brings an asset to our programs that we haven't had. We had not been training our oceanographers to do oceanography in the sense of getting wet, and these vessels really do that," he says. "They get our students off shore, they give them opportutnities to do things, and it sets this unversity apart from most other programs."
Graham says the demand for the research vessels is high. The Point Sur "in the first year that we got it, put 110 paid days of research on the books," Graham says."Compare that to this vessel operating in Monterrey Bay, where it came from -- it only had about 50 days a year. So the demand is extreme for this kind of asset here inthe Gulf of Mexico.
"We're really one of only two oceanographic-grade research vessels that the Gulf of Mexico has that stay in the Gulf of Mexico," he adds.
Senator Roger Wicker visited the Point Sur recently and said its research is critical.
“Until the oil spill, we were lagging behind here, even though there is more commerce in the Gulf of Mexico, there’s more energy in the Gulf of Mexico, there's more fisheries," he says. "So the research needed to be done. And because of vessels like this, and the other two we have at Southern Miss, we're catching up."
The Point Sur and the Jim Franks are both stationed at the Port of Gulfport.