Education

Increase in research funding at USM could benefit entire Coast

AMANDA McCOY/SUN HERALD/FILE 
 Misty Fiello, research technician with the Southern Miss Gulf Coast Research Lab, tests samples from the beach for enterococci bacteria at GCRL in 2011. The Gulf Coast Research Lab in Ocean Springs will use an increase in research funding to study fisheries, marine resources, wetlands, marshes, marine diseases, oysters and oyster-culturing.
AMANDA McCOY/SUN HERALD/FILE Misty Fiello, research technician with the Southern Miss Gulf Coast Research Lab, tests samples from the beach for enterococci bacteria at GCRL in 2011. The Gulf Coast Research Lab in Ocean Springs will use an increase in research funding to study fisheries, marine resources, wetlands, marshes, marine diseases, oysters and oyster-culturing. SUN HERALD

The University of Southern Mississippi saw a significant increase in research funding last year, with a large amount of the money going toward research conducted on the Gulf Coast -- research that officials said could produce direct benefits for Coast residents.

USM got almost $73 million in external funding for research during fiscal year 2015, a 24.1 percent increase over the previous year.

About $16.6 million came from the BP oil-spill settlement.

That money will be used at Stennis Space Center for oceanographers to research water circulation in the ocean, geology and chemistry. At USM's Gulf Coast Research Lab in Ocean Springs, it will fund studies into fisheries, marine resources, wetlands, marshes, marine diseases, and oysters and oyster culturing.

Scientists are studying the effects of the opening of the Bonnet Carre spillway, and others are looking into what happened when oil moved closer to shore after the BP spill and how to respond should it happen again.

The work has a real and direct effect on South Mississippi residents, said William Graham, the chair of the Department of Marine Science and GCRL's interim director.

"Any time you have these clusters of industries, especially technical industries, you usually see a university in the middle of it," he said.

The university provides trained employees and technological advances, he said. And studies have a found for every $1 spent on research, $7 is returned to the economy.

"The blue economy (ocean-related economy) is the largest economic sector for the state so it's incredibly important for the state and an incredibly important place for the state to be investing resources," he said.

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