Southern Miss holds groundbreaking for new marine education center

Southern Miss holds groundbreaking for new marine education center

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - This is a news release from the University of Southern Mississippi

The University of Southern Mississippi celebrated continued recovery from Hurricane Katrina with a groundbreaking  for the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory's (GCRL) new Marine Education Center (MEC) in Ocean Springs. The facility replaces the J.L. Scott Marine Education Center destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

The groundbreaking event comes during the week of the 10-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina hitting the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Common themes during the official groundbreaking ceremony included resilience, restoration, recovery, and continued rebuilding.

During his remarks at the ceremony, Gov. Phil Bryant said, "This is restoring it forward. This center will be one that will be the envy of all the world."

The Marine Education Center will function as the education and outreach arm of GCRL, and promises to be an all-encompassing experience for participants located in a unique and beautiful setting on Davis Bayou on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

The 28,000 square foot facility with waterfront access and boat dock, includes six coastal structures that will house public exhibits, classrooms, laboratories, meeting rooms, administrative offices, a bath/shower complex, as well as an outdoor learning and assembly pavilion. The center will also feature an ADA-accessible trail system, boardwalks and outdoor classrooms.

"I am confident that our new Marine Education Center will enhance the high-quality education and research programs we provide as the leading marine science institution in the state of Mississippi," said USM President Rodney D. Bennett. "The work done here will also contribute to workforce and economic development along the coast and throughout the region."

The MEC's education strategies focus on the coastal ecosystems of the north-central Gulf of Mexico to promote careers in marine sciences and foster community involvement. The new facility will be used by school groups in Coastal Science Camps, college students seeking research experiences, teachers pursuing professional development and community volunteers and citizen-scientists wanting to learn more about and help preserve natural resources along the Gulf.

"The City of Ocean Springs is proud to have a world class facility such as the Marine Education Center in our community. Since its inception decades ago, the Gulf Coast Research Lab has educated hundreds of scientists and marine biologists, said Connie Moran, Mayor of Ocean Springs. "This new Cedar Point facility not only provides a unique opportunity for advanced research in aquaculture and the marine sciences, but also serves as an environmentally friendly outreach to the public, so that people of all ages may enjoy this beautiful retreat."

Located at a higher elevation, out of the direct wind field and designed to be as wind resilient, flood proof, energy efficient and coastal hazard resistant as any structure built in the post-Katrina period, the MEC will also serve as a nationally recognized example of sustainable and effective coastal building techniques in harmony with the coastal environment in which it is located.

The cost of the project is $16.2 million, with primary funding coming from an $11.2 million Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) grant being administered by the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency (MEMA). The Mississippi Department of Marine Resources is providing $5 million in additional funding. Estimated completion of the project is Spring 2017.

For more information about GCRL, visit