Recently, I had the opportunity to experience a significant milestone in the growth and development of The University of Southern Mississippi’s research program as the research vessel Point Sur made its way across the Panama Canal.
As I traveled to the country of Panama, entered the waters of both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans and explored the most recent addition to USM’s fleet, I was struck by the impact this vessel will have on our marine science research initiatives.
As you may know, in February USM purchased the Point Sur from San Jose State University with a $1 million grant provided by the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality.
The Point Sur will be the only oceanographic class research vessel home-ported in the northern Gulf of Mexico east of the Mississippi and will allow USM marine science researchers and other parties to explore the Gulf of Mexico, including research on the BP oil spill of 2010.
The 135-foot-long vessel accommodates 13 researchers and technicians and a crew of eight while housing a 1,110-square-foot deck that includes a primary laboratory and a wet laboratory.
Not only will acquisition of this unique vessel help USM enhance the high-quality education and research opportunities we provide as the leading marine science institution in the state of Mississippi, but it will also provide valuable benefits to our community and associated marine economy.
For example, research conducted through the Point Sur will serve as an important resource should another oil spill impact the waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
While I am certainly excited about the research opportunities this vessel will bring to our university and the Mississippi Gulf Coast region, I am also eager to utilize the Point Sur’s journey from Monterey Bay, California, to Gulfport, Mississippi, as a rich educational experience for our Hattiesburg and Gulf Coast communities.
Panama’s strategic location as a major shipping route makes it a key economic partner for the United States, and the Point Sur’s transit through the Panama Canal provides a unique opportunity to educate our children about the country of Panama, the rich history of its Canal, and the significance of international partnerships to commerce and economic development.
Each of us should use the Point Sur’s journey to help our children understand how geography, other cultures, international relations, and ocean research can be applied to our own communities.
I am excited to see our Hattiesburg and Gulf Coast communities embrace the opportunity to learn and grow through USM’s newest research vessel, and I look forward to continuing to advance transformative ocean research for our state, our nation and our world, right here in south Mississippi.
Rodney Bennett is the President of The University of Southern Mississippi. Contact him via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org