עופר איתן Reports: USM Coastal Operations Stronger and Better 15 Years After... - Jonathan Cartu Global Design, Architecture & Engineering Firm
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עופר איתן Reports: USM Coastal Operations Stronger and Better 15 Years After…

USM Coastal Operations Stronger and Better 15 Years After...

עופר איתן Reports: USM Coastal Operations Stronger and Better 15 Years After…

Fri,
08/28/2020 – 14:27pm | By: Margaret Ann Macloud

Hurricane Katrina forever changed the Mississippi Gulf Coast and The University of
Southern Mississippi (USM) on August 29, 2005, and 15 years later, University leaders
say that the devastation became a catalyst for an improved institution better positioned
to respond to the educational, cultural and economic needs of the Gulf Coast.

From the state’s western border with Louisiana to its eastern border with Alabama,
the University’s presence and impact continues to grow. USM has become a national
leader in education and research, joining only 131 institutions in the country designated
as a Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education’s “R1: Doctoral Universities
– Very high research activity” university. The University is preparing students for
career paths most important to the Gulf Coast at a reconstructed Gulf Park campus
in Long Beach and educating future scientists at the Marine Education Center at the
Gulf Coast Research Laboratory (GCRL) in Ocean Springs. It is conducting transformational
research at the Stennis Space Center in Hancock County, at the Marine Research Center
at the Port of Gulfport, on R/V Point Sur, and at GCRL. And its efforts in support
of the state’s Blue Tech Economy have been enhanced with the opening of several facilities,
including the Marine Research Center and future construction of the Roger F. Wicker
Center for Ocean Enterprise, both in Gulfport.

“When I consider the devastation left in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, I am truly
in awe of the extraordinary ways in which The University of Southern Mississippi has
been able to rebuild and expand our coastal operations since that time,” said University
President Rodney D. Bennett. “I want to thank each individual whose leadership during
the face of great uncertainty set our institution on a path to recovery following
the storm. I look forward to continuing our work to position our coastal operations
to meet the unique education and research needs of the coastal community and the growing
technology, engineering, and industrial business needs of our emerging Blue Tech Economy.”

Hardy Hall on Long BeachUSM’s Gulf Park Campus in Long Beach

The building or historic reconstruction of more than a dozen buildings on the Gulf
Park campus in Long Beach followed the storm, supporting the enhancement of student
services via the new Academic Success Center, Student Services One Stop, and piloting
the University’s centralized Advisement Center model.

In recent years, the Gulf Park campus has seen a number of improvements. The construction
of the “Gulf Park Gateway,” defining the campus entrance and mirroring the gateway
entrance to the University’s Hattiesburg campus, improves campus access and serves
as a symbol of USM’s commitment to meeting the education, research, and economic needs
of the coastal community. The University also replaced the last of its modular units
used after the storm as classrooms and office space with the construction of the two-story,
25,000 square foot North Academic Building, featuring classrooms, study rooms, conference
rooms, meeting space, and faculty offices. The campus has also improved its historic
Bear Point Bayou with a pedestrian pathway. The bayou runs through campus and is home
to various species of turtles, fish, and other coastal wildlife. Reportedly first
listed on an area map in 1774, the bayou is fed from a natural spring located north
of campus.

The Marine Research CenterUSM’s Gulf Coast Research Laboratory in Ocean Springs

The Marine Education Center was the final Katrina recovery project for USM, with the
$16.2 million facility opening in 2018. The center is located at the University’s
GCRL Cedar Point site in Ocean Springs, moving from a high-risk velocity zone at Point
Cadet, Biloxi, to a safer, higher elevation site located out of the direct wind field.
The new structures were designed to be as wind resilient, flood proof, energy efficient,
and coastal hazard resistant as any structure built post-Katrina.

The Marine Education Center functions as the education and outreach arm of GCRL and
provides an all-encompassing immersion experience for participants in a unique and
beautiful setting, which includes a mix of exhibits, classrooms, laboratories, meeting
spaces and administrative offices, as well as outdoor learning and field experiences
through a system of trails, boardwalks, and outdoor classrooms. The facility, which
was funded by a combination of federal recovery and state monies, has received multiple architectural awards for its sustainable, green, and effective coastal building techniques in harmony with the coastal environment.

In addition to the Marine Education Center, GCRL lost multiple other structures 15
years ago. An 11,000 square foot, state-of-the-art Toxicology Building opened in 2017
at the Cedar Point location, with work that focuses on the effects of anthropogenic
substances (introduced by human activity) on aquatic or marine species. The researchers
focus on three key areas: nanotoxicology, toxicogenomics, and the effects of the Deepwater
Horizon oil spill. At the GCRL Halstead site, a new Field Studies Building was completed
in 2014, replacing classrooms lost during the storm. This facility supports, among
other things, the GCRL Summer Field Program which has provided field-based academic
courses for undergraduate and graduate students since 1947.

“One of my most vivid recollections of that period is coming on to the GCRL Halstead
campus a couple of days after Katrina’s landfall. The devastation was immense, to
say the least,” Dr. Read Hendon, School of Ocean Science and Engineering Associate
Director for GCRL, said. “Our faculty, staff and students got to work not long thereafter
salvaging what we could and cleaning out our offices and labs. To see the GCRL sites
today, you would not imagine that destruction had ever occurred. While it was a long
and complicated process, we have taken what was a major disaster and used that as
a foundation to improve our campuses and facilities and—as a result—we have enhanced
the research USM conducts and the educational programs we offer.”

R/V Point SurUSM at the Port of Gulfport

Another development since the storm is the groundbreaking of the Roger F. Wicker Center
for Ocean Enterprise, located at the Mississippi State Port Authority at Gulfport,
where a casino stood before Katrina. Once complete, the building will be the centerpiece
of research and development in the Gulf, further establishing the initiatives of Governor
Phil Bryant’s Ocean Task Force and creating a unique maritime technology environment
on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Joining USM’s recently opened Marine Research Center
at the Port, the Wicker Center for Ocean Enterprise will be a regional engineering
and development center, co-located with an innovation and commercialization center

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