USM to Lead Gulf of Mexico Research Operations for National Science Foundation

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.), and Representative Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.), today welcomed the news that the University of Southern Mississippi (USM) has been selected by the National Science Foundation (NSF) as the operating institution for a newly-constructed Regional Class Research Vessel (RCRV).

Wicker, Hyde-Smith, and Palazzo each wrote letters of support for the USM application to host the RCRV, which will support research activities in the Gulf of Mexico.

“The University of Southern Mississippi has become a hub for some of the most advanced oceans research in the nation, and it is fitting that the NSF’s third Regional Class Research Vessel will be based in Mississippi,” Wicker said.  “This new ship will ensure that ocean researchers have modern capabilities to meet the unique, long-term needs of our region for decades to come.”

“The fact that the University of Southern Mississippi will be the lead institution for marine and ocean sciences research speaks volumes about the expertise developed by the university.  We can certainly look forward to the launch of this new vessel, which will enhance exploration capabilities and support research important to our state and the Gulf of Mexico,” Hyde-Smith said.   

“The University of Southern Mississippi is the right choice to receive the National Science Foundation’s third Regional Class Research Vessel.  Southern Miss has proven its capabilities of advancing our understandings of our oceans, fisheries, and ecosystems.  I am proud to know they will continue that progress with this new research ship and expand Mississippi’s Blue Economy,” Palazzo said.

Construction on the RCRV, valued at more than $100 million, is scheduled to begin in late 2019 with delivery to the Gulf in 2023 following a year of rigorous sea trials.  The anticipated $7.0 million in annual operating costs will be provided primarily by NSF, which will own the vessel, NOAA, the Office of Naval Research, the National Academies of Sciences’ Gulf Research Program, and other agencies.

The NSF announcement is the third in a series of awards for RCRVs that will be based in each of the three U.S. coastal regions, including the East Coast, West Coast, and Gulf Coast. The new ships will help to replace an aging research vessel fleet and provide new capabilities for shore-based researchers.

USM will operate the ship in partnership with the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium and 15 other associate members from the five Gulf Coast states, as well as Georgia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and Mexico.

For more information on the NSF award to USM, click here.