Gazebo Gazette

To inspire the next generation of leaders in marine and coastal sciences, the GenSea Blue Economy Pathways Internship program at The University of Southern Mississippi (USM) is offering a cohort of 17 high school students the opportunity to intern at various USM research sites during the summer, with positions ranging from four to eight weeks.

The GenSea Blue Economy Pathways Internship program, facilitated in partnership with the Center for STEM Education and working with the School of Ocean Science and Engineering (SOSE), brings together USM faculty and staff who host students as blue economy mentors.

Under their guidance, students are introduced to the world of STEM along Mississippi’s coastline through hands-on training and invaluable experiences in the blue economy.

“Opportunity doesn’t happen by accident. This program affords students transformational lab and field experience while building their professional networks,” said Chelsey Reid, Assistant Program Manager of Outreach of the GenSea program. “By working with high school students, we can meaningfully reach students early enough in their academic career to impact their workforce readiness before graduation. My favorite observed program byproduct can be summed up in one word: hope.”

The mentees for this year’s cohort include experts—in the SOSE, the Thad Cochran Marine Aquaculture Center (TCMAC), and the GenSea program communications team—who all bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to the program. The faculty members from SOSE are Dr. Joe Griffitt, an expert in ecotoxicology; Dr. Michael Andres, specializing in fisheries ecology; Dr. Chelsea Pederson, known for her work in sedimentology; Calvin Martin, a hydrography expert; Dr. Gero Nootz, expert in ocean engineering and technology; Megan Gima, serving as the TCMAC Oyster Hatchery Manager; and Angelos Apeitos, as the TCMAC Hatchery Manager. Completing the team of mentees, the GenSea program communications team includes Tara Skelton, the Program Manager and Chelsey Reid, the Assistant Program Manager of Outreach.

Interns have worked at teaching and research sites, including the Gulf Park campus in Long Beach, the Stennis Space Center facility, the Marine Research Center in Gulfport, and the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory. Each location offers a unique learning environment that reflects the richness and diversity of the coastal region.

“Our School is focused on participating in many impactful and strategic initiatives to promote economic, scientific, and technological innovation in Mississippi’s coastal zone,” said Dr. Robert Leaf, Interim Associate Director of the SOSE. “A primary focus of SOSE has been our efforts in oceanography, coastal and marine ecology, aquaculture and fisheries, ocean engineering and technology, and hydrographic science and understanding of how our work in these fields can benefit the citizens of our state.”

The interns are participating in a wide variety of job types to ensure a diverse range of experiences that align with each of their interests and aspirations. From marine biology to coastal engineering, interns will gain practical knowledge and skills that will serve as a solid foundation for their future career pathways.

Dr. Leaf added, “We are particularly excited about our engagement with Mississippi’s students. Our faculty cultivate the interests of Mississippi’s students while fostering a deeper understanding of the marine and coastal ecosystem and opening doors to exciting career paths in the blue economy.”

This year’s interns include:­­

  • Vicki Tran from Long Beach High School (Mentor: Megan Gima)
  • Justin Mares from Long Beach High School (Mentor: Dr. Joe Griffitt)
  • Jose “Tony” Garcia from Long Beach High School (Mentor: Calvin Martin)

Here’s what some of interns have to say so far about their internship experience:

“My internship involved learning about hydrography as well as other careers in the blue economy. We got to go out and do a good amount of fieldwork. For example, we did a survey of part of a river. We also spent some time in the lab handling the various equipment needed for hydrography,” said Jose “Tony” Garcia (Long Beach High School).

“During my aquaculture internship, I got to work with countless people who all share a strong passion for their work. I also got the chance to assist with the oyster hatchery, where I learned about how much work it takes to take care of oysters from their larval stage to their grown stage. My work included cleaning oyster tanks and systems to clear out any mud to promote faster growth and recording down the water quality every day. I got to go out on the boat at Halstead campus to identify surviving and dead oysters that have been placed in the Gulf. I also learned how to initiate a siphon, calculate the amount of algae for the oysters, and how to count the number of larvae under a microscope,” said Vicki Tran (Long Beach High School).

The GenSea program is made possible thanks to the generous support by the Robert M. Hearin Support Foundation.