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Research on interconnections among Gulf of Mexico ecosystems.
Outreach for decisions based on those interconnections.

NGI News

NGI Gears Up for the 2023 MSU-SEAS Program for Middle and High School Students

May 12, 2023

Middle and high school students on the Ship Island coastline during the 2022 MSU-SEAS Program
Middle and high school students on the Ship Island coastline during the 2022 MSU-SEAS Program. Photo by Jonathan Harris, Northern Gulf Institute.
Thirty middle and high school students will embark on a marine science data-collecting excursion that turns the Mississippi Gulf Coast into an outdoor science laboratory and fosters personal appreciation for marine life and the environment. The day-long expedition will travel out into the Mississippi Sound and along the beaches of Ship Island, part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore.

Now in its 3rd year, the Northern Gulf Institute (NGI) will host the 2023 Mississippi State University (MSU) Science and Education at Sea (SEAS) Program in partnership with the Mississippi Aquarium and Ship Island Excursions operating out of Gulfport, MS. The program seeks to foster interest in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) as well as personal commitment towards sustainable choices in safeguarding the Gulf of Mexico's ecosystem.

"We believe an engaged and informed public is a great partner in efforts to protect the Gulf of Mexico's environment," said Jonathan Harris, NGI's Education and Outreach Director. "By giving students access to this kind of learning, NGI and the Mississippi Aquarium is making its research relevant to the students who will become the stakeholders and citizens of the future."

Hands-on activities include sampling for water quality, collecting seafloor sediment samples, and identifying various marine species, including invasive aquatic plants. The program also includes lively lectures that cover Gulf Coast history and concepts in geography, geology, biology, ecology, and climate.

Harris said that the program offers an opportunity to practice one of the main tenets of modern educational theory – the concept of experiential learning that engages students through doing, which helps create interest in and excitement about the topics covered. Positive science-related experiences at these grade levels have the potential to impact students' long-term education and career choices, an important workforce development goal for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which NGI supports as a NOAA Cooperative Institute.

"The idea is that through exposure to real-life scientific sampling techniques and locally relevant lesson content, we can remove the shadow of classroom learning and spark an interest in the sciences that will impact not only their future educational choices, but also their life-long interest and hopefully their career pathways."

NGI and the Mississippi Aquarium offer the program twice yearly to public and homeschooled students in Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi. For more information, contact Jonathan Harris at

The Northern Gulf Institute is a NOAA Cooperative Institute with six academic institutions located across the US Gulf Coast states, conducting research and outreach on the interconnections among Gulf of Mexico ecosystems for informed decision making. The NGI Education and Outreach Program supports the missions of NOAA and partner organizations in the Gulf of Mexico region to develop an engaged and educated public who are better able to make scientifically informed decisions and to develop a workforce pipeline for STEM careers.

This article was generated from the Portal Newsletter story The 2023 NGI's MSU-SEAS Program continues providing experiential learning opportunities for middle and high school students.