MSU-SEAS, March 2024 (Science Education at Sea) NGI and the MS Aquarium takes groups of middle and high school students to Ship Island in the Gulf Islands National Seashore for an experiential learning program that takes the science out of the classroom and places it directly into the hands of the students on quarterly trips to engage with the environment and ecosystem of the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
Mississippi State’s Northern Gulf Institute is partnering with the Mississippi Aquarium to turn the state’s Gulf Coast into an outdoor laboratory. This will give local middle and high school students new knowledge and appreciation for their connection with marine life and the environment.
Through an innovative program, MSU-SEAS, or Science and Education at Sea, 30 public and homeschooled students recently were the first cohort experiencing a hands-on marine excursion, learning positive behavioral practices that promote sustainable choices in safeguarding the Gulf of Mexico’s marine ecosystem.
“We believe an engaged and informed public is a great partner in the effort to protect the Gulf of Mexico’s environment,” said Jonathan Harris, Northern Gulf Institute 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.”
​​​​​​​Program organizers and education experts said another program priority is to practice one of the main tenets of modern educational theory, experiential learning, in which students are engaged when learning by doing.
“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,” he said.
MSU faculty and team members also serving as MSU-SEAS teachers include Jamie Dyer, an associate NGI director and professor of meteorology and climatology, and Gray Turnage, an NGI invasive aquatic species researcher and assistant extension professor. Instructors from the Mississippi Aquarium were Lauren Fuller, education program analyst, and Lizzie Whigham, lead education specialist.
NGI and the Mississippi Aquarium plan to offer the program quarterly to public and homeschooled students. This cohort included public school students from Long Beach, Vancleave, Biloxi, Hattiesburg, and New Orleans, Louisiana.
The Northern Gulf Institute, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Cooperative Institute managed by MSU, is a partnership of six complementary academic institutions and NOAA addressing important national strategic research and education goals. For more information, please visit
The Mississippi Aquarium, a premier institution, delivers an awe-inspiring entertainment experience that supports animal research and conservation, inspires learning, and instills a passion for the aquatic world. For more information, please visit
For more information about the MSU-SEAS Program, please get in touch with NGI Outreach Director Jonathan Harris at

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