Marine Science Program
SAINT STANISLAUS MARINE SCIENCE PROGRAM
Saint Stanislaus is located adjacent to the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. This superb location is an ideal setting of one of our signature programs – Marine Science. Juniors and seniors may opt to take this course as a science elective. This year-long course provides students with the opportunity to learn in a classroom environment, and gain hands-on experience through fieldwork.
Fieldwork includes oyster gardening, beach cleanup/nurdle patrol, phytoplankton and water quality monitoring, as well as seine netting, cast netting, and benthic sampling using yabby pumps. These experiences allow our students to gain a better understanding of our local marine environment as well as the importance of keeping it clean and healthy.
Upon completion of fieldwork, students may bring back some organisms to temporarily keep in their assigned aquariums for further observation. Throughout the course of the year, students gain a lifelong appreciation of marine life and how to best conserve it. There is also a saying that has been established in our Marine Science Program by Mrs. Boudreaux, “It only takes two hands.” Every time classes go outside for fieldwork, students are required to bring back two pieces of trash, one for each hand. No matter how clean our sandy beach appears to be, trash of all types can be found along our beach and in our water. It’s our responsibility as stewards to be sure to always do our part.
UNIQUE PROGRAM AND FACILITIES
As the only dynamic high school marine science program on the Mississippi coast, students have access to a unique experience because Saint Stanislaus is lucky enough to have different ecosystems right in front of the school. These ecosystems include the brackish water estuary of the Bay, sandy beach, and rocky coast areas. These ecosystems provide their own habitat for different organisms to find sanctuary and for students to explore. Our students also have access to real-world scientific equipment utilized by professional marine scientists. Furthermore, Saint Stanislaus has its own pier that extends one thousand feet into the Mississippi Sound. This feature of our campus provides the marine science students with several opportunities for study.
Saint Stanislaus’ coastal location is home to several research programs. Our marine science program participates in studies that benefit larger organizations such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Mississippi Oyster Gardening Program (MSOGP) and Nurdle Patrol. The marine science students provide these organizations with water quality data, phytoplankton counts, oyster growth, and marine debris totals. These research opportunities provide students with real experience collecting and submitting data to be used by scientists.
Nurdles are plastic pellets used for manufacturing larger plastic items. Specifically, they are microplastics, measuring less than 5mm in size. These pellets are frequently spilled into our oceans from container ships or find their way there from tractor-trailers. This is a new ecological issue, in the sense that people are just now becoming aware of it and it’s potential impacts. Marine organisms mistake these for food sources which results in the organism’s stomach being blocked with nurdles, and the organism ceases to eat resulting in starvation. The marine science classes participate in a citizen science based study known as Nurdle Patrol, led by the Mission-Aransas National Estuarine Research Reserve at the University of Texas Marine Science Institute in Port Aransas, Texas. Our students look for nurdles in the sand, specifically in the new strandlines, count how many nurdles are collected by the number of people within a specific timeframe and then submit this data to the nurdle patrole website. Saint Stanislaus Marine Science has been an active partner with Nurdle Patrol since 2018 – providing data and presenting at various scientific conferences around the country on this emerging environmental issue. For more information, please visit: https://nurdlepatrol.org/Forms/Home/
Oysters, and the habitat they create, are vital components of our ecosystem. They improve water quality, stabilize shorelines and are habitat to over 300 species. In 2017, Saint Stanislaus Marine Science partnered with the Mississippi Oyster Gardening Program (MSOGP) through the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium (MASGC) and the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources (MDMR) to restore oyster populations and oyster reefs in our waters. This project is focused on education and restoration.
Each summer we receive hatchery raised spat, set on shell, and care for them (garden them) throughout the year. Our responsibilities include keeping them free from algae, sediment and predators, in addition to monitoring their growth and water quality conditions while they are in our care. At the end of the gardening season, these oysters are collected and given to MDMR, who plants them on designated reefs where they will spawn the following spring. For more information on this program, please visit: http://oystergardening.org/about/
Phytoplankton are microscopic algae that form the base of aquatic food chains. Our students study these microorganisms to understand their importance in the overall health of our planet as well as the threats they may pose to our local aquatic ecosystems such as when a dead zone or a harmful algal bloom (HAB) occurs. Students study phytoplankton through the use of plankton nets and microscopes, learning which species benefit and which species harm our ecosystem. These phytoplankton samples are analyzed for species counts and that data is submitted to the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS) Phytoplankton Monitoring Network (PMN). There, marine biotoxin researchers can use this information to identify trends, isolate areas for further study, and raise awareness on HAB species. For more information on this topic please visit: https://coastalscience.noaa.gov/research/stressor-impacts-mitigation/pmn/
Water quality is one of our main areas of study. Students conduct water quality checks at least once a week, both in the Bay and in student tanks. The parameters we regularly monitor include dissolved oxygen, salinity, pH, temperature, and turbidity. In past years, some of the data collected in the Bay was submitted to an app (OSKit_AEC) which was developed by scientists at the Naval Oceanographic Office (NAVO). Scientists at NAVO used our nearshore water quality data to compare with their satellite data. By completing water quality checks students learn the physical parameters required to maintain life in their tanks and a healthy ecosystem in the Bay. This data could also prove valuable to other scientists as they study climate and anthropogenic impacts in our area.
Students who take our marine science class their junior year may apply for an internship their senior year. Upon acceptance, these few individuals are given priority research projects and act as teaching assistants to their peers during fieldwork and labs. This internship provides students with an excellent opportunity to work independently on research projects, and collecting and submitting data to various institutions and organizations. The internship also provides students with real experience as marine scientists which can help them in the future as many interns choose to pursue a career in marine science.
Our interns have also had the opportunity to present at various scientific conferences over the past several years. Saint Stanislaus marine science interns and students have presented at the following scientific conferences:
Novak, Kalen. “Syngnathus louisianae or floridae: The 6 Month Mystery.” Presented at the Ocean Sciences Meeting 2016. New Orleans, LA.
Greer, Will, et al. “Mississippi Oyster Gardening Program at SSC.” Presented at the Ocean Sciences Meeting 2018. Portland, OR.
Weber, William, et al. “Oyster Gardening Program at SSC.” Presented at the Bays and Bayous Symposium 2018. Mobile, AL.
Thriffiley, Jackson, et al. “Saint Stanislaus Oyster Gardening Program.” Presented at the Ocean Sciences Meeting 2020. San Diego, CA.
West, Drew, et al. “Nurdle Patrol at SSC.” Presented at the Ocean Sciences Meeting 2020. San Diego, CA.
Sides, Grant. “Saint Stanislaus Nurdle Patrol.” Presented at the Bays and Bayous Symposium 2020. Biloxi, MS.
- Water quality
- Cast netting
- Seine netting
- Yabby pumps and sieves
- Oyster gardening
- Phytoplankton monitoring
- Nurdle patrol
- Marine debris cleanup
University of Mississippi Partners with Saint Stanislaus
The University of Mississippi has partnered with the Saint Stanislaus Marine Science Program to conduct experiments as part of a research project that will address critical research gaps in the north-central Gulf of Mexico on water quality and how it relates to oyster reefs and their sustainability. The University of Mississippi received a grant from the Mississippi Based RESTORE Act Center of Excellence (MBRACE) to conduct this oyster toxicology research which will analyze oyster response to specific environmental stressors. Project leaders from the university reached out to Saint Stanislaus to help carry out the experiments. “This is a great project and an incredible opportunity for our marine science students to be a part of. They will be able to get first-hand experience in conducting collegiate level research and reporting their findings back to project leaders. This particular project is also very timely and pertinent to our area. The results from these experiments will provide critical data on the resiliency of oysters in the Mississippi Sound and the Gulf of Mexico after experiencing environmental stressors, such as those associated with excess freshwater influence,” said Letha Boudreaux, Saint Stanislaus Marine Science Program Director. Students from Saint Stanislaus will be gathering data from these experiments over the next several months, in addition to regularly monitoring water quality parameters via a lander that will support the findings of these environmental toxicology experiments.
“This project was paid for [in part] with federal funding from the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality under the Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourist Opportunities, and Revived Economies of the Gulf Coast States Act of 2012 (RESTORE Act). The statements, findings, conclusions, and recommendations are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of the Treasury or the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality.”
OUR MARINE SCIENCE NETWORK
Saint Stanislaus has developed mutually beneficial relationships with high-level educational institutions and non-profit research institutions in our area including:
- The University of Mississippi
- Mississippi State University Extension Services – Saint Stanislaus is the Hancock County Coordinator for the Mississippi Coastal Cleanup 2020
- The University of Southern Mississippi
- The University of Southern Mississippi School of Ocean Science and Engineering
- Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant
past projects / partnerships
Naval Research Lab (NRL)
- Water quality monitoring and utilization of OSKIT_AEC app
- SeaPerch ROV build
University of Southern Mississippi – Department of Marine Science
- Pioneering Mars Project
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
- Bay-Watershed Education Training Program (B-WET)
Coastal Conservation Association (CCA) – Mississippi
- Speckled trout monitoring program in conjunction with the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources (MDMR)
- Mrs. Boudreaux was a guest on board during the 2016 expedition of the Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary
To learn more about the Saint Stanislaus Marine Science Program, please contact Letha Boudreaux, Program Director.