Chet F. Rakocinski, Ph.D.

Professor - Department of Coastal Sciences,
Benthic Ecology Program

(228) 872-4284, fax: (228) 872-4204


Gulf Coast Research Laboratory
703 East Beach Drive
Ocean Springs, MS 39564


Research Interests

Presently, I am a Professor in the Department of Coastal Sciences at the USM Gulf Coast Research Laboratory, where I have been engaged as a PI or Co-PI on various research projects. My research centers on benthic ecology and fisheries ecology in marine, estuarine, and freshwater habitats.  My overarching goal is to carry out an integrated research program to examine processes affecting macrobenthic communities, recruitment dynamics, and trophic relationships between fishes and macroinvertebrates.  Research efforts address macrobenthic responses to environmental change and anthropogenic alteration, recruitment ecology of early life-stages of estuarine-dependent fisheries species, habitat use, trophic ecology, and the effects of biotic interactions on trophic relationships. Formerly we completed a four-year EPA STAR grant to develop macrobenthic ecoindicators of estuarine condition for the northern Gulf of Mexico, studies of the determination of geographic sources of juvenile nursery habitat using otolith microchemistry, and macrobenthic responses to marsh restoration.

I have also acted as a PI or Co-PI for several biomonitoring projects funded by the EPA and the National Park Service that elucidated natural patterns and anthropogenic impacts on macrofaunal assemblages in the northern Gulf of Mexico.  Also, I have participated in studies of the effects of environmental fluctuation on the early recruitment of estuarine-dependent fishes using an approach that integrates laboratory and field studies of early growth of juvenile fishes. Other past efforts include studies of blue crab recruitment dynamics and of seagrass and associated fauna.

Presently, I am actively engaged in collaborative research with my students and colleagues in such areas as estuarine trophic ecology, habitat assessment and early recruitment dynamics. For example, we are characterizing secondary production and community structure of invertebrates and cryptic fishes of artificial reefs of coastal Mississippi. We are also advancing a modeling approach aimed at reaching a mechanistic understanding of effects of hypoxia and organic enrichment on benthic macroinfauna. An eclectic and balanced approach is used involving a combination of field studies and laboratory experiments, in conjunction with simulation modeling.

Teaching Experience

My university teaching experience is extensive. Presently, I am a Professor in the Department of Coastal Sciences of the University of Southern Mississippi, where I have developed a wide range of courses, including Data Analysis in the Coastal Sciences, Benthic Ecology, Marine Ecology, Marine Ichthyology, Biology of Fishes, General Zoology, Genetics, Comparative Anatomy, and Introductory Biology.  In addition, I co-coordinate two readings/discussion courses in Foundations in Coastal and Historical Ecology. The Summer Field Program course, Marine Ecology, has been under my stewardship since 1999. I initially developed the curriculum for the core graduate course, Coastal Processes II, which I have co-taught since spring 2000. In addition, I have developed specialized graduate courses in Data Analysis and Benthic Ecology for the USM Division of Coastal Sciences.  In the summers of 2003 and 2005, I taught Fishes of the Tropics in Belize for the Study Abroad Program of the University of Mississippi. My teaching style is structured and interactive.  I maintain that the learning process is best facilitated by the development of conceptual frameworks and critical thinking skills.

Professional Work Experience

Graduate Students Directed

Current Graduate Students

Committee Member for Graduated Students

Committee Member for Current Students

Selected Publications