What's Happening at GCRL

GCRL Museum Renovation Project Update

Project Outcomes Report

Project: Gulf Coast Research Laboratory (GCRL) Museum Improvements and Modernization
Funding Source: National Science Foundation - Field Stations and Marine Laboratories
Federal Award ID: 1624688
Project Period: 10/01/2016 – 09/30/2017
Award Amount: $218,726

The University of Southern Mississippi’s Gulf Coast Research Laboratory (GCRL) is home to the GCRL Museum, which houses extensive ichthyological and invertebrate collections dating back to 1958. More than 36,500 lots of fish specimens, representing 3,400 species from 270 families, are catalogued within the Museum, as are 6,536 lots of invertebrate specimens. The facility serves as the primary repository for specimens obtained during ongoing local, national, and international research programs conducted at GCRL and at other academic and research institutions. Material contained in the collections is available for use by researchers worldwide, providing essential information on the biodiversity, systematics, morphology, ecology, distribution, and life history of the species present therein. The GCRL Museum also serves as the regional Southeast Area Monitoring and Assessment Program (SEAMAP) Invertebrate Plankton Archiving Center (SIPAC) for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), housing replicate samples from SEAMAP cruises conducted in the Gulf of Mexico, as well as sorted invertebrate material from various SEAMAP collections.

Prior to completion of this NSF-FSML funded project, infrastructure and equipment for the Museum was outdated and did not support efficient maintenance or utilization of this vast collection. The Museum was interspersed among six rooms in two separate buildings at GCRL, with antiquated shelving inhibiting optimal efficiency of space utilization and, thus, centralization of specimens. Additionally, poor air circulation in sections of the Museum presented issues with moisture retention and jeopardized sample integrity by affecting climate control efficiency. Improvements addressed through this project included renovation of current Museum space (a) to accommodate modern, space-efficient compactorized shelving units and (b) to integrate upgraded safety (fire sprinkler) and containment (chemical lockers) systems. The renovated Museum facilities and associated storage efficiency now allows for a completely centralized collection of fish and invertebrate specimens that will aid in better internal management of the collection and foster increased use of the collection for academic and research purposes. Additionally, the installation of AOS Spacesaver compactorized shelving allowed for a reduction of necessary space for the Museum collection and operations from 3,649 square feet before the project to 2,448 square feet after project completion; the 1,201 square feet made available by this reduction will support research and academic program growth at GCRL.

The renovations resulting from this project will greatly increase the accessibility and utility of the entire GCRL Museum collection for faculty, staff, students and visiting researchers alike and will provide space for future growth. The increased space will permit the establishment of a SEAMAP voucher collection for trawled fish and invertebrates that can be used to train NMFS field biologists in the identification of material they will encounter in their samples, which are identified and measured aboard ship. This reorganization will also facilitate the extraction of comparative invertebrate data for use in conjunction with data from the SEAMAP larval fish collection housed at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute in St. Petersburg, Florida. The centralization of the Museum into one space will increase the value of tours of the Museum which are currently conducted in conjunction with the GCRL’s Marine Education Center programs. Those programs serve to expose members of the public, K-12 students and their teachers, and graduate students to the types of research supported by museum collections. The National Ocean Sciences Bowl regional competition (the Hurricane Bowl) is held annually at GCRL, and Museum tours are part of the program for the competing teams; as such, some of the best high school science students in the country will be better exposed to the value of museum collections in research. The GCRL Summer Field Program will also benefit from these improvements, as several upper level undergraduate classes each year (e.g., Elasmobranch Biology, Marine Ichthyology, and Coastal Herpetology) borrow reference material for use in laboratory sessions. Students in those classes maintain and expand the teaching collections and learn museum curatorial practices in the process.

Photos of renovation

To view this report at Research.gov,
1) Go to Research.gov Research Spending and Results Search:
2) Enter 1624688 in the Federal Award ID Number box and click Search.
3) On the search results page, click on the Federal Award ID Number to view details about the award including the Project Outcomes Report at the bottom of the page.