New 60-foot research vessel added to GCRL fleet; named after longtime scientist
The new year marks an exciting time for the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory as we prepare to bring on the newest addition to the GCRL fleet: R/V Jim Franks. Construction of the vessel is nearly complete and will be in GCRL's possession this month.
After a poll of GCRL faculty and staff, the decision was made to immortalize the work and dedication of Jim Franks, senior research scientist in the Center for Fisheries Research and Development, to the GCRL by giving the vessel his name.
“I am extremely proud and honored to have my name on this beautiful, new research vessel,” Franks said. “This honor is something I will cherish for the rest of my life.”
The still-practicing biologist has been the public face of GCRL at local fishing tournaments for decades and is frequently asked to interpret what’s going on in the marine environment to the general public. Franks has over 35 years experience as a fisheries biologist with research interests ranging from life history studies of Gulf of Mexico offshore fishes such as cobia, tunas, billfishes and sharks to pioneering research on the floating seaweed Sargassum, an offshore essential habitat for many fish species. Franks has more than 50 publications documenting his work towards marine science.
“It was an emotional experience when I first saw my name on the boat,” he said. “I wondered if I even deserved such an incredible honor.”
Franks said knowing his colleagues voted for his name to be emblazoned on the vessel makes the honor even more memorable.
“Being thought of by my peers in that way is as good as it gets,” he said. “I hope I can live up to the honor and make everyone proud.”
The 60-foot research vessel is housed at the GEO Shipyard in New Iberia, La. and will be christened during a ceremony upon its arrival to GCRL.
“The new boat is a terrific platform for conducting research in Mississippi coastal waters and the Gulf of Mexico,” Franks said. “This vessel will not only grow USM and GCRL capacity for teaching, research and outreach, but will also grow the scientific knowledge of our region. It’s all about the future of marine science in Mississippi and the Gulf Coast.”