Message from Chair

Dr. Powers

Oceans dominate the Earth and exert a major influence on atmospheric dynamics and terrestrial ecology. The wise stewardship of ocean resources is critical to the socioeconomic fabric of coastal Alabama and the nation. Key to addressing this need is the development of a well-trained scientific workforce and continued advances in research and technology. The Department offers MS and Ph.D. degrees in marine sciences with specializations in biological, chemical, physical and geological oceanography as well as marine fisheries and ecology.  Key to the success of the Department is its strong partnerships with the Dauphin Island Sea Lab, which houses the majority of the Department’s research labs and offices.  

Departmental faculty continue their high rate of scholarly research every year. Faculty members averaged close to five peer-reviewed publications a year (> 60 for the department) and directed extramural grant expenditures of approximately $300,000 per faculty member.  For FY 2015, the Department received 2.5 million dollars in new research awards. The grant funding stems from a diversity of federal, state and industry sources.  Many of our faculty members continue to dedicate much of their time to investigations of the effects of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. Journal articles that describe the effects of the oil spill on the oceanic food web from microbes to marine mammals have been published over the last couple of years and will continue to be published over the coming years. In addition to the oil spill studies, Marine Sciences faculty members continue to examine some of the most controversial subjects in the management of marine ecosystems including the current management of red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico, causes and consequences of global climate change, and sustainability of coastal development. 

The Department also serves as the administrative home for newly established Center for Environmental Resiliency, an interdisciplinary organization designed to develop solutions to pressing environmental problems within the context of creating resilient and sustainable communities and ecosystems. The Center was made possible by a gift from Dr. and Mrs. Stokes. The Center funded its first round of research projects in March. Projects focus on understanding and mitigating several pressing environmental problems facing the region from metal contamination in fish to the source and fates of sulfur compounds in local streams.

Our graduate students continue to excel in their professional development as the next generation of marine scientists. Student interest in the program remains high - for fall 2015 the department received a record number of applicants (64) for our graduate program. Several of our recent Ph.D. graduates have accepted academic positions at other institutions – a key metric of a successful program. Given the success of our existing graduate program and the need for a well-trained scientific workforce focused on marine and coastal issues, the Department has created two new programs for the Fall of 2015: an undergraduate minor in marine sciences (to encourage students in physical, natural and social science areas to focus on marine related careers) and a professional master’s degree in marine conservation and resource management. 

The University of South Alabama is committed to teaching, research and service that has beneficial impacts to our state, nation and planet. If you have an interest in Marine Sciences please consider joining us at USA. I invite you to explore our web site and contact faculty members whose interests align with yours.


Sean P. Powers, Ph.D.
Professor and Chair of Marine Sciences