Gulf marine educator Dr. Sharon Walker, who headed the J.L. Scott Marine Education Center and Aquarium in Biloxi until it was destroyed by Katrina in 2005, starts work April 1 as director of education and outreach programs at the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies in Gulfport.
IMMS President Moby Solangi announced Monday that Walker will help in the institute's transformation into a family attraction that merges the entertainment value of Marine Life, a Katrina casualty, and educational programs of the J.L. Scott.
I'm really delighted," Solangi said. "She is going to be very meaningful as we grow into a bigger and better (facility). She is going to bring in the educational components that will mate with the public entertainment show."
Solangi said the first phase of the IMMS expansion, which will be in a location yet to be determined, is expected to open in two years.
Walker is professor emeritus in the Department of Coastal Sciences at the Gulf Coastal Sciences at the Gulf Coast Research Lab, administered by the University of Southern Mississippi, and is director of education of the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium. She was administrator of J.L. Scott from 1987 until her retirement in 2006.
She now serves as an educational consultant for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration - National Sea Grant in Silver Springs, Md.; and the EPA- Gulf of mexico Program at Stennis Space Center in Hancock County. She coordinates many activities of the Coastal America- Coastal Ecosystem Learning Centers within the Gulf of Mexico.
"It's going to be a lot of fun to be involved in public education and pre-college students," she said of her upcoming new role, which will ultimately involve people of all ages.
IMMS currently has appointment-only educational programs that include touch pools, scavenger hunts, fossil digs and a small museum for admission fees of $4 adult and $3 children.
"I just hope to expand their already excellent programs," Walker said. "I want children to have an enhanced understanding and knowledge of living along the coast; of the habitats and the creatures that live in those habitats.
'It's been five years since Katrina and we don't have a family and convention destination on our Coast yet," Walker said. "We need INFINITY and the Ohr-O'Keefe museum to open the J.L. Scott to be rebuilt."
By Pam Firmin