Division of
Natural and Applied Sciences


Quantifying and Reducing Discard Mortality of Undersized and Ovigerous Crabs in the Gulf of Mexico
Blue Crab Fishery
The University of Southern Mississippi, Ocean Springs, MS

We seek a highly motivated student with interests in marine fisheries to fill a funded M.S. assistantship in the laboratory of Dr. Zachary Darnell at The University of Southern MississippiÂ’s Gulf Coast Research Laboratory in Ocean Springs, MS, to begin in January 2024.
The goal of this project is to quantify and reduce discard mortality of undersized and ovigerous blue crabs in the fishery by investigating discard mortality under multiple handling practices. Discard mortality has been identified as a critical research need for management of the fishery. We will integrate bycatch surveys, field experiments, and an improved understanding of crabber knowledge, strategies, and behaviors to quantify discard mortality and develop best practices for reducing discard mortality. The project will include substantial field work, including work on commercial crab boats. Experience conducting field work on small boats is preferred, but not required. The project will also involve collaboration with researchers at Mississippi State University and the University of South Alabama. The student selected for this position will pursue an M.S. degree in the Division of Coastal Sciences within the School of Ocean Science and Engineering. The assistantship will begin in January 2024 and includes tuition and a stipend of $22,800 per year (increasing to $23,400 after advancing to candidacy). The student will be a fully integrated member of the project team and will contribute to study design, data collection and analysis, and manuscript preparation.

The Division of Coastal Sciences is a research and graduate education unit within the School of Ocean Science and Engineering (SOSE). SOSE offers graduate and undergraduate degree programs in Coastal Sciences, Hydrographic Science, Marine Biology, Marine Science, and Ocean Engineering, and a certificate program in Uncrewed Maritime Systems. The faculty and staff of SOSE leverage its location on the Gulf Coast and expertise in marine and coastal science and engineering to address challenges facing coastal and marine environments. SOSE has significant research infrastructure and facilities across four principal sites spanning the Mississippi Gulf Coast: the NASA Stennis Space Center, the Gulf Park Campus at Long Beach, the Roger F. Wicker Center for Ocean Enterprise at the Port of Gulfport, and the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory in Ocean Springs. This position will be located in Ocean Springs at the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory, a marine laboratory featuring comprehensive research programs in coastal and marine biological sciences. Research program support includes state-of-the-art laboratory facilities and instrumentation; a fleet of small and large research vessels; the GCRL Museum collection; facilities at the Center for Fisheries Research and Development (CFRD) and Thad Cochran Marine Aquaculture Center (TCMAC); and the NSF I/UCRC Science Center for Marine Fisheries. Ocean Springs is known for its beauty, natural resources, and arts community. It is home to galleries, restaurants, and schools that are ranked among the best in the state.

Interested students should contact Dr. Zachary Darnell (zachary.darnell@usm.edu). Please include a copy of your CV, unofficial undergraduate transcripts, and contact information for three professional references. Review of applicants will begin immediately and continues until position is filled. For full consideration, submit all materials prior to September 8, 2023.

M. Zachary Darnell
Associate Professor, School of Ocean Science and Engineering
The University of Southern Mississippi
Office: 228-872-4298 | Cell: 270-991-7289