The University of Southern Mississippi’s School of Ocean Science and Technology (SOST) has named Dr. Kelly Lucas director of the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory’s Thad Cochran Marine Aquaculture Center (TMAC).
Lucas comes to USM after serving as the chief scientific officer at the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources (MDMR) since 2013. A South Mississippi native, Lucas holds a doctorate degree in coastal sciences from The University of Southern Mississippi, a Master of Business Administration from the University of Alabama at Birmingham and a Bachelor of Science in microbiology from Mississippi State University.
"The School of Ocean Science and Technology is incredibly happy to have Dr. Lucas join us at the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory,” said SOST Director Monty Graham. "Dr. Lucas brings an incredible background as a proven researcher, scientific leader and a policy expert. The depth and breadth of her work will undoubtedly propel USM forward as an international powerhouse in marine aquaculture."
The $25 million aquaculture facility employs cutting-edge technology, peer-reviewed research and hands-on testing to grow fish in an environmentally responsible and economically feasible manner. The center works directly with blue crab, red snapper, marine shrimp, spotted seatrout and striped bass.
Lucas said she hopes to utilize the work being done at TMAC to bolster seafood numbers for the future.
“Globally, the demand for seafood is increasing while wild fish harvest is stagnant and is predicted to have reached maximum yield,” said Lucas. “Aquaculture production is not only necessary to meet the current seafood demand, it offers growth potential, helps address food security and creates jobs.”
Graham applauds Lucas’ background in aquaculture, noting she worked intimately with MDMR’s Lyman Fish Hatchery and her recent interests in expanded oyster aquaculture opportunities along the Gulf Coast.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the United States seafood consumption is 90 percent imports with half being aquaculture product, leading to a seafood trade deficit over $11 billion annually.
Lucas said aquaculture can restore, enhance and alleviate pressure on wild stocks, in addition to supporting the global demand for seafood through commercial development.
“The research occurring at USM’s Thad Cochran Marine Aquaculture Center is important to expanding environmentally safe and sustainable aquaculture production in the United States,” she said. “It will take academia working with industry, state and federal partners to advance research and enhance investment in aquaculture.”
Lucas officially takes over the position Nov. 30. She will also serve on the SOST Leadership Team.
“I look forward to having open discussions with faculty, staff, state and federal partners; industry; and the public regarding the science and service we can provide to advance aquaculture,” she said.