August 17, 2017  

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SGA Students Create New Interactive Trail for Gulf Park Campus

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Former Southern Miss Gulf Park SGA president Zachary Stewart and current Gulf Park SGA president Kaytlin Dorris stand next to the first trail marker of a developing interpretive nature trail that will run throughout the University’s Gulf Park campus.

Members of the Student Government Association (SGA) on The University of Southern Mississippi Gulf Park Campus recently began a project that will inform many on the University’s beachfront campus for years to come.

Situated in the heart of campus, next to Bear Point Bayou, stands the first marker of a developing interactive trail that will run throughout the Gulf Park campus. Enlightening passersby about the red-eared sliders found in Bear Point Bayou, this marker sets the precedent for future informative markers that will be placed in distinct locations across the Gulf Park campus.

Initiated by SGA past president and graduate student Zachary Stewart, the interactive trail was created to serve as a “legacy project” that would attract and educate students, faculty, staff and visitors. 

“At the beginning of my term, I made it a priority for SGA to create a legacy project that we could continue on into the future that would improve the Gulf Park campus,” he said. “Bill Lince, college representative for the College of Science and Technology in SGA, actually suggested the informational sign project.”

Together, with help from Southern Miss faculty and staff, SGA began working on the development and installation of the trail marker near Bear Point Bayou, which is home to red-eared sliders and other turtles such as the common snapping turtle and the Gulf Coast spiny softshell turtle.

“The turtles were chosen because they are a focal point of the campus and an excellent example of our natural abundance,” said Stewart. “Visitors on campus always enjoy seeing and feeding the turtles.”

For the first trail marker, SGA requested help from University biology instructor Robert Turnbull, who provided the text and image for the sign.

“The turtles, to me, are an icon of the campus. If people become interested in the turtles, it may motivate them to look for and learn more about the other fascinating creatures found on campus,” said Turnbull. “I think it is important that other faculty members get involved as well, as the turtles are only one part of the coast campus, a campus with a rich and diverse history.” 

Current SGA president and senior tourism management major Kaytlin Dorris said that the student organization plans to add to the interactive trail with a new marker each year. She said the ultimate goal is for the trail to go throughout the Gulf Park campus and inform the University and coastal community about native flora and fauna.

“We hope to be able to inform people about native plants and animals in a fun, interactive way. The signs will be a learning opportunity for people to be educated about the world right around them, and to us that is a very neat thing,” said Dorris. “We are glad to be able to have a learning emphasis on nature—this was incredibly important to us.”

For more information about the Student Government Association at Southern Miss Gulf Park, visit www.usm.edu/gulfcoast/student-government-association.