September 23, 2018  

Current weather

Broken clouds, mist, rain showers

USM’s Marine Education Center Receives New Corporate Sponsorships from Coastal Businesses

Main Content

The University of Southern Mississippi’s (USM) Marine Education Center (MEC) has received two new sponsorships from Biloxi-based businesses, Sharkheads and Killer Bee Bait, towards the future development of summer camp programming.

The MEC serves as the education and outreach arm of USM’s School of Ocean Science and Engineering (SOSE). The MEC supports hands-on educational experiences to promote careers in marine science and foster community involvement. The MEC recently relocated to their new $16.1-million facility in Ocean Springs this April.

“Partnerships with local businesses are a great way for us to establish and maintain our connection to our community. In this case, having two long-time retail fixtures on the coast like Sharkheads and Killer Bee Bait sponsor our most successful summer educational camps is a perfect fit for all parties,” said Chris Snyder, MEC director. “As a community-based learning center, the MEC provides an understanding of how the Gulf of Mexico affects our daily lives, and how the community can use this information to take the necessary actions to sustain a healthy Gulf.”

Sharkheads is the largest gift shop on the Mississippi Gulf Coast and has been a Biloxi staple since 1973. They are providing a $5,000 donation for the renamed “Sharkheads Shark Fest.” The MEC plans to purchase new equipment for the program with the donation.

Sharkheads Shark Fest is a weeklong camp where students get hands-on experience studying one of the ocean’s apex predators. Sharkheads Shark Fest participants may encounter Atlantic sharp nose, bonnethead, blacktip, spinner, hammerhead and bull sharks. During Shark Fest, campers board USM research vessels and participate in shark research with USM scientists by catching, tagging and releasing sharks.

"The strong relationship between Sharkheads and the Marine Education Center started at Point Cadet in Biloxi long before Hurricane Katrina. By sponsoring Shark Fest, our family continues to support marine education at the new MEC,” said JJ Pierotich, Sharkheads family spokesperson. “Sharkheads Shark Fest brings students and their families from more than 16 states here for a week to attend this unique educational opportunity not available anywhere else.”

Snyder said Sharkheads was a MEC sponsor more than a decade ago when they were working as the J.L. Scott Marine Education Center in Biloxi.

“The Pierotich family was a sponsor of exhibits and activities years ago at the original J. L. Scott Marine Education Center,” he said. “Having them rejoin our family of sponsors now in our new Marine Education Center is a great way for us to move into a new phase of marine education while holding to some of our traditions from the past.”

Killer Bee Bait has been manufacturing and distributing bait in Biloxi since 1998. The company is providing fishing bait for all MEC programs. Thousands of campers participate in MEC camps each year, which heavily rely on fishing-related activities. In order to facilitate each camp, Killer Bee Bait will donate more than 145 lbs. of bait annually.

"We are proud to be able to support the MEC and their mission to offer field-based coastal science experiences to students, which build future stewards of the Gulf of Mexico,” said Neil Holley, vice president of sales. “Educating about the coastal environment and protecting our coastal resources is important to Killer Bee Bait.”