New Southern Miss Research Vessel Honors Work of Longtime Scientist

March 28, 2016

Article | | By Alexis Jones

Jim Franks, right, has spent more than 50 years studying the waters of the northern Gulf of Mexico.On any given day, you can find Jim Franks inside the University of Southern Mississippi’s Gulf Coast Research Laboratory (GCRL) or out on Gulf Coast waters, studying the habitats and conditions of fish along the Mississippi Coast and beyond.

Franks has spent half a century studying creatures of the Gulf Coast, namely fish of all shapes and sizes. The senior research scientist works with a team that constantly monitors fish stock in the northern Gulf of Mexico.


“It’s never the same. Things are always changing. The environment in Gulf waters is extremely dynamic so marine resources respond accordingly. We have to continue to monitor and conduct our research to better understand those responses, both natural and man-made,” Franks said.

To assist Franks and his colleagues in this important work, Southern Miss recently acquired a new research vessel that has been named in honor of Franks and his lengthy career with the University.


The 60-foot research vessel —  R/V Jim Franks  — is the newest addition to GCRL’s fleet and will replace the R/V Tom McIlwain, which is being retired later this year. Planning for the R/V Jim Franks began in 2012 with the actual on-site construction at the GEO Shipyard beginning in early 2015.

After a poll of GCRL faculty and staff, the decision was made to immortalize the work and dedication of the still-practicing fisheries biologist by naming the new research vessel in Franks’ honor.


The vessel will reinforce the work being conducted by the Southern Miss Center for Fisheries Research and Development. The center works with many government agencies to evaluate the condition of the coastal eco-system.“Our research is far-reaching not only just here in our Mississippi waters, but we collaborate all over the gulf region and Caribbean,” said Franks.


Franks has seen the department grow from a handful of scientists to dozens of people ranging from faculty and staff to students who are completing their education with hands-on marine science research experience.“Just to answer critical problems, and the mystery of how marine life functions here in the Gulf of Mexico. Still so many unknowns and to me that’s exciting,” said Franks. “Working with students and giving them the opportunity to participate in the work. Seeing them grow, develop & become our future scientists. They get excellent training, experience at the university and GCRL.”


The research vessel will be officially launched sometime this summer.


For more about information about the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory, call 228.872.4200 or visit: