USM Marine Education Center dedication


Education opportunities and marine studies are coming to life with the completion of USM’s new marine education center at Cedar Point in Ocean Springs.

News 25’s Toni Miles takes us to today’s dedication and ribbon cutting ceremony and show us how the new site is reaching new heights when it comes to interactive education and research.

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Spring is upon us and it’s out with the old and in with the new as more than a hundred people flocked to the dedication and ribbon cutting ceremony for USM’s new marine education center on Monday. With plans unveiled back in 2015, this state of the art facility sits on ten acres of land in Ocean Springs and has been years in the making. While construction was underway, researcher and educators worked out of trailers after Katrina destroyed the former site. USM’s School of Ocean Science and Engineering Director Dr. Monty Graham said, “The commitment these people have to just maintain the course to marine education over these past 13 years. These people have just come through so many struggles to rebuild. There’s a saying they have about resilience, it’s not to bounce back, but to bounce forward. You think about where this facility is and how much further forward we’re bouncing than where we were before Katrina. It’s just fantastic.”

The center is a branch of USM’s School of Ocean Science and Technology and is the education and outreach arm of the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory. “We are interested in pulling students from all over the state, teaching them about coastal resiliency, coastal sciences,” said Dr. Graham.

When it comes to the environment what better way to learn about it than to be a part of it. A suspension bridge is one of the amenities that was built to bridge the gap between man and nature, especially when it comes to learning about nature. USM MEC Marine Educator Dani Bailey said, “We pride ourselves on a lot of our hands on activities. We take them out. We can go kayaking. We have a nature trail. We have fish and shark dissections. We’re able to teach them about plankton and dichotomous keys as well as predatory birds and do some owl pellet dissections, a lot of activities to get them immersed in our environment.”

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Toni started at WXXV News 25 in December of 2013, just three months after the news was launched. She has served as Assignment Editor, anchored for nearly two years, worked as a reporter for several years and hosted Coastal Connections for more than four years. Toni graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of Southern Mississippi where she was editor of the Student Printz. She then did an internship on Capitol Hill, working for a U.S. Senator, then returned to Mississippi as a reporter at WDAM in Hattiesburg. After that, she moved to the Mississippi Gulf Coast, working as a reporter for FOX 25 in Biloxi, then crossing city lines to work at WLOX-TV news in Biloxi, starting out as a producer, then working as a photographer, reporter, weekend assignment editor and weekend anchor. She was among the station team that won the Edward Murrow and Peabody awards for coverage during Hurricane Katrina. Toni moved to the Lone Star State where she worked as the morning and noon anchor, investigative reporter and live shot reporter for KZTV Action 10 News, then KRIS TV News in Corpus Christi, Texas. Toni moved back to the Magnolia State to be with and take care of her family, working as a multi-media journalist and fill-in anchor at WDBD Fox 40 news in Jackson. After almost completing a second degree in filmmaking at the University of Southern Mississippi Gulf Coast, Toni transitioned back to news at News 25. Toni is blessed to have a wonderful support network of close family, friends and mentors, and she hopes to pay it forward. She has a three-legged chiweenie named Rocky Balboa because of his fighting spirit. She loves writing and has completed a novel that has been adapted into a screenplay, and has just finished another screenplay called "Delta Rose." She's currently working on a new legal thriller called "Fall From Grace." Stay tuned.... If you’d like to book a live in studio interview on News 25 Today, just email: These interviews can have up to two guests, last about two minutes and showcase community events, non-profit organizations and things of interest to people in our area…and they’re FREE! Just send information about your event, including date, time, location, contact number and/or website for viewers wanting more information, along with the proper name and titles of the person or two people who will be interviewed, and Toni or producer Porsha Williams ( will get back with you via email in a timely manner to book a date. Typical interview times are daily at: 5:45, 6:45, 7:45 or 8:45 am. Guests are asked to arrive about 30 minutes beforehand. You can also ask about booking a live shot on location for news events for our 6 and 7 am newscasts. We look forwarding to having you!


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