Public invited to christening of Nicholls research vessel

THIBODAUX – Nicholls State University’s new research vessel, the R.V. Burt Wilson, will be ceremonially christened at 4 p.m. Wednesday, April 20, in the Gouaux Hall parking lot on Ardoyne Drive. The event is free and open to the public.

Following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, officials of BP contacted Dr. Marilyn Kilgen, Alcee Fortier Distinguished Service Professor of Biological Sciences and project director of the Nicholls-based Institute for Seafood Studies (ISS), to solicit a proposal for ISS faculty to conduct a survey of oyster beds in the Barataria-Terrebonne estuaries. BP officials had originally wanted to provide boats and trucks for the project, but they realized this would not be feasible, so Kilgen worked with them to secure additional BP educational funding to purchase a truck and a 25-foot, aluminum research vessel for ISS.

“We are very grateful to BP for the opportunity to obtain this important, educational research grant of $351,160 for our oyster industry and for our graduate research program,” Kilgen said.

Nicholls faculty involved in the study included Kilgen; Dr. Ramaraj Boopathy and Dr. Earl Melancon, distinguished service professors of biological sciences; Angela Corbin, instructor of biological sciences; Dr. Balaji Ramachandran, interim department head of applied sciences, coordinator and associate professor of geomatics and Contractors Educational Trust Fund Endowed Professor; and Dr. Quenton Fontenot, associate professor of biological sciences and coordinator of the marine and environmental biology graduate program.

At Melancon’s initial suggestion, the new vessel will be named after Samuel Burton “Burt” Wilson III, the late Nicholls faculty member who pioneered marine biology research in the Department of Biological Sciences. Wilson secured the department’s first marine biology research grant in 1966, from the Louisiana Science Foundation, for a project titled “Ecological Survey of Penaeid Shrimp of the Central Louisiana Gulf Coast and Estuarine Waters.”

The christening ceremony will feature remarks by Dr. Stephen T. Hulbert, university president; Kilgen; and Dr. Paul Wilson, associate professor of history, head of the Department of History and Geography and son of Samuel Burton “Burt” Wilson III. Additional family members of the vessel’s namesake will attend the ceremony as well.