In 1973, a small group of scientists from various institutions along the Gulf of Mexico met to organize a society to promote coastal marine research, and to facilitate communication among marine scientists throughout the Gulf region. This society was called the Gulf Estuarine Research Society (GERS), and it was organized as an affiliate of the Estuarine Research Federation, an international organization of scientists involved in coastal and marine research.
The initial membership of GERS included researchers from each of the Gulf states -- Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas.
About 50 people attended the first meeting of this new organization in Ocean Springs, Mississippi, in October 1974. That first GERS meeting featured a total of 31 contributed papers covering a wide diversity of research activities, ranging from topics that were concerned with biological aspects to those which focused on various chemical, physical, or geological processes.
This multi-disciplinary aspect continues to be an important characteristic of GERS today. Thus this society provides opportunities for researchers in various disciplinary areas to come together and communicate with each other. A researcher who is interested in the movements of larval fish, for example, may communicate with and benefit from the work of a researcher who is studying factors influencing ocean currents. A quick perusal of the program of a GERS meeting indicates the diversity of interests represented by this society, for example: life history aspects of crustaceans, dynamics of important fish species such as red drum, black drum and spotted seatrout, geophysical aspects, and ecosystem analyses.
At its scientific meetings, GERS also encourages students to present papers on their research in marine related areas. Awards are presented at each meeting for the best student papers. These awards have been made possible by grants from Freeport-McMoRan and have resulted in many very high quality student presentations. GERS also funds student travel to regional and national meetings.
Today, GERS is a very active research society with a total membership of about 250 scientists, researchers, and students from universities, agencies and research labs along the Gulf coast. Many of the scientists have national and international reputations in their areas of research. This research society is expected to grow in importance during the next decade as human impacts on estuarine and coastal environments continue to escalate rapidly, presenting major challenges in characterizing and understanding ecosystem responses to such impacts. As society, and the scientific community in particular, faces these challenges, coastal research organization such as the Gulf Estuarine Research Society are poised to assume strong leadership positions as representatives for scientists involved in such research.
John M. Wakeman