Who We Are and What We Do

The Northern Gulf Institute (NGI) is a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Cooperative Institute (https://ci.noaa.gov/) comprised of six academic institutions: Mississippi State University (lead), the University of Southern Mississippi, Florida State University, Louisiana State University, the University of Alabama in Huntsville, and the Dauphin Island Sea Laboratory. As such, the NGI is a consortium of academic institutions geographically distributed across the US Gulf Coast states.

The NOAA priority issues are encomposed within the four NGI research themes (Climate Change and Climate Variability Effects on Regional Ecosystems, Ecosystem Management, Coastal Hazards, Effective and Efficient Data Management Systems Supporting a Data-driven Economy), which cover a breadth of topics.

Geographic Focus

The Northern Gulf Institute (NGI) geographic area includes the offshore region of the Gulf of Mexico as well as its northern region, defined as the upland, watershed, coastal zone, and coastal ocean areas from the Sabine River in Louisiana east to the Suwannee River in Florida. As the ninth largest body of water in the world, the Gulf of Mexico teems with marine life, from shrimp and shellfish to deep-water corals and deep-diving whales. The Gulf of Mexico is home to some of the busiest ports in the United States, including those in Houston, Texas; Jacksonville, Florida; Mobile, Alabama; and New Orleans, Louisiana.



The offshore region is a major source of oil and natural gas in the United States, attracting petroleum exploration and extraction activities. The offshore region also supports commercial and recreational fishing industries. The northern region is a riverine-dominated area with watersheds from more than half of the 48 contiguous states draining into the Gulf of Mexico, connecting farming industries with fishing and tourism industries. The entire Gulf of Mexico region and the industries associated with it experience multiple and simultaneous stressors such as increases in population and coastal development, severe storms, climate variability, wetlands degradation, and pollution events.

Vision, Mission, & Goals

The Northern Gulf Institute (NGI) scientific vision is to see research-driven transformations in ecosystem-based management that enable managers and communities to improve the resilience and health of ecosystems and sustain the economies and people in the Gulf of Mexico region.

The NGI mission is to improve ecosystem management for the Gulf of Mexico with research that builds an integrated, comprehensive understanding of natural and human impacts on Gulf of Mexico ecosystems and economies.

The NGI research goals are:

  • Understand the structure, function, and services of ecosystems across interfaces of the land-sea, ocean-atmosphere, and coastal waters-deep sea
  • Synthesize information across disciplines to reduce uncertainty and to forecast ecosystem responses
  • Develop applications that address regional management needs

The NGI engagement goals are:

  • Develop, facilitate, disseminate, and transition research, knowledge, and applications
    • Build internal and external connections for institutional sustainability

    For more information, see the NGI Strategic Plan.


The Northern Gulf Institute (NGI) is led by a Director and a Co-Director and operates with direction from an Executive Board and a Council of Fellows to coordinate and advance its research, education, and outreach activities.

Executive Board

The Executive Board provides NOAA oversight and direction to the Northern Gulf Institute (NGI), communicates NOAA policies and priorities, and coordinates NOAA opportunities. The members of the Executive Board as of October 2021 are:

John Cortinas, Ph.D.

OAR/AOML* Director and the NOAA Technical Program Manager for NGI

Libby Jewett, Ph.D.

OAR Oceans Portfolio Steward

Joe Pica, Ph.D.

NESDIS/NCEI, Deputy Director

Paul Scholz, Ph.D.


Steve Thur, Ph.D.

NOS National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science, Director

Mel Landry III, Ph.D.

NMFS NOAA Restoration Center

Julie Jordan, Ph.D.

Mississippi State University VP Research and Economic Development

Gordon Cannon, Ph.D.

University of Southern Mississippi VP Research

Gary K. Ostrander, Ph.D.

Florida State University VP Research

Sam Bentley, Ph.D.

Louisiana State University VP Research and Economic Development

Bob Lindquist, Ph.D.

University of Alabama Huntsville VP Research and Economic Development

John Valentine, Ph.D.

Dauphin Island Sea Laboratory Director

Robert Moorhead, Ph.D.

Mississippi State University, NGI Director (ex-officio)

Gary Matlock, Ph.D.

acting OAR Cooperative Institute Program Director (ex-officio)

OAR – Oceanic and Atmospheric Research
AOML – Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory
NESDIS – National Environmental Satellite Data and Information Service
NCEI – National Centers for Environmental Information
NOS – National Ocean Service
NMFS – National Marine Fisheries Service

Council of Fellows

The Council of Fellows provides the Northern Gulf Institute (NGI) with concept development, program strategy, annual research plans, peer review, resource allocation, research and technology coordination, and achieving the overarching goal of regional and disciplinary integration.

The Fellows representing the NGI academic members as of October 2021 are:

  • Paul Mickle, Ph.D., Mississippi State University (NGI Co-Director)
  • Joe Griffitt, Ph.D., University of Southern Mississippi
  • Eric Chassignet, Ph.D., Florida State University
  • Robert Twilley, Ph.D., Louisiana State University
  • John Valentine, Ph.D., Dauphin Island Sea Laboratory
  • Kevin Knupp, Ph.D., University of Alabama in Huntsville

Program Leadership

Robert J. Moorhead II, PhD

NGI Director Office: 662.325.2850 Mississippi State University HPC2 Box 9627 Mississippi State, MS 39562

Paul Mickle, PhD

NGI Co-Director Office: 228.688.3228 MSU Science and Technology Center 1021 Balch Blvd Stennis Space Center, MS 39529

Whitley Alford

NGI Program Administrator Office: 662.325.8814 Mississippi State University HPC2 Box 9627 Mississippi State, MS 39759

Just Cebrian

NGI Associate Director Office: 228.688.4218 MSU Science and Technology Center 1021 Balch Blvd Stennis Space Center, MS 39529

Jamie Dyer

NGI Associate Director Office: 662.325.0372 Mississippi State University HPC2 Box 9627 Mississippi State, MS 39759

Jonathan Harris

NGI Education and Outreach Director Office: 662.325.3837 Mississippi State University HPC2 Box 9627 Mississippi State, MS 39759

Regional Collaborations and Partnerships

The Northern Gulf Institute (NGI) closely aligns its research and outreach activities with the regional efforts of NOAA and other organizations/groups, many of which have representation on the NGI Executive Board or who sponsor/participate in the NGI research and outreach activities. The result is that the NGI approach is science driven, regionally focused, and coordinated with other organizations that focus on Gulf of Mexico issues.

The NOAA regional research efforts that the NGI contributes to include:

The Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR)

The Director of the OAR Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory (AOML) in Miami, FL, serves as the NOAA Technical Program Manager for NGI; thus, AOML is the NOAA laboratory with which NGI works most closely. The NGI contributes to several OAR programs/projects, including the AOML Omics Program, the Uncrewed Aircraft Systems Program, the Ocean Acidification Program, the Climate Program, and the Weather Program. Additionally, the NGI provides OAR with high performance computing capabilities and capacity.

The National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service (NESDIS)

The NGI Program Office and the NESDIS National Centers of Environmental Information (NCEI) share a building at the NASA Stennis Space Center, facilitating a close working relationship among staff. The NGI collaborates with the NCEI to provide enhanced data, products, and services to a variety of projects, including the Coastal Ecosystem Data Assembly Center (CEDAC), the Ocean Exploration and Research (OER) Program, the Deep-Sea Corals Research and Technology Program (DSCRTP), the Data Integration, Visualization, Exploration, and Reporting (DIVER) Tool, and satellite products for weather forecasts.

The National Ocean Service (NOS)

The NGI has worked with the NOS Office of Coastal Management (OCM) for over 10 years, focusing primarily on geospatial education and outreach and with the Office of Coast Survey (OCS) for hydrographic research. The NGI is the NOAA Cooperative Institute for Gulf of Mexico Hypoxia, conducting research and monitoring to inform management strategies for the NOAA Hypoxia Task Force and the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS) Hypoxia Program.

The National Weather Service (NWS)

The NGI has a long-standing relationship with the NWS Lower Mississippi River Forecast Center (LMRFC), with work initially focused on advancing hydrology modeling and visualization then shifting to utilizing uncrewed aircraft systems (UAS). The NGI contributes to the National Water Center (NWC) in Tuscaloosa, AL, developing new capabilities for the National Water Model, primarily flooding and agricultural applications. The NGI assists the National Data Buoy Center (NDBC) with data processing/management projects and contributes to improved National Hurricane Center (NHC) forecasting, including the development of new techniques to estimate surface wind speed and more accurately capture air-sea interactions. Additionally, the NGI facilitates collaborative social science research with meteorologists and meteorology professionals.

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS)

The NGI provides secure storage of plankton specimens at the Stennis Space Center for the NMFS Laboratory in Pascagoula, MS, that collects thousands of plankton and other biological samples yearly. The NGI works with the Southeast Fisheries Science Center (SEFSC) to improve assessments of fish stock and estimates of catch and bycatch using cameras and machine learning algorithms. The NGI contributes to improved access to historical coastal hydrographic water column data, conducts water quality research in several watersheds, and monitors several marine species, including sea turtles and smalltooth sawfish.

Strategic Location

The Northern Gulf Institute (NGI) Program Office is located at the Mississippi State University Science and Technology Center located at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Stennis Space Center (SSC) in Hancock County, Mississippi. Its address is 1021 Balch Boulevard, Stennis Space Center, MS 39529.

The NGI Program Office is adjacent to the University of Southern Mississippi Marine Sciences complex. Also located at the NASA SSC are the NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information and the NOAA National Data Buoy Center. The NGI program office is half an hour from the National Weather Service offices in Slidell, Louisiana, and an hour from the National Marine Fisheries Service facility in Pascagoula, Mississippi.

The NGI Executive Office is located on the main campus of Mississippi State University at 2 Research Boulevard, Starkville, MS 39759.


The Northern Gulf Institute (NGI) was established on October 1, 2006, after successfully competing for a NOAA Federal Funding Opportunity to integrate research and technology that effectively addressed the needs of the northern Gulf of Mexico region. The academic research institutions for the NGI were the Mississippi State University as lead, the University of Southern Mississippi, Florida State University, Louisiana State University, and the Dauphin Island Sea Laboratory. The defined geographic focus for the northern Gulf was the upland, watershed, coastal zone, and coastal ocean areas from the Sabine River in Louisiana east to the Suwannee River in Florida.

In 2009, the NOAA Cooperative Institute Science Review Panel recognized the NGI for its significant efforts to address important questions related to the NOAA Strategic Goals. In 2010, the importance of the NGI was underscored in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon incident when its administrative structure, strategic location, and established relationships facilitated a rapid response to priority science needs, leveraging the NOAA investment in the NGI and the region.

After that initial five-year award, the NGI continued its work with a combination of awards from NOAA, government agencies, and other organizations – a funding pattern that continues to the present. Two significant NOAA awards each for five-year periods (starting October 1, 2016 and October 1, 2021) resulted from successful competitions for new NOAA Federal Funding Opportunities for a Cooperative Institute in the Gulf of Mexico. The 2016 award added an academic member to the NGI, the University of Alabama Huntsville, and extended the geographic focus to the entire Gulf of Mexico to include offshore-related issues.

See the Project Information Search Tool for research supported by the NGI.

Plans & Reports

Annual Report 2017

Annual Report 2016

Annual Report 2015

Progress Report 2018

Progress Report 2017 Part 1

Progress Report 2017 Part 2

Progress Report 2016

BP Final

BP App A

BP App B

Strategic Report 07-12

Strategic Report 11-21

NGI Science Edu research

IP 07

Visiting the NGI Program Office

Please call or email Sheila Ashley* sheila@HPC.MsState.Edu 228-688-4218 in advance to set up your visit to the Northern Gulf Institute (NGI) Program Office located in the Mississippi State University Science and Technology Center at the NASA Stennis Space Center. She will assist you with getting a temporary Visitor’s Badge, which is required to enter and remain on site. NASA Stennis Space Center is a secure facility with rules and regulations that visitors must follow (some are listed at https://sscops.ssc.nasa.gov/faq.asp).

*Alternate contact is Sarah Brown sbrown@HPC.MsState.Edu (228) 688-4038

Directions to the Mississippi State University Science and Technology Center