Dr. Robert Ballard, best known for his discovery of the famed sunken ship Titanic, was joined for an interview by Chief Executive Officer and Principal Educational Officer of The University of Southern Mississippi, Dr. Rodney D. Bennett.  Ballard’s work was honored by legislators at the Mississippi Capitol on Tuesday.

The two discussed a partnership between the university and the Ocean Exploration Trust started by Ballard.

The Ocean Exploration Trust is designed to participate in what he calls the next “Louis and Clark Expedition.”

“Our nation owns more land under water than any other nation on earth,” said Ballard. “It represents 50 percent of America’s territories and yet we have better maps of Mars than our own country.”

Ballard said the project explores the Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico and Pacific. With the West coast covered by the Trust located in California and the East coast maintained by partners like University of Rhode Island, he said they were looking for a key partner with leadership capabilities on the Gulf Coast.

“It’s [USM] not only the best university for Dr. Ballard to partner with and his team of amazing individuals from all around the world, but there is so much that Dr. Ballard believes in that we believe in at the University,” said Dr. Bennett.

Bennett said not only does Dr. Ballard include a diverse team, but that USM embodies those qualities by striving to be a diverse university. He added that this is just another extension of the work that is going on at places like Stennis in Ocean Springs and the impact of Southern Mississippi.

Dr. Ballard added that USM’s relationship with the Navy makes them a prime candidate for partnership.

Not only is this partnership for USM but for Mississippi as a whole.

“This new partnership with Dr. Ballard really allows us to continue the good work we’ve been doing with the Blue Economy. It also allows us to advance the Blue Economy to include the Blue Tech Economy which creates opportunities for really bright Mississippi engineers, architects, business people and shipbuilders to really have an opportunity to apply what they’ve learned in the classroom right here in the state,” said Bennett.

He added that he believes this will also bring high paying high tech jobs to the state which will have a positive impact on the state economy.

“We need young men and women getting ready for this new economic engine to take hold,” said Ballard.

Ballard is a retired U.S. Navy officer and professor of oceanography at the University of Rhode Island. Along with the discovery of the RMS Titanic, he is also accredited with finding the battleship Bismarck in 1989, aircraft carrier USS Yorktown in 1998, the wreck of John F. Kennedy’s PT-109 in 2002.