Denis Wiesenburg, PhD

Provost and Vice President
The University of Southern Mississippi

Dr. Denis A. Wiesenburg is the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs at The University of Southern Mississippi (USM). He served for two years as the USM Vice President for Research before transitioning to the Provost position in 2012.  A Pascagoula, Mississippi native, he graduated from Duke University with a degree in Chemistry in 1970. He obtained a M.S. in Oceanography from Old Dominion University in 1975 and a Ph.D. from Texas A&M University in 1980. His training in Chemical Oceanography brought him back to Mississippi in 1981 where he began his scientific career as an Oceanographer with the Naval Ocean Research and Development Activity (now Naval Research Laboratory) at the John C. Stennis Space Center in Hancock County, Mississippi. His Navy-funded research program in the Mediterranean Sea led to the discovery of a new ocean current along the North African coast, which he and his colleagues named the Algerian Current.

Dr. Wiesenburg spent six years (1988-2004) as a Research Scientist with the Geochemical and Environmental Research Group at Texas A&M University and was involved in analysis of samples from the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill and the IXTOC-1 well blowout on the Campeche Shelf in the Gulf of Mexico. Working with this group gave him and an opportunity to study the oil spills off the Olympic Peninsula of Washington, to examine seamounts (underwater mountains) in the Pacific Ocean, to dive to the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico in the submersible DSRV Alvin, to spend five days underwater in nuclear-powered research submarine NR-1, and to study chemosynthetic organisms living on seeping oil and gas 800 meters deep on the continental shelf off Louisiana.

From 1994 to 2004, Dr. Wiesenburg served as the Chair of the Department of Marine Science, at the University of Southern Mississippi (USM). In a partnership between USM and the United States Naval Oceanographic Office, Wiesenburg helped establish the nation’s only Master of Science degree in Hydrographic Science. For this effort he was awarded the Navy Superior Public Service award in October, 2000.

Dr. Wiesenburg moved to Alaska in 2004 where he served as the Dean of the School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences at the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) from June 2004 to May 2010. At UAF he had statewide responsibility for marine research and education and put together a team of scientists, engineers, naval architects, and financial experts who were awarded $199.5 million by the National Science Foundation to construct and operate the 254 ft. Research Vessel Sikuliaq.

His research interests include the interaction of biological processes in the ocean with the physical environment and dissolved gases in sea water. He and his graduate students have studied the influence of the Mississippi river outflow on distributions of phytoplankton on the Texas-Louisiana continental shelf in the Gulf of Mexico and used satellite imagery to detect and monitor harmful algae blooms in coastal waters. His scientific studies have allowed him to travel six continents, from Africa to Tahiti, from the Norwegian Sea to the Mediterranean Sea.

Dr. Wiesenburg lives in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, with his wife, Jean. They have two children, Heath, a 2002 USM graduate and Vanessa, who works for AT&T.

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