MASGC Project Impacts

Scientists develop experimental design for red snapper absolute abundance estimate

Relevance:

The red snapper is the most economically important finfish in the Gulf of Mexico and a popular target of the sport fishing and commercial fishing industries throughout the Gulf. Historical overharvesting resulted in an overfished red snapper population. Under current federal and state management measures, the population is rapidly recovering, with full recovery expected by 2032. There is some disagreement among resource managers, fishermen and environmental groups surrounding the 2014 and earlier stock assessments for red snapper. Much of the disagreement centers on the accuracy of estimating the red snapper population around oil and gas platforms, artificial reefs and other structures considered to be difficult to sample using traditional sampling methods.

Response:

To reduce the uncertainty among different fishing sectors and resource managers, a two-phase competitive research grants program is underway. Phase I led to a valid and reliable experimental design to use in a large-scale study using tagging and advanced technologies, such as remotely operated vehicles and camera arrays to survey large expanses of the Gulf. Six projects were funded to develop the experimental design.

Results:

An expert review panel worked to refine the best aspects of these designs into a single request for proposals. A final team of the world’s top red snapper researchers was selected to use the experimental design developed in Phase I to conduct a one-time estimate of absolute abundance of red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico. This design will use the best scientific methods available, including advanced technology and traditional mark-recapture methods. The $12.5 million red snapper research program is unprecedented in scale and level of engagement with university scientists, resource managers and the fishing industry. The red snapper abundance estimate will be considered an independent Gulf-wide estimate and will be compared with NOAA Fisheries' red snapper stock assessment. 

Recap:

The Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium led the development of a red snapper experimental design to estimate reef fish abundance in a large marine ecosystem. (2017)

Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant living shorelines outreach efforts lead to protection of 950 acres

Relevance:

Erosion is caused by wind, water and wave action and results in loss of residential and commercial property, reduction of storm buffering capacity, aquatic and terrestrial habitat loss, increased suspended solids and water quality degradation. To combat these effects, property owners often harden their shorelines with bulkheads or seawalls. While these methods are somewhat effective at reducing erosion, they also are associated with continual maintenance and a loss of intertidal habitat. This intertidal habitat is extremely important for producing the ecosystem functions and services necessary to maintain a healthy coastal ecosystem.

Response:

The Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium’s Living Shorelines Program seeks out and evaluates alternatives to hardened shorelines, such as living shorelines, for environmental and economic benefits. This program uses the gathered information to produce outreach and extension materials educating a range of stakeholders from private property owners to government agencies about the pros and cons of different methodologies. 

Results:

Since 2014, the Living Shorelines Program organized 16 workshops for resource managers and landowners and wrote, produced and disseminated 11 Extension publications focused on improving the effectiveness and ease of implementation for these projects. Extension education efforts informed decision-making on protection, restoration or enhancement of more than 8 linear miles of shoreline in Mississippi and Alabama by providing science-based information to environmental managers and property owners. The restoration efforts led to protecting about 950 acres with an annual ecosystem service value approaching S40 million by preserving these important marine habitats.

Recap:

Living shorelines education and extension efforts led to the protection of 950 acres of marine habitat with an annual ecosystem service value approaching $40 million. (2017)

Mississippi Coastal Cleanup Program

Relevance:

Litter is an issue that impairs the environment, stormwater infrastructure, tourism and industry along coastlines.

Response:

In 2016, a Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant-funded extension specialist took over coordination and training duties for the long-running Mississippi Coastal Cleanup Program with the mission of preventing and removing litter from the coastal environment through education, outreach, research and cleanup events. Previously, Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant staff members had served on the event’s Task Force.

Results:

Since 2016, the Mississippi Coastal Cleanup Program performed nine site captain trainings leading up to the annual Coastal Cleanup events. The cleanup program attracted 4,252 volunteers that contributed 14,519 volunteer hours to remove 27.1 tons of litter from the beaches, waterways, wetlands and roads of coastal Mississippi. The value of this volunteer effort exceeds $350,053. Additionally, data collection on the specific type of litter was conducted by volunteers to identify sources and design targeted prevention methods.

Recap:

The Mississippi Coastal Cleanup Program, coordinated by a Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant extension specialist, removed over 27.1 tons of litter from the coastal environment while educating more than 4,252 volunteers and site captains interested in preventing litter from reaching coastal waterbodies. (2017)

Certified Mississippi Master Naturalists provide 6,407 volunteer hours, reach 104,708 people

Relevance:

Lack of environmental knowledge often promotes poor stewardship of natural resources. Additionally, many environmentally conscious individuals are eager to provide volunteer service, but these opportunities are often difficult to find.

Response:

The Mississippi Master Naturalist Program was formed with the mission of developing an organization of knowledgeable volunteers to help promote conservation and management of Mississippi’s natural resources through education, outreach and service within their communities.

Results:

Since 2015, the Mississippi Master Naturalist Program, led by a Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant extension specialist, held five basic training courses, which led to the certification of 89 new Master Naturalists. These participants’ environmental knowledge improved an average of 10 percent. Post-course evaluations showed that 100 percent of the students gained knowledge, and 100 percent of the students intended to apply their newly gained knowledge. The class cost was $200-$300, but participants indicated an average value of more than $1,000 for the knowledge gained. During this time, program participants documented 6,407 volunteer service hours valued at $154,473. Through these volunteer hours, participants reached or educated more than 104,708 people and directly improved 543 acres through stewardship activities ranging from volunteer water quality monitoring to creating hiking trails.

Recap:

The Mississippi Master Naturalist Program has increased the awareness of environmental issues in Mississippi and Alabama and provided volunteer service to organizations that help promote environmental education and outreach. (2017)

FORTIFIED Home™ demonstration projects result in 11 local jurisdictions adopting “code plus” policies

Relevance:

Coastal homes are vulnerable to a wide array of hazards, and while local communities have adopted modern building codes to improve their resilience, the codes contain minimum standards. As technology and engineering advances occur, there are opportunities to build "code plus," or beyond standard building codes. “Code plus” is based on the FORTIFIED Home™ Program and provides increased strength and resilience to ensure homeowners have a house to come home to after a storm.

Response:

Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium, in partnership with Smart Home America and local communities, supported three Alabama demonstration projects that allowed homeowners, builders and community leaders to see "code plus" building. The first home included retrofitting that raised awareness for building "code plus." The second demonstration home highlighted the advantages and cost-effectiveness of concrete construction. The third demonstration home demonstrated the need for enhanced roofing construction codes. This home included the replacement of a tornado-damaged roof to "code plus" FORTIFIED standards.

Results:

A partnership among the project leaders (Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant, the insurance industry, Smart Home America and Habitat for Humanity) allowed homeowners, community leaders, local officials and builders to view "code plus" building practices in action. It also allowed local stakeholders to learn more about the advantages and cost benefits of "code plus" building. In addition, 30 college students were trained in the “code plus” construction standard through a partnership with Collegiate Build. Finally, 11 local jurisdictions incorporated the “code plus” standard into their building ordinances through policy creation and adoption. The future savings due to risk reduction and decreased insurance premiums at the three demonstration sites totals more than $210,000 and had a total $45,000 cost, which results in a 366-percent return on investment.

Recap:

Three FORTIFIED Home™ demonstration projects in Alabama increased awareness of the benefits of building to "code plus," which resulted in 11 local jurisdictions adopting “code plus” policies. The demonstration projects’ economic return on investment is estimated at 366 percent. (2017)

Oyster farming parks, legal specialists play integral roles in creating Alabama oyster farming industry

Relevance:

The Gulf Coast oyster industry has suffered a number of setbacks, both natural and manmade, that are challenging an industry built around inexpensive, plentiful oysters. Off-bottom oyster farming for the high-value, half-shell niche market, as practiced on the northeast and Pacific coasts, provides an opportunity for Gulf residents to create jobs, increase profits and diversify the oyster industry.

Response:

Sea Grant-funded scientists established two large oyster farming parks that serve as platforms for training and business development. They are part of a partnership between Louisiana Sea Grant, the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium, Auburn University and Louisiana State University. The parks demonstrate grow-out and harvesting technology and techniques. Scientists also provide technical advice and evaluations of possible farm sites to potential oyster farmers. Along with scientists, Sea Grant legal specialists were integral in providing research to inform passage of state legislation that clarified and simplified the permitting process.

Results:

In partnership with Organized Seafood Association of Alabama (OSAA), a Sea Grant-funded extension specialist created an oyster farming park in south Mobile County. Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant supported the hands-on training program called Oyster Farming Fundamentals. To date 32, adult students that have collectively raised 520,000 oyster seed. A "vo-tech" program for Alma Bryant High School students also uses the oyster farming park. Of these, at least 12 have gone on to start their own commercial oyster operation or work with another commercial farmer. This program has been used as a model in both Mississippi (20 participants in 2018) and Wakulla County, Florida (with over 75 participants to date).

Recap:

Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant legal research and outreach through Auburn Universtity established an oyster farming park as a training area for new oyster farmers, which led to the development of the commercial off-bottom oyster farming industry in Alabama. (2017)