MASGC Project Impacts

Sea Grant builds bridge of trust with people who have questions about impacts of oil spills

Relevance:

A substantial amount of oil spill science information has been released since the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. People whose livelihoods depend on a healthy Gulf of Mexico may have trouble accessing and/or understanding the science published about the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, particularly if scientific language is too technical or study results appear contradictory.

Response:

The Sea Grant Oil Spill Science Outreach Program collects and translates peer-reviewed research for target audiences who rely on the Gulf for work or recreation. Through the life of the program, the team has built contacts around the region through one-on-one and large-group engagement with stakeholders. To examine the success of these efforts, Sea Grant partnered with NOAA’s Office of Coastal Management to conduct two social network analyses of oil spill science information.

Results:

The NOAA/Sea Grant social network analysis revealed that the Sea Grant oil spill science outreach team members have played a prominent role in the oil spill science information social network to bridge communication between all target audiences. As they form relationships throughout the country, their influence spreads and new audiences seek them as a trusted resource. As a result, the oil spill response community involved team members in updating future spill response plans and industry leaders asked them to present emerging oil spill science at local, regional and national meetings.

Recap:

In less than four years, the Gulf of Mexico Sea Grant oil spill science outreach program has matured to become a trusted resource for current oil spill science, successfully engaging with the target audiences who seek them for credible oil spill information. (2017)

Emergency responders use information synthesized by Sea Grant oil spill team to protect society, environment

Relevance:

Emergency responders are required to complete training courses throughout their careers and regularly attend Regional Response Team and Area Committee meetings to stay informed about local, regional and national spill response issues and best practices. Post-Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the emergency response community needed to incorporate current, relevant and synthesized science information into response education, training and planning activities.  The NOAA Office of Response and Restoration, the U.S. Coast Guard and the National Spill Control School invited the Sea Grant oil spill science outreach program to address this need.

Response:

The Sea Grant-led outreach program synthesized science to develop oil spill science publications, seminars and trainings specifically for emergency responders. The National Spill Control School at Texas A&M University trains approximately 400 students annually, including courses for academic credit and individuals from industries and government agencies. The school adopted the Sea Grant oil spill science program’s publications as a training tool. NOAA’s Science of Spills courses help emergency responders increase their understanding of spill science when analyzing spills and making risk-based decisions. The Sea Grant program presented new science to Science of Spills’ trainees. Sea Grant specialists also participated in Regional Response Team and Area Committee meetings to update Area Contingency Plans and present new science.

Results:

Nationally, regionally and locally, the emergency response community is incorporating the Sea Grant Oil Spill Science Outreach Program’s synthesized information into activities and trainings.

Recap:

Multiple agencies and industries are using oil spill science extension information to make informed decisions. (2017)

Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant demonstrates leadership in addressing regional issues, implements projects totaling $15.8M

Relevance:

Throughout the Gulf of Mexico, coastal communities are exposed to similar risks and issues of concern, including hurricane threats, loss of habitats and ecosystem services, impacts of coastal development, risks associated with extraction of natural resources, and more.

Response:

The Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium (MASGC) was the leader of many regional projects involving Sea Grant programs in the Gulf of Mexico. These projects included a regional research planning initiative, a NOAA community-based restoration program, a privately funded oil spill science outreach program, a NOAA sentinel site program, a National Water Extension Liaison, an independent stock assessment of red snapper research competition, and a NOAA Coastal Storms program. Through leveraging work with the three other Gulf Sea Grant programs, the impacts of these efforts were far-reaching and often renewed for continued funding.

Results:

In 2014-17, Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant supported 20 regional projects through management of $15.8M in regional funding. These regional partnerships have been so successful that some of the efforts, such as the national water extension liaison program, StormSmart Coast network, red snapper stock assessment initiative and Climate and Resilience Community of Practice, are broadening to have national impacts. The Gulf of Mexico Climate and Resilience Community of Practice is being emulated around the country, and the oil spill science outreach program now includes a national scope.

Recap:

The Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium is a regional and national leader in multi-state, multi-region strategic initiatives, managing $15.8M in projects covering a broad range of topics related to fisheries, oil spills, hurricanes, flooding, waterways and restoration. (2017)

City of Prichard, Alabama, restores Reading Park Creek streambank

Relevance:

Reading Park Creek, which runs through a passive park in the City of Prichard, Alabama, was highly degraded due to stormwater runoff and pervasive invasive species. This creek is a tributary to Eight Mile Creek, which is listed on the state's 303(d) list of impaired waterways due to excessive amounts of pathogenic bacteria. The community members are predominantly African-American and historically underserved, and they value their environmental resources and desire more access and recreational opportunities, as evidenced by their participation in the development of the Eight Mile Creek watershed management plan.

Response:

Sea Grant-funded scientists and staff gathered public input and created a plan for the restoration of Reading Park Creek. City of Prichard workers removed invasive species, graded the stream banks and established a flood plain in Jackson Reading City Park. About 45 volunteers helped plant 3,000 native plants along the creek and in upland areas at the site, which is located in the Eight Mile Creek Watershed. The project created buffer zones 25 to 50 feet from the creek to allow pollutant-filtering plants to remain undisturbed.

Results:

The City of Prichard, Alabama, restored 300 linear feet (4.49 acres) of streambank along the creek in Jackson Reading Park using forested buffers to protect wildlife, remove sediment and filter pollutants. The ecosystem service value of the restored streambank and associated park is $449,000. Volunteer hours involved in this project were valued at $3,973.

Recap:

Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant helped plan and implement the restoration of 300 linear feet along Reading Park Creek in Prichard, Alabama. (2017)

Semmes, Alabama, includes low-impact development provisions in subdivision regulations

Relevance:

The City of Semmes is a newly incorporated city in the 8-Mile Creek watershed in Mobile County, Alabama, with a population of 3,015 people. The Semmes Planning Commission sought to foster future growth while preserving the rural character of the community. When the city became incorporated, 38 percent of the total acres and 15 percent of the total parcels of property in the city's jurisdiction was undeveloped. As a new city, the planning commission needed to develop planning documents and regulations that guided future development, yet ensured achievement of community goals, such as protecting streams, open space and fostering conservation development.

Response:

Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant-funded researchers at Auburn University led the development of watershed models to predict water quality impacts of land use change. They also met with representatives from the Alabama Department of Environmental Management and Semmes city officials to discuss the benefits of low-impact development (LID). LID is an approach to land development (or re-development) that attempts to work with nature to manage stormwater as close to its source as possible. LID employs principles, such as preserving and recreating natural landscape features and minimizing effective imperviousness to create functional and appealing site drainage.

Results:

Sea Grant-supported researchers suggested several actions and policies that were incorporated into the Semmes Subdivision Regulations and city ordinances and revised in 2016. For instance, model stream buffer policies were adopted and are measured as follows: "Within 150 feet of a public drinking water source and any associated tributaries and/or wetlands; within 100 feet of streams and associated wetlands; and within 75 feet of natural drainage features and adjacent and/or isolated wetlands." These stream buffers and other policies will promote water quality, natural resource planning and low-impact development within Semmes. Due to the success of this Sea Grant project, Mobile, Alabama, updated their regulations using Semmes regulations as a model.

Recap:

Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant researchers helped the City of Semmes develop and adopt subdivision regulations that focus on conservation, stream conservation, stream buffer and LID policies. The regulations have also informed regulation updates that the City of Mobile implemented. (2017)

Resource managers refine plans for burning vulnerable high marsh areas, based on Sea Grant research

Relevance:

Habitat degradation caused by storm debris has decreased ecological services provided by coastal ecosystems and has altered their resilience to climate change. Research on storm and fire impacts, which are predicted to increase in frequency or intensity with climate change, can inform resource managers on methods strategies to sustain coastal ecosystems.

Response:

Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium-supported researchers worked with Grand Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve (NERR) partners to assess the interactive effects of prescribed fire and hurricanes on a black needlerush marsh. This approach permitted an examination of multiple-factor interactions that influence ecological processes and ecosystem sustainability.

Results:

Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant-supported researchers found that high marsh areas are more vulnerable to fire than other marsh areas because they accumulated highly combustible wrack after hurricanes, and the plants are therefore slower to recover following a fire. Resource managers for the state of Mississippi are using these research results to refine prescription plans for burning on state lands and minimize risks to potentially vulnerable high marsh areas. Response from low to high marsh was taken into account for a subsequent project, which was funded by the Environmental Protection Agency. In that study, scientists looked at response along an elevation gradient. As a result, the Grand Bay NERR now has a 3-5 year fire cycle, and a second NERR (Weeks Bay) now incorporates fire into their management plan.

Recap:

Managers at the Grand Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve make coastal management decisions based on Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant-funded research on hurricanes and fire interactions in a black needlerush marsh. (2017)