MASGC Project Impacts

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)

Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant supports graduate students, develops workforce

Relevance:

Graduate education is a significant component of Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium’s annual budget. Graduates go on to land jobs in such places as academia, industry and environmental non-profit organizations. 

Response:

During the 2014-2017 reporting period, 4.5 Ph.D. degrees, 8.5 master’s degrees and 2 Juris Doctorate degrees were awarded to Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant-supported students. Based on literature values, the value of a master’s degree is valued $584,881, and a Ph.D. is valued at $1,315,982 over the course of a 30-year career.

Results:

The one-time economic impact of Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant-supported graduate education for 2014-17 was more than $12M based on a 30-year career.

Recap:

Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant’s support for graduate education is valued at $12M. (2017)

P-12 teachers increase environmental and Gulf of Mexico literacy, STEM skills through professional development programs

Relevance:

Professional learning opportunities and firsthand experience increase teachers’ and informal educators’ knowledge and comfort level on coastal, ocean and environmental topics and are efficient ways to disseminate new and relevant research results. Educators who are more knowledgeable about the Gulf of Mexico and its coastal environments will share that knowledge with their students leading to an increase in environmental literacy and the inculcation of a feeling of stewardship for the coastal region.

Response:

During the period 2014-2017, Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium (MASGC) supported workshops at three MASGC-supported environmental centers in Mississippi and Alabama for teachers and informal educators that addressed topics related to healthy coastal ecosystems, fisheries and coastal resilience. Specific topics included the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, Gulf of Mexico watersheds, oysters, bees, climate change, fisheries and fisheries management, aquaculture, healthy coastal ecosystems, habitat restoration, marine debris and microplastics, the solar eclipse, conservation and ocean exploration. Additionally, MASGC-supported educators provided field experiences for teachers and educators at the three environmental education learning centers and shared knowledge, experiences and activities at national, regional and state education conferences.

Results:

MASGC-supported workshops and programs at Dauphin Island Sea Lab’s Discovery Hall Programs, Mobile County Public School System’s Environmental Studies Center and University of Southern Mississippi's Gulf Coast Research Lab's Marine Education Center provided approximately 1,500 educators with professional learning opportunities and field experiences. Single day and multi-day workshops increased content knowledge, provided direct hands-on experiences in coastal environments and increased confidence with relevant hands-on classroom activities among participants. Assessments and post-workshop evaluations demonstrated increased content knowledge among participants and indicated that more than 90 percent of participants felt that workshop activities were valuable or very valuable. Funding from MASGC enabled educators to attend at little or no cost.

Recap:

During the period 2014-2018, approximately 1,500 educators increased their environmental literacy and knowledge of healthy coastal ecosystems, fisheries and coastal resilience through Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant-supported field experiences, workshops and educational programs at Discovery Hall Programs (Dauphin Island Sea Lab), the Environmental Studies Center (Mobile County Public School System) and the Marine Education Center (Gulf Coast Research Laboratory). (2017)

More than 70,000 P-12 students increase environmental literacy, understanding of healthy coastal ecosystems, fisheries and resilience through place-based hands-on education programs

Relevance:

Sea Grant's goals include an environmentally literate public. Field-based hands-on education programs can increase environmental literacy as well as science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) literacy through direct experiences in coastal environments. These field experiences increase student understanding of how coastal habitats and scientific research enhance quality of life, promote sustainability of coastal resources and help individuals make responsible decisions concerning coastal resources.

Response:

During 2014-2017, field-based hands-on learning experiences at three Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant-supported environmental centers in Mississippi and Alabama enabled more than 70,000 students to develop a personal understanding of and relationship to coastal habitats (e.g., estuaries, wetlands, forests, barrier islands), their resident organisms and critical ecological processes. These experiential learning programs addressed specific science, ocean and climate literacy concepts while developing science, technology, engineering and math skills through authentic methods of data collection. They were developed with explicit reference to national and state educational standards.

Results:

Dauphin Island Sea Lab’s Discovery Hall Programs academic year sessions, Mobile County Public School System’s Environmental Studies Center Project SEA ICE (Special Enrichment Activities in Coastal Ecology) and University of Southern Mississippi's Gulf Coast Research Lab's Marine Education Center's Coastal Sciences Camps and Miss Peetsy-B Bayou Tours resulted in more than 70,000 P-12 students actively engaged in field experiences of varying length (1-4 hrs) aboard boats, in salt marshes, at beaches, in forests, in other coastal habitats or with coastal organisms. Pre- and post-test assessments indicated significant improvement in student content knowledge at all three environmental education center locations with statistically significant content knowledge gains ranging from 17 percent to 37 percent in more than 3,500 students.

Recap:

During the period 2014-2017, more than 70,000 P-12 students increased their environmental literacy and understanding of healthy coastal ecosystems, fisheries and resilience. They improved their STEM skills by participating in experiential field-based education experiences through Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium-supported programs at Discovery Hall Programs (Dauphin Island Sea Lab), the Environmental Studies Center (Mobile County Public School System) and the Marine Education Center (Gulf Coast Research Laboratory). (2017)

Sea Grant saves communities money by leading activities credited through the Community Rating System

Relevance:

The Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium (MASGC) facilitates workshops and trainings, delivers professional development credits and provides technical assistance to local communities looking to improve their Community Rating System (CRS) scores. These activities help communities earn points through the National Flood Insurance Program’s CRS and reduce the flood insurance burden passed on to residents.

Response:

In 2014-2017, MASGC organized and led 30 training sessions focused on increasing knowledge about the CRS serving over 1,162 constituents. In addition, Sea Grant received funding to research the Program for Public Information (PPI), a newly implemented CRS activity. As a result, a comprehensive workshop was held to assist communities in Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana with developing a PPI. MASGC provided direct technical assistance to the city of Biloxi to create and implement a PPI program, which will save the city money during their next CRS cycle visit (an evaluation to determine their flood insurance discount). Further, Sea Grant staff provide support and regular facilitation for the Coastal Hazard Outreach Strategy Team (CHOST), the CRS users group for coastal Mississippi. MASGC staff organize and participate in major outreach events for CHOST including annual mall outreach, The Home Product Show and presentations for target audiences, such as realtors, developers, contractors and insurance agents.

Results:

Sea Grant provided more than 224 professional certification hours in CRS-related topics, serving over 1,162 local constituents. In addition, Sea Grant’s role in CRS activities saved seven local communities on average $24,271 in flood insurance premiums for a total of $679,600 from 2014-2017 ($169, 900 in savings per year). Through its direct involvement with CHOST, Sea Grant reached multiple communities and organized presentations and training sessions catered to the information needs of its local members. In addition, Sea Grant provided technical assistance to the City of Biloxi to implement the Program for Public Information, a new CRS requirement. Once adopted, the PPI will allow the city to maintain its class 5 CRS rating and provide additional insurance savings for residents. 

Recap:

MASGC assisted seven local communities in saving $169,000 a year in reduced flood insurance premiums through its facilitation of the CHOST user group, technical assistance with the PPI and professional development trainings. (2017)