MASGC Project Impacts

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). (2018)

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)

Northern Gulf of Mexico Sentinel Site Cooperative outreach efforts help integrate SLR science into coastal decision-making

Relevance:

Sea-level rise (SLR) is a critical hazard facing coastal ecosystems, communities and economies. Effective and efficient communication across the science-to-stewardship continuum is necessary for successful resilience. However, the science around SLR is expanding at a rapid pace. Local and regional planners and natural resource managers cannot keep up with the advancements in science. 

Response:

The Northern Gulf of Mexico Sentinel Site Cooperative, a program supported by the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium, worked with researchers in the partnership to integrate new sea-level rise science into decision-making with natural resource management and coastal community planning. The cooperative has been socializing this new information across the northern Gulf participating in Tool Cafes, giving individual webinars, giving presentations at conferences, hosting workshops and spreading the word via various social media platforms and partner networks.

Results:

New SLR science is being integrated across a variety of sectors in the northern Gulf. For example, a recent marsh restoration design accounted for SLR utilizing the latest projections because of Northern Gulf of Mexico Sentinel Site Cooperative discussions and training efforts with local consultants. The Florida counties of Gulf, Franklin and Wakulla are using the updated SLR model on changing coastlines and storm surge due to SLR in place of previously used models as a direct result of the cooperative’s workshops, private webinars and integration into the cooperative’s network of experts.

Recap:

Efforts to socialize new SLR science has led to application in community planning and natural resource management. (2017)

Coastal stewardship training increases knowledge, facilitates environmentally focused volunteer service

Relevance:

Many environmentally conscious individuals are eager to learn more about their local flora and fauna and would like to participate in environment-based volunteer service opportunities, 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:

In 2016, the Mississippi Master Naturalist Program held a basic training course for the program’s coastal chapter and certified 13 individuals. According to pre- and post-test assessments, the participants’ environmental knowledge improved an average of 10 percent. Post-course evaluations showed that 100 percent of the students gained knowledge, 100 percent of the students intended to apply their newly gained knowledge and 100 percent of the students gained knowledge about collaborating with resource professionals. Total cost of the Master Naturalist course (with CEUs) is $240 and completion of the course qualifies participants for 4 CEU credits ($60 per CEU). A similar plant ID course offered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service costs $1,195 and is worth 3 CEUs ($398.33 per CEU). Based on the comparison between the two programs on a per CEU basis, the Mississippi Master Naturalist program offered $17,593.16 in comparable savings. In 2016, program participants documented 2,090 volunteer service hours valued at $40,776 and reached or educated more than 28,000 people. One student learned about conservation easements during the training and conserved 20 acres of her property for future generations. 

Recap:

The Mississippi Master Naturalist Program has increased the awareness of environmental issues in Mississippi and Alabama while providing volunteer service to environmental activities. (2016)

Mississippi Coastal Cleanup Program mobilizes almost 2,500 volunteers, removes more than 14 tons of litter

Relevance:

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

Response:

 Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium extension specialist led and contributed to all aspects of the Mississippi Coastal Cleanup Program, which works to prevent and remove litter from the coastal environment through education, outreach, research and cleanup events. As part of the Coastal Cleanup Program, the MASGC extension specialist trained site captains at four trainings, managed volunteer registrations, led planning efforts, distributed supplies, analyzed volunteers’ litter data cards and prepared cleanup summary reports.

Results:

In 2016, the Mississippi Coastal Cleanup event attracted 2,489 volunteers that contributed 7,467 volunteer hours and removed 14.1 tons of litter from coastal Mississippi beaches, waterways, wetlands and roads. The value of this volunteer effort exceeded $145,681.

Recap:

The Mississippi Coastal Cleanup Program, coordinated by a Sea Grant extension specialist, was responsible for removing over 14 tons of litter from the coastal environment and educating more than 2,500 volunteers and site captains about litter prevention. (2016)