MASGC Project Impacts

Alabama volunteers grow oysters to replant reef habitat

Relevance:

With an estimated 80-percent loss in global oyster reefs, restoration programs are a vital piece to the recovery program for northern Gulf Coast oyster habitats. The Mobile Bay Oyster Gardening Program in Alabama is a volunteer-based project focusing on education and restoration of oyster reef habitat in Mobile Bay and the Mississippi Sound. The 2016 season brought the total program restocking potential to 36.5 acres since its inception. Its success spawned a secondary program in Little Lagoon (AL) for the 2017 season.

Response:

The Mobile Bay  2016 seasons included 90 volunteers at 45 sites. The volunteers grew 58,500 advanced stocker sized oysters (mean height of 53.2 mm) for replanting degraded reef sites in Mobile Bay. Oysters were grown from private piers from early July through November generating an economic and ecological impact upon planting in November 2016.

Results:

The oysters produced by Alabama oyster gardeners in 2016 were replanted on designated reef sites in partnership with the Alabama Department of Marine Resources. The volume of oysters grown was sufficient for restoration of 2.89 acres at a density of 5 advanced stocker (spawning) adults per square meter. This acreage has a value of $55,000 as extrapolated from Kroeger (2012) for TNC.

Recap:

90 volunteers in Alabama produced enough oysters to replant 2.89 acres of oyster reef habitat in Mobile Bay. (2016)

Living shorelines program saves waterfront property owners money and preserves habitat

Relevance:

Wind, water and wave action cause erosion and result in loss of residential and commercial property, reduction of storm-buffering capacity, aquatic and terrestrial habitat loss, increased suspended solids  and water quality degradation along coastlines. 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. 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 to educate a range of stakeholders from private property owners to government agencies. The program shares information about site suitability, cost and benefits of different erosion control techniques that lead to informed decision making and money savings. In 2016, the Living Shorelines Program organized two workshops for resource managers and landowners. 

Results:

Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant extension efforts informed decision-making on protection, restoration or enhancement of more than 3 linear miles of shoreline and saved two landowners more than $40,000 in sustainable erosion control.

Recap:

Living shorelines education and extension efforts focused on educating resource managers and landowners on the site suitability, cost, and benefits of current erosion control techniques led to protection, restoration or enhancement of shorelines and money savings to landowners. (2016)

Field-based hands-on education programs increase marine, environmental science, STEM literacy

Relevance:

Field-based hands-on education programs can increase marine and environmental science and STEM literacy through active involvement in learning. Sea Grant’s goals include an environmentally literate public. Increased literacy will ensure that the public incorporates broad understandings of their actions on the environment into personal decisions.

Response:

In 2015, field-based hands-on learning experiences at three MASGC-supported environmental centers in Mississippi and Alabama enabled 11,614 students and teachers to develop a personal understanding of and relationship to coastal habitats (e.g., estuaries, wetlands, forests, barrier islands), their resident organisms and their ecological processes. All programs addressed specific science, ocean and climate literacy concepts while developing science, technology, engineering and math skills through authentic methods of data collection.

Results:

A total of 4,108 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 19 percent to 37 percent. Evaluations indicated teachers considered the field-based professional development to be valuable or very valuable (n=92). 

Recap:

Almost 12,000 students and teachers increased their marine and environmental science and Science Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) literacy by participating in environmental field-based education experiences through MASGC 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). (2015)

Community Resilience Index serves as model for two sector Indices

Relevance:

The evaluation of the Community Resilience Index revealed that, though the CRI is a useable tool and model for an effective approach to identifying resilience strengths and weaknesses, other sectors within the community structure would benefit from similar resilience planning.

Response:

MASGC enlisted stakeholders from fisheries businesses and tourism businesses to develop resilience indices specific to these sectors.  Both indices were piloted with businesses for feedback and refined, and once finalized, introduced as part of a greater resilience toolbox for the Gulf of Mexico region.  Introductory workshops were held for current CRI facilitators and during a Gulf Sea Grant Extension Regional meeting.

Results:

MASGC now has broader outreach capabilities related to resilience planning for fisheries and tourism businesses and has begun introducing the concepts of resilience gap planning to new audiences and providing new tools to the region.

Recap:

Two sector indices, fisheries and tourism, were developed and disseminated, following the community resilience index model and in response to feedback from the CRI evaluation. (2015)

Increasing local government capacity to foster community resilience

Relevance:

Municipalities in coastal areas face unique planning challenges related to coastal erosion, flooding and the threat of hurricanes. City land use planners and floodplain managers may lack the resources, tools, and knowledge to address the issues in a comprehensive manner.

Response:

MASGC, with its diverse team of coastal scientists and outreach specialists, is uniquely positioned to bring the latest coastal science and policy to local government officials. In 2015, MASGC partnered with the Mississippi Chapter of the American Planning Association to organize a climate workshop series, which provided continuing education for planners and floodplain managers on coastal sustainability and local resiliency. MASGC also continued to provide technical assistance and support to Mississippi’s Coastal Hazards Outreach Strategy Team (CHOST).

Results:

Fifty individuals received professional development training and continuing education credits through the 2015 climate workshop series. MASGC has also facilitated numerous CHOST events and activities, including the annual mall outreach event and a February 2016 workshop co-sponsored by the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency and MASGC to provide an introduction to FEMA’s Community Rating System program. 

Recap:

MASGC serves as a valuable outlet for continuing education by addressing diverse coastal disciplines through planning workshops, while also directly facilitating community engagement by rendering aid to professional support groups such as CHOST. (2015)

Communities receive technical assistance on Program for Public Information

Relevance:

In 2013, FEMA revised the eligible activities for points under the Community Rating System (CRS). User groups no longer receive points. Communities need new ways to recoup lost points, to maintain class ratings and associated discounts on flood insurance policies. Under the new CRS manual, communities gain points by participating in the newly created Program for Public Information (PPI). Because the PPI is complex and requires approval from local governments, communities requested technical assistance.

Response:

MASGC worked with partners, including national PPI experts, to develop a daylong intensive PPI training targeted to floodplain managers and CRS coordinators in Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi. The workshop was held Jan. 22, 2015 and attended by 42 individuals representing 7 organizations, 22 communities, and 6 counties. Following the workshop, MASGC provided individual technical assistance on the formation of a PPI to Mississippi coastal communities. To date, MASGC has met with the cities of Long Beach, Pass Christian, Biloxi and Harrison County. MASGC has facilitated Biloxi’s creation of a PPI by drafting documents, inventorying flood insurance outreach activities, and facilitating PPI committee meetings.

Results:

With facilitation from MASGC, Biloxi, MS has established a PPI committee that brings together local government officials and community stakeholders. Through the committee, Biloxi has developed a stronger dialogue with community stakeholders that will allow Biloxi to further refine flood insurance outreach strategies in the future.

Recap:

MASGC facilitates creation of Program for Public Information to assist communities with maintaining Community Rating Scores and associated discounts on flood insurance policies. (2015)