MASGC Project Impacts

Thousands of P-12 students increase their understanding of healthy coastal ecosystems, fisheries and resilience through place-based hands-on learning

Relevance:

Place-based educational opportunities increase marine and environmental science knowledge and science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) literacy through direct experiences in coastal environments. The experiences increase student understanding of how coastal sciences and research enhance quality of life, promote sustainability of coastal resources and help individuals make responsible decisions concerning coastal resources.

Response:

MASGC-supported environmental centers in Mississippi and Alabama (Dauphin Island Sea Lab, Environmental Studies Center, and the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory) implemented programs of varying length (1-4 hours) for P-12 students. Specific program topics ranged from estuarine ecology to marine technology and included the practice of science, technology, engineering and math skills. Experiential programs were developed in conjunction with the national and state educational standards.

Results:

The Dauphin Island Sea Lab’s Academic Year program, Mobile County Public Schools’ Environmental Studies Center’s (ESC) Project SEA ICE (Special Enrichment Activities in Coastal Ecology) and environmental education programs and the 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 16,467 P-12 students actively engaged in field experiences aboard boats, in salt marshes, at beaches, in forests and in other coastal habitats with wildlife. These experiences increased their understanding and appreciation of these habitats or organisms and developed science, technology, engineering and math skills, including authentic methods of data collection and interpretation. At the ESC, pre- and post-trip environmental knowledge data shows that student knowledge increased by 20 percent after the one-day program. Pre- and post-testing of students participating in DISL’s Academic Year classes showed a statistically significant increase (n=1,232, p<0.0001) in content knowledge, averaging a 30-percent gain.

Recap:

More than 16,000 students increased their environmental literacy and improved their STEM skills by participating in field-based education experiences through Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium-supported programs at three environmental centers. (2016)

Workforce development through graduate education

Relevance:

Graduate education is a significant component of MASGC’s annual budget. Graduates go on to land jobs in academia, industry and environmental non-profit organizations.  

Response:

During the 2016-2017 reporting period, two Ph.D. degrees and three master's degrees were awarded. Based on literature values, the value of a master's degree is valued at $584,881 and a Ph.D. is valued at $1,315,982 over the course of a 30-year career. 

Results:

The economic impact of graduate education was $4,386,607. This value is based on a 30-year career and therefore will only be reported one time.

Recap:

MASGC support for graduate education is valued at $4,386,607. (2016)

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)