After its 2016 pilot run, the Mississippi Oyster Gardening Program will open its first official season in June with nine sites along the Coast.
Justin McDonald has been hired to manage and grow the program, which organizes volunteers and the materials they need to grow oysters that will be used to restore reefs in the state.
McDonald, the newest addition to the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium's outreach team and the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, will conduct training workshops and educational presentations to current and potential gardens to reinforce the importance of establishing and maintaining oyster reefs in Mississippi waters. He will also work with stakeholders and related regulatory agencies, such as the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources that approves gardening and restoration sites.
"The gardeners are very excited to get the 2017 season started," McDonald said. "We delivered gardens during the first week of May and plan to distribute the oysters in mid-June. The eagerness expressed to this point by our current gardeners bodes well for the continued growth of this project for years to come."
Before joining Sea Grant, McDonald was an environmental consultant who focused on regulatory compliance and permitting. In the past, he also worked as a fisheries observer and as the Marine Ecosystems Lab intern at Dauphin Island Sea Lab.
He holds a bachelor's degree in marine biology from Troy University.
A grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation is providing funding for the Mississippi Oyster Gardening Program.
McDonald can be reached at the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant's Mobile, Ala., office at 251-438-5690 or email@example.com.
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