With annual reports coming in and our selected biennial research projects starting this year, I thought it would be appropriate to highlight our recently closed and new research projects and examine where we’ve been and where we are going.
The past: Closing projects
Gulf of Mexico regional project: Determining the factors contributing to human-dolphin interactions in a long-term resident inshore bottlenose dolphin community. By Kathrine McHugh, Mote Marine Lab
This project found that that human-dolphin interactions continue to be a growing problem, causing harm to dolphin population and conservation efforts. This research has led to increased outreach efforts to attempt to curtail the problem.
Program development project*: Distribution and abundance of seagrass parasite Plasmodiophora diplantherae in the north-central Gulf of Mexico. By Patrick Biber, The University of Southern Mississippi
The researchers were able to genetically classify the sea grass parasite, Plasmodiophora diplantherae, and develop rapid-detection methods of the parasite for future use. It was determined that the parasite is present but not very abundant in the surveyed areas and that it is more likely found in the fall. The locally important species, Halodule wrightii (shoalgrass) appears resilient against the infection.
Program development project*: Communication avenues for Vietnamese fishing communities in Mississippi and Alabama with coastal resource agencies. By Matthew Freeman, Mississippi State University
Members of the local Vietnamese fishing communities were interviewed, asked to participate in focus groups and observed. These events were analyzed to identify common themes and experiences in relation to the communication between resource managers and the members of the communities. The findings were used to create a survey that will help identify the most effective communication strategies between the managers and the communities and improve outreach efforts.
National Strategic Investment project**: A genomic approach to the genetic management of aquaculture and stock enhancement in emerging marine species. By Eric Saillant, The University of Southern Mississippi
Researchers applied new genetic evaluation methods to red snapper to support its potential as an aquaculture-reared species for stock enhancement programs. The evidence suggests that local populations are genetically compatible with neighboring populations and supports its use as a stock-enhancement species in the region. Results from this work will facilitate resource managers’ decisions on using local red snapper in future aquaculture endeavors and the improved methods can be transferred to other fish species.
The future: New projects
Application of integrated long-term datasets to understand migrant-habitat use along the Mississippi-Alabama Coast. By Frank Moore, The University of Southern Mississippi
This project will use existing data and archived weather radar data to determine how migratory birds respond to environmental changes such as climate change, changes in suitable habitat availability and weather events such as tropical storms.
Improving assessment of a keystone species in the Gulf of Mexico: Gulf Menhaden, Brevoortia patronus. By Robert Leaf, The University of Southern Mississippi
This project will fill in data gaps that were identified in a 2013 stock assessment of Gulf Menhaden. The researchers will collect and evaluate length and age data and work with the state agencies to promote efficient and complementary sampling efforts to improve the stock assessment.
Maximizing the return on investment of oyster aquaculture by managing mud blister worm infestation. By Kelly Dorgan, Dauphin Island Sea Lab
Mud-blister worms are undesirable for the region’s growing oyster aquaculture industry, and an infestation affects the economic benefits of the program. This project aims to develop cost-effective methods to control mud blister worms in the northern Gulf of Mexico to minimize economic losses.
*Program development projects are typically less than $10,000 and usually address rapid-response needs and/or gather initial data to decide if further investigation is needed and what the subsequent steps would be to advance the investigation of a more developed project.
**National strategic investment projects have a national focus and are intended to enhance Sea Grant's network-wide capabilities (research and development, education, extension and outreach) to respond to high priority issues and opportunities.