Bay and Bayous Symposium 2020


Sound Science, Sound Policy: A 2020 Vision for the Future

Day 1, Dec 01, 2020
12:00 Noon - 12:30PM
Virtual
Welcome to the 2020 Bays and Bayous Symposium
Format : Panel
Speakers
LaDon Swann, Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium
12:30PM - 01:30PM
Virtual
Disasters and Disruptions Panel (LIVE EVENT)
Format : Panel
Track : Disasters and Disruptions
Moderators
Stephen Sempier, MASGC
The Alabama and Mississippi Coast has experienced - and is experiencing - a variety of disasters and disruptions from major hurricanes (Sally, Katrina 15 years ago, Ivan 16 years ago), the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster (10 years ago), multiple freshwater inflow events, harmful algae blooms, a recession and the ongoing COVID-19 health pandemic. However, our coastal communities have been resilient to the wide array of stressors that have impacted our coast. During this panel you will hear a variety of perspectives from coastal leaders and scientists regarding how science informs policy to prepare for and recover from disasters and disruptions.
01:30PM - 02:00PM
30 Minute Break
02:00PM - 03:30PM
Virtual
Disasters and Disruptions - Diversions, dredging, subsidence, & erosion (Oral)
Format : Oral Abstracts
Track : Disasters and Disruptions
Speakers
Kemal Cambazoglu, The University Of Southern Missisippi
Katherine Dawson, Moffatt & Nichol
Joann Mossa, University Of Florida
Bill Funderburk, USM Gulf Coast Geospatial Center
Raul Osorio, Mississippi State University
Evan Grimes, The University Of Southern Missisippi
Moderators
Melissa Partyka, AUMERC/MASGC
The Gulf Coast has experienced - and is experiencing - a variety of disasters and disruptions from the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster (this year being the 10th anniversary), major hurricanes, freshwater inflow events, such as the opening of the Bonnet Carré Spillway and the ongoing COVID-19 health pandemic. For some of these disasters and disruptions, we have a better understanding of human and ecological recovery, with restoration efforts underway or planned to advance recovery. For others, our knowledge of the impacts and the recovery process is more limited. Topics in this track may include new research, perspectives and/or updates on human and ecological impacts, restoration, extension and education and outreach-related discoveries related to these and other major disruptions and disasters affecting the Gulf Coast.
The effects of inundation on Sagittaria lancifolia using a marsh organ
02:00PM - 02:15PM
Presented by :
Evan Grimes, The University Of Southern Missisippi
Co-authors :
Wei Wu, The University Of Southern Mississippi
Glenn Suir, U.S. Army Corps Of Engineers
Manmade freshwater diversion efforts in Louisiana will likely drive gradual community shifts of brackish and salt-tolerant plants species to more freshwater oriented species. Sagittaria lancifolia, a freshwater dominant wetland species, may replace salt-tolerant species as salinity regimes are altered due to freshwater diversion input. Therefore, the understanding of this species’ inundation-productivity relationship is important to better quantify the effects of diversions on prominent freshwater wetland species. We are utilizing a marsh organ in-situ mesocosm design to study morphometrics and biomass allocation of Sagittaria lancifolia in the Pascagoula River drainage, a freshwater, tidally influenced coastal wetland. Estimated percent inundation times of the six marsh organ levels are 100%, 80%, 60%, 40%, 20%, and 10% respectively. We have noted a positive correlation of this species to increased inundation, and negligible effects of nitrate addition. Continuation of this study includes biomass collection and analysis, and soil chemistry analysis.
Assessment of wave regimes for optimal implementation of marsh terracing in the northern Gulf of Mexico, a modeling approach
02:15PM - 02:30PM
Presented by :
Raul Osorio, Mississippi State University
Co-authors :
Anna Linhoss, Mississippi State University
A. Skarke, Mississippi State University
Michael Brasher, Ducks Unlimited Inc
Joseph French, Mississippi State University
Marsh terracing is a coastal restoration technique that can dissipate wind driven waves, reduce fetch, and potentially reduce erosion from adjacent marsh platform in the northern Gulf of Mexico. This technique consists of constructing segmented berms of bare soil from sediment excavated within shallow coastal ponds. Over 980 linear km of marsh terraces have been built in Texas and Louisiana in the last 30 years; however very little research has focused on optimization of terrace design and implementation. The objective of this study was to understand wave regimes in marsh terrace fields under a range of wind conditions to identify an optimal terrace design for reducing wave energy. The Simulating WAves Nearshore (SWAN) model was used in this study to compute wind waves at two terrace fields in coastal Louisiana. Simulations were based on real terrace field conditions with and without terraces. Model validation was performed under stationary conditions (constant wind parameters) using wind data from NOAA stations and wave parameters collected by wave instruments during 5 months at each study field. Results from this study will help us to understand wave dynamics in marsh terrace environments with different terrace designs and without terraces. At the end of this project we expect to identify the most effective terrace design for reducing wave energy, which is related to marsh erosion, leading to an optimal implementation of this restoration technique in the northern Gulf of Mexico.
Subsidence Rates and Elastic Motion of The Mississippi Gulf Coast
02:30PM - 02:45PM
Presented by :
Bill Funderburk, USM Gulf Coast Geospatial Center
As glacio-eustatic sea-level change continues to impact coastal communities, an increased understanding of surface elevation changes within coastal areas is crucial to predicting the fate of coastal infrastructure, ecosystems, and habitats. The purpose of this study is to examine the spatial extent and variability of subsidence using an east-west transect of Continually Operating Reference Station (CORS) receivers across the Mississippi Coast. The main objective of this study was to use mean differences in antenna height to determine subsidence rates along the Coast of Mississippi between 2006-2018. Research questions included: What are the mean rates of vertical displacement for points along the transect; 2) What are the differences in mean rates of displacement and 3) What is the change (Δ) in mean antenna heights between final (tf) and initial (ti) times of observation for each receiver over the span of observations? The hypotheses of the study were: 1) Yearly mean rates of vertical displacement are 2.5 mmy-1 (±0.5mm) and 2) subsidence along the Mississippi Gulf Coast has occurred at a constant rate and is uniformly spatially distributed. The temporal resolution of MSIN & MSEV spatial data spanned from 2012-2018 whereas ALDI spanned 2010-2018. MSGB Spanned 2011-2018 and MSWV spanned 2010-2016. The longest series was MSGA spanning 12 year from 2006-2017 and the Shortest was MSHI spanning 2018-2020. Overall mean rates of subsidence for MSIN and MSEV between 2012-2018 were ~ 1.81 mmy-1 and 1.25 mmy-1 respectively. MSWV’s rate was much lower than MSIN and MSEV at ~ 0.48 mmy-1. Mean rates of vertical displacement for ALDI between 2010-2018 was 2.61 mmy-1 whereas between 2011-2017 for MSGB rates were ~ 1.00 mmy-1 and MSHI fell in at ~ 1.54 mmy-1.
A Retrospective Analysis of a Dredging and Disposal Problem Area
02:45PM - 03:00PM
Presented by :
Joann Mossa, University Of Florida
Co-authors :
Yin-Hsuen Chen, University Of Florida
Few studies have examined the fate of dredge spoil placed along river corridors from a geomorphic and retrospective perspective. Such studies can provide guidance to rivers currently being dredged. The Apalachicola River in Florida was dredged from the 1950s for several decades, with disposal on the floodplain, sand bars and open water during the navigation project. One of the larger mounds, disposal site 40 (DS 40) or locally called “Sand Mountain,” originated in an artificial cutoff and stands ~22 m high and extends ~10 ha in area. Because this section of river was a problem for navigation when dredging was being conducted, detailed historical survey sheets with topographic and bathymetric data exist. We analyze the local floodplain and channel geospatially and compile related dredging and disposal data to examine the geomorphic changes of this feature and the adjoining river. Poor placement has resulted in this and other dredge spoil mounds returning sediment to the river through mass wasting and lateral erosion. Intermittent sediment pulses have altered channel morphology adjacent to the spoil mound with the channel becoming wider and shallower than originally and width-depth ratio increasing three-fold. Although dredging of this river has not been conducted for nearly two decades, we found that poor placement of spoil can continue to stress and alter a river with sediment input in the decades that follow. Based on our findings, dredging downstream of distributaries may result in poor outcomes. Locally, dredge spoil placement in cut-off channels close to the river, the outer bend of meanders, and upstream of problem or shallow areas should be avoided. Findings of this study have implications to other anthropogenic deposits including loose material left on floodplains in areas of intensive sand and gravel mining in streams and floodplains.
Development of a modeling system to study the impact of freshwater diversions on estuarine systems
03:00PM - 03:15PM
Presented by :
Kemal Cambazoglu, The University Of Southern Missisippi
Co-authors :
Brandy Armstrong, The University Of Southern Mississippi
Sandeep Kuttan, The University Of Southern Mississippi
Diana Bernstein, University Of Southern Mississippi
Jerry Wiggert, The University Of Southern Mississippi
Due to climate change, the strength and frequency of heavy rainfall and flooding events have been changing along with the associated use of protective measures such as diversions directing river water to coastal areas. Bonnet Carre Spillway (BCS) is the flood control structure on Mississippi River protecting the City of New Orleans from flooding by diverting about 250,000 cfs from the river into Lake Pontchartrain (LP). For the first time ever BCS was operated for three years in a row in 2018, 2019 and 2020. It was also operated twice in the same year for the first time in 2019. It is important to understand the transport of this excess freshwater through LP into the Mississippi Sound estuarine system, the physical processes driving this transport, the extent of freshwater impact and how rapidly conditions change. In this study, we develop a COAWST-based modeling system that covers a study area including the LP basin system, Mississippi Sound, Mobile Bay and the continental shelf of Mississippi Bight. The river forcing includes discharge of Mississippi River as well as other local rivers including those of the LP system. The atmospheric forcing is provided by NOAA’s High-Resolution Rapid Refresh model. With a multi-nested approach, the model resolves the channels (i.e. Pass Manchac, Rigolets and Chef Menteur Pass) in between Maurepas, Pontchartrain and Mississippi Sound allowing us to study circulation and exchange in and between different water bodies of the system. The freshwater flow into LP via BCS crevasse is added so that the modeling system may be setup to study diversion operation scenarios. This modeling approach will help us better understand the dynamics and physical drivers of freshwater transport in this region and the impact of incoming freshwater on HAB formations, onset of Hypoxia, oyster habitat, etc.
Beneficial Use and Sustainability in Coastal Alabama
03:00PM - 03:30PM
Presented by :
Katherine Dawson, Moffatt & Nichol
Co-authors :
Meg Goecker, Moffatt & Nichol
Gerald Songy, Moffatt & Nichol
Nicholas Cox, Moffatt & Nichol
Mary Kate Brown, The Nature Conservancy
Judy Haner, The Nature Conservancy
Coastal wetlands provide numerous ecosystem services including improved water quality, valuable habitat for fish and wildlife, and shoreline protection. However, their resilience is largely a function of various environmental stressors which can reduce elevation and result in loss of coastal habitat. In systems where natural sedimentation processes are limited or have been altered, beneficial use (BU) of dredged sediment is a great opportunity to create, enhance, or restore ecosystems. Moffatt & Nichol developed two sustainability plans to provide a framework for BU at the Lightning Point Restoration Project in Bayou La Batre, AL, and more broadly in the Grand Bay and Portersville Bay region of Alabama. The Lightning Point Long-term Site Sustainability Plan addresses thin-layer placement of material to increase the marsh elevation and/or respond to localized impacts, and modification of the existing breakwaters to maintain their function. These measures are proposed as adaptive management activities to support the long-term performance and sustainability of the restored area. The Framework for Beneficial Use in the Grand Bay and Portersville Bay Region addresses BU of maintenance dredging material to nourish existing habitat through thin-layer placement, restore historic habitat locations, and/or create new habitat in strategic locations. This plan investigates sediment sources within the region, identifies project opportunities, and provides a framework for BU. Each sustainability plan contains a framework which is presented as steps with respective requirements and recommendations to support development, design, and implementation of the proposed measures. Steps one through six include: project planning and development, engineering and design, regulations and permitting, construction, management and logistics, and monitoring. Both sustainability plans are regarded as “living” documents to be updated and edited with novel data and advances in analysis, management approaches, policies, and partnerships. They serve as the present-day basis for activity and future project development.
02:00PM - 03:30PM
Virtual
Healthy Coastal Ecosystems - Shorelines (Oral)
Format : Oral Abstracts
Track : Healthy Coastal Ecosystems
Speakers
Camille Sicangco, Mississippi State University, Coastal Research And Extension Center
Matthew Virden , Mississippi State University, Coastal Research And Extension Center
Sarah Ramsden, University Of South Alabama/Dauphin Island Sea Lab
Chris Warn, Environmental Science Associates (ESA)
Jennifer Simpson, The University Of Southern Mississippi
Sara Martin , Mississippi State University
Moderators
Eric Sparks , MS-AL Sea Grant; Mississippi State University
Development, resource extraction, climate change and other anthropogenic stressors on coastal ecosystems are issues of management concern. Scientists and stakeholders are attempting to understand such impacts and find integrative coastal management strategies. The seascape changes that may occur to coastal habitats because of these stressors can be dire. For example, changes in the hydrogeomorphology of a landscape combined impacts of subsidence, sea level rise and alterations in freshwater flow may have negative impacts on coastal habitats. They may also have cascading impacts on the many species residing in these habitats. The focus of this track is to present research, policy and educational opportunities and tools that have been used to improve our understanding of habitat vulnerability. This track is intended to provide a venue for scientists and managers to share their insights about habitat protection, conservation and restoration in light of the inevitable changes to our coasts. 
A Cost-Benefit Analysis of Green and Grey Shoreline Stabilization Measures in Coastal Mississippi
02:00PM - 02:15PM
Presented by :
Camille Sicangco, Mississippi State University, Coastal Research And Extension Center
Co-authors :
Renee Collini, Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium/Mississippi State University
Sara Martin , Mississippi State University
Across the Mississippi Gulf Coast, hardened infrastructure (e.g., bulkheads, seawalls) is the dominant method of shoreline stabilization among private properties. In recent years, living shorelines have become an increasingly popular alternative; however, formal economic analyses of small-scale green and grey shoreline protection infrastructure in the region are lacking. Therefore, I conducted an ex post cost-benefit analysis on a 46 m shoreline at Camp Wilkes along Biloxi Bay, MS. Camp Wilkes, a privately-owned recreational campground, installed a bulkhead in 2016 that failed shortly after and replaced it with a living shoreline in March 2019. Using NIST’s Economic Decision Guide Software (EDGe$) Online, I performed a comparative cost-benefit analysis of both shoreline protection measures – namely the existing living shoreline and a hypothetical wooden bulkhead – over a 60-year time interval. While initial costs of living shorelines and bulkheads are similar, living shorelines have significantly lower maintenance and replacement costs and are often more effective at mitigating coastal erosion under biophysical conditions like those experienced at Camp Wilkes. Additionally, the living shoreline poses several unquantified non-market benefits (e.g., increased community involvement and educational opportunities) not offered by the bulkhead. It follows that similar coastal properties with conditions suitable for living shorelines are likely to see a greater return on investment when installing living shorelines rather than bulkheads or other hardened structures. This cost-benefit analysis will help to inform the shoreline stabilization decision-making process for coastal property owners in the northern Gulf of Mexico.
Influence of boat wakes on wave climate in Back Bay, MS
02:15PM - 02:30PM
Presented by :
Matthew Virden , Mississippi State University, Coastal Research And Extension Center
Co-authors :
Payton Billingsley, Mississippi State University
Emily Stolz, Mississippi State University
Nigel Temple , Mississippi State University
Eric Sparks , MS-AL Sea Grant; Mississippi State University
Wave energy is a key factor in the coastal environment as it influences multiple components including erosion and hydrodynamics. This importance highlights the need for wave climates to be considered in the design of conservation and restoration projects. Currently, the majority of site specific wave climate considerations are determined through the use of wave models. However, current wave models do not incorporate both wind and wake waves. In fact, the exact influence vessel-generated waves have on wave climates is relatively unknown. Wind and vessel-generated waves have significant differences when analyzing wave characteristics. To determine the influence of wake waves on wave climates, Twenty DIY wave gauges were deployed in Back Bay, MS before, during, and after July 4th weekend in 2019. This deployment time period was targeted in order to capture data with both maximum and minimum boat activity. Wave gauges were deployed randomly throughout Back Bay, but included areas with expected high boat activity (e.g., adjacent to a boating channel) and expected low boat activity. Hourly wave statistics were calculated from raw gauge data including; significant wave height, average wave height, and maximum wave height. Hourly statistics were compared between predicted maximum boat activity (i.e. daylight hours) and predicted minimum boat activity (i.e. nighttime hours). Preliminary results revealed that during times of high boat activity, significant have height was increased by a minimum of 20 cm. Understanding how vessel-generated waves influence wave climates will illustrate the need for including wake waves in site specific wave climate considerations. Site specific wave climate considerations that include wake waves have the potential to improve conservation and restoration project designs.
Assessing the Functional Value of Restored Shorelines as Habitat for Fisheries Species
02:30PM - 02:45PM
Presented by :
Sarah Ramsden, University Of South Alabama/Dauphin Island Sea Lab
Co-authors :
Ronald Baker, University Of South Alabama/Dauphin Island Sea Lab
The state of Alabama has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on shoreline restoration projects, with one goal being to enhance shoreline habitats for fisheries species. For example, $3 million was spent in 2010 to rebuild Little Bay Peninsula and shelter Little Bay in Mississippi Sound. Despite this significant financial investment, post-restoration monitoring of how this project benefits fisheries species has so far been limited. To address this, we deployed an array of acoustic tracking receivers in Little Bay and adjacent Little River to monitor the habitat use of red drum. We established that red drum as small as 12 cm can carry acoustic tags, and have begun tracking the movements of red drum of all age-classes, including young-of-the-year juveniles that have never previously been tracked. We will use this initial tracking data to identify hotspots of red drum activity, where we will deploy additional receivers to form VPS arrays, which can triangulate the location of a fish to within a few meters. This will allow us to describe with exceptionally fine-scale spatial resolution the ways in which red drum use the restoration structures and the habitats they enhance within the Little Bay seascape. If sufficient funding can be secured, we also have a unique opportunity to compare fish habitat use and movement in an established restored habitat (Little Bay Peninsula) to that in a newly restored habitat, Point aux Pins Peninsula, where breakwater protection structures were installed in August 2020. The metrics of habitat use and function derived in this study will be used to assess the value of future coastal restoration initiatives for red drum and other economically and culturally important species.
Fowl River Marsh and Shoreline Stabilization and Restoration
02:45PM - 03:00PM
Presented by :
Chris Warn, Environmental Science Associates (ESA)
The Mobile Bay National Estuary Program (MBNEP) secured funding from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund (GEBF) to perform engineering and design studies to develop a solution to stabilize and protect priority in-river wetland spits and restore marshland throughout the intertidal portions of lower Fowl River. This project will reduce the risk of future harm to habitats necessary for sustaining a healthy fishery and improve water quality from this significant watershed to Mobile Bay. Restoration of these important coastal spits and wetlands within the lower reaches of Fowl River was a significant priority action identified in the recently completed Fowl River Watershed Management Plan. This presentation will provide an overview of the stressors impacting these marshes including sea level rise, subsidence, salinity, and other issues; discuss the initial Marsh Study work that was done in coordination with the MBNEP Science Advisory Committee (SAC), and how results form that study are informing the project design; discuss permitting, funding, and other challenges that have arisen during project development; present lessons learned in this ongoing project; and give an update on the status of the project. The presentation will also give the audience a view of how watershed management planning provides a road map to implementation projects; and provide a real world example of how coordination among scientists and stakeholders, which includes numerous agencies, organizations, communities, and the private sector, can be brought together to develop integrative coastal management strategies and implementation projects.
Estuarine Shoreline Erosion and Nearshore Sedimentation – Core Findings along Bon Secour Bay, Alabama, and Perdido Bay, Florida
03:00PM - 03:15PM
Presented by :
Frank Heitmuller, The University Of Southern Mississippi
Co-authors :
Jennifer Simpson, The University Of Southern Mississippi
Andy Reese, The University Of Southern Mississippi
Davin Wallace, The University Of Southern Mississippi
Shoreline erosion is a fundamental concern to residents and stakeholders along the Gulf Coast. While much attention has focused on barrier islands and marshes, less investigation has occurred along sandy, estuarine shorelines that support woodlands or residential areas. Properties along these shorelines are increasingly fortified by seawalls and rip-rap, whereas adjacent non-walled properties are rapidly eroding. This study investigates linkages between erosion and nearshore sedimentation along two shorelines at Bon Secour Bay, Alabama (Weeks Bay NERR), and Perdido Bay, Florida (Tarkiln Bayou Preserve S.P.). Both shorelines are similarly oriented (NW-SE), are not protected by structures, and are not buffered by marsh. Time-averaged erosion rates are 0.30 – 0.67 m/yr (1992 – 2018) and 0.55 m/yr (1994 – 2018) at study areas along Bon Secour Bay and Perdido Bay, respectively. Discriminant analysis of sedimentary parameters of five subaqueous sediment cores in the upper 1 meter of the nearshore substrate indicate that relatively fine-grained size fractions (median size and smaller) and organic matter content are predictor variables that distinguish a somewhat coarser and organic substrate at Bon Secour Bay relative to Perdido Bay, likely as a result of greater fetch (energy) and fluvial inputs. Wood fragments, shell hash, and coarse sand in the basal deposits of two cores possibly represent a transgressive ravinement surface. Nearshore cores are contextualized with sediments collected from discrete bottom samples and boreholes along the adjacent beach, indicating that sediment supply is from the eroding shoreline. As a secondary product of this research, shallow groundwater levels along the estuarine beach reveal that rainfall events increase the water table elevation for a sustained duration, which likely exacerbates shoreline erosion if compounded with wave energy.
The Swift Tract Living Shoreline – 8 Years Later
03:15PM - 03:30PM
Presented by :
Sara Martin , Mississippi State University
Co-authors :
Nigel Temple , Mississippi State University
Gillian Palino, University Of Tennessee
Just Cebrian, Northern Gulf Institute
Eric Sparks , MS-AL Sea Grant; Mississippi State University
In the wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, large-scale breakwater projects have been constructed to restore and conserve marshes across the northern Gulf of Mexico. These breakwater projects are often termed living shorelines due to the perceived increase in secondary productivity around the breakwaters and within the fringing marsh shoreward of these structures. However, evaluations of the effectiveness of breakwaters at preserving natural shorelines are limited. To evaluate the effectiveness of large-scale breakwaters at protecting or restoring marshes in high wave energy environments, we conducted experimental plantings and a shoreline monitoring program landward of eight-year-old breakwaters (OBW) and reference no breakwater sites (NBW) along Bon Secour Bay, AL. The OBW and NBW complexes cover 0.6km and 1.2km of consecutive shoreline, respectively. In both the OBW and NBW sites, eight replicates of planted vegetation (nursery-grown Spartina alterniflora sods), natural vegetation, and no vegetation treatments were established along the shoreline. Vegetation monitoring took place over three years and evaluated plot percent cover and species composition. Additionally, the perimeters of all the natural S. alterniflora patches were field mapped using an RTK GPS across breakwater treatments. Results from fixed-plot monitoring showed a positive impact of large-scale breakwaters on natural fringing marshes and no impact on planted marshes. The RTK monitoring showed no discernable impact of breakwaters on S. alterniflora extent, but did show that S. alterniflora behind breakwaters experienced little to no upland migration while those in no breakwater areas retreated significantly. Cumulatively, these results suggest that large-scale breakwaters could have an impact on preserving fringing marsh vegetation in high wave energy environments.
02:00PM - 03:30PM
Virtual
Living Marine Resources - Fish (Oral)
Format : Oral Abstracts
Track : Living Marine Resources
Speakers
Matthew Jargowsky, Mississippi State University & Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant
Crystal Hightower, University Of South Alabama
Conner Owens, Mississippi State University
Kelly Correia, University Of South Alabama/Dauphin Island Sea Lab
Helen Olmi-Graham, University Of Southern Mississippi
Adam Daw, The University Of Southern Mississippi
Moderators
Matthew Jargowsky, Mississippi State University & Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant
Although subject to long-term fluctuations and episodic anthropogenic impacts, the northern Gulf of Mexico continues to support a diversity of productive fisheries and sustain flora and fauna that are of interest to conservationists. This track will focus on the applied ecology of living resources in the Gulf of Mexico. A major challenge of working toward sustainability in this region is to balance the interests of stakeholders while continuing to develop data, models and management policies that result in long-term benefits. Potential presentation topics include research that addresses management questions necessary for sustainability of the Gulf of Mexico ranging from single species to entire ecosystems. Ecological studies help us understand the results of different management decisions and restoration activities, especially as we evaluate the consequences of natural and human-caused changes and changes to management and conservation strategies. Potential presentations for this track will allow the research community, private sector, community action groups, resource managers and NGOs to share knowledge with coastal decision-makers and increase dialogue among these groups.
Documentation of Atlantic tarpon (Megalops atlanticus) space use and move persistence in the northern Gulf of Mexico facilitated by angler advocates
02:00PM - 02:15PM
Presented by :
Matthew Jargowsky, Mississippi State University & Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant
Co-authors :
Marcus Drymon, Mississippi State University & Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant
Michael Dance, Louisiana State University
Mitchell Lovell, Louisiana State University
Crystal Hightower, University Of South Alabama
Amanda Jefferson, Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium; Mississippi State University
Andrea Kroetz, NOAA Fisheries
Sean Powers, University Of South Alabama
Atlantic tarpon (Megalops atlanticus) are a popular sportfish that make long coastal migrations from the southern Gulf of Mexico to the northern Gulf in the late spring. The species is long lived and slow maturing, which makes them susceptible to the synergistic effects of overfishing and climate change and, as a result, they are currently listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN. Yet, significant gaps remain in our understanding of tarpon space use, movement, and biology, particularly in the northern Gulf of Mexico, which hinders our ability to properly manage the species. From 2018-2019, citizen scientists facilitated the tagging of 23 tarpon with towed SPOT tags in Alabama and Louisiana waters to examine space use and movement across the northern Gulf of Mexico. Specifically, space use was examined using movement-based kernel densities to estimate simplified biased random bridge-based utilization distributions and movement was examined using a joint move persistence model to estimate a behavioral index for each tarpon. Utilization distributions were highest at the southwest portion of the Mississippi River Delta, an area previously predicted as a potential spawning habitat for the species. Tarpon move persistence was highest off the Mississippi and Alabama coasts and lowest in Louisiana waters. Our examination of tarpon space use and movement indicates that the Mississippi River Delta is a critical, yet understudied, part of their range.
Tag Alabama: Early Success in an Angler Based Saltwater Recreational Tagging Program
02:15PM - 02:30PM
Presented by :
Crystal Hightower, University Of South Alabama
Co-authors :
Sean Powers, University Of South Alabama
Merritt McCall, University Of South Alabama/Dauphin Island Sea Lab
T. Reid Nelson, UC Santa Cruz & NOAA Fisheries
Tag Alabama is a partnership between CCA Alabama, the University of South Alabama Department of Marine Sciences, and the Dauphin Island Sea Lab. Tag Alabama gives CCA Members the opportunity to participate in angler-based Atlantic Tarpon, Red Drum, and Speckled Trout research in coastal Alabama and surrounding waterways. After attending a training workshop, each angler receives a tagging kit. The kit includes tags, a tag applicator, and instructions on tagging and data entry into an online database. The program began in 2018 and, in two years, has reached early success with more than 325 participating anglers and over 2,500 tagged fishes. Initially, we have learned about broad-scale spatial and temporal movements of these species in and around the bays and coastal waterways of Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida. Eventually, we hope to determine life history parameters including fishery dependent size distributions and mortality estimates. Plans to expand the program include adding more species and increased involvement of participants through tournament style tagging events. This program promotes angler engagement in fisheries research and catch and release practices in our area while improving our knowledge on the status of these valuable sportfish in coastal Alabama.
The Role of Floodplain Forests in Supporting Fish Diversity: the Pascagoula River, MS
02:30PM - 02:45PM
Presented by :
Conner Owens, Mississippi State University
Co-authors :
Wes Neal, Mississippi State University
Scott Rush, Mississippi State University
Sandra Correa, Mississippi State University
Forested floodplains are a mosaic of periodically flooded aquatic habitats with variable levels of connectivity. While there is a clear link between riparian forests and freshwater organisms, floodplain forests are seldom investigated due to difficulties in sampling structurally complex and periodically inundated habitat. This lack of research has led to large knowledge gaps that hinder our understanding of the conservation value of these unique, complex systems for inland fisheries. Therefore, we aimed to determine how bottomland hardwood forests influence fish taxonomic and functional diversity. To accomplish this goal, we: (1) assessed species taxonomic diversity (i.e., species richness and composition) and functional diversity (i.e., standard length and body shape), and (2) quantified habitat complexity. Both objectives were completed along spatial and temporal scales in the Pascagoula River of Southern MS. We hypothesized that fish taxonomic and functional diversity are driven by forest complexity. Overall, A total of 51 fish species (1,487 individuals) were captured. Ordination analyses per hydrological period revealed consistently different assemblages in floodplain forest sites compared to river channel sites, yet, periodic connectivity facilitated longitudinal movement of fishes across the floodplain. Floodplain forests also contained a higher taxonomic diversity than the river channel. Additionally, no fish species were shared among all sites. Regression models showed that fish standard length was negatively affected by increased water surface temperature in the river channel. However, water surface temperature had no effect on fish standard length in the floodplain forest. Interestingly, the water surface temperature in floodplain forest sites was cooler than in river channel sites, even in the warmer parts of the year, which indicates that floodplain forests act as a thermal refugia for fish. These results emphasize the importance of floodplain forests to the conservation of inland fisheries in the face of current threats such as climate change, deforestation, and dams.
Drift Algae Influence on Nekton Community Structure in Seagrass Beds of the Northern Gulf of Mexico
02:45PM - 03:00PM
Presented by :
Kelly Correia, University Of South Alabama/Dauphin Island Sea Lab
Co-authors :
Lee Smee, Dauphin Island Sea Lab/University Of South Alabama
Benjamin Belgrad, Dauphin Island Sea Lab
Kelly Darnell, The University Of Southern Missisippi
M. Zachary Darnell, The University Of Southern Mississippi
Charles Martin, Nature Coast Biological Station, University Of Florida
Margaret Hall, Florida Fish And Wildlife Conservation Commission-Fish And Wildlife Research Institute
Bradley Furman, Florida Fish And Wildlife Conservation Commission-Fish And Wildlife Research Institute
Habitat complexity influences the abundance and distribution of faunal species and is an important driver of community structure in aquatic systems. Structured habitats increase the recruitment, survival, and growth of organisms, often by increasing resource availability, providing a predation refuge, and decreasing competition. Seagrass ecosystems are structurally complex habitats that play vital ecological and economic roles, including the provision of valuable nursery habitats and supporting the health of coastal communities. Drifting algae mats, often found adjacent to seagrass habitats, can also play a vital role in the maintenance of complex systems. As seagrass coverage in many areas shrink and fragment, algae could provide structural redundancy to maintain a functioning community. While algal mats have the potential to house more organisms because of their greater structural complexity, the types of organisms able to utilize this structure is less studied. We quantified how algal presence influenced the composition of nekton communities in seagrass beds throughout the northern Gulf of Mexico using trawls and benthic sleds. Pelagic fish declined when high concentrations of algae were present, while bottom-dwelling fish, shrimp, and crabs tended to remain unchanged or increased in abundance. Smaller organisms found within the algae, however, showed an overall increase in both the number of species and total number of individuals present across all relevant sampling locations as algae increased. Algal communities, while not as picturesque as seagrass or coral reef ecosystems, may offer an important refuge for some types of juvenile organisms as other complex habitats decline.
The effect of salinity on population demographics of the copepods Acartia tonsa and Parvocalanus crassirostris
03:15PM - 03:30PM
Presented by :
Adam Daw, The University Of Southern Mississippi
Co-authors :
Reginald Blaylock, The University Of Southern Mississippi
Eric Saillant, The University Of Southern Mississippi
Copepods are considered the best initial live food item for the feeding of many marine fish. However, the culture of copepods on a large scale has been problematic due to the high variability of productivity of cultures and the relatively low density that can be applied in culture. Understanding the impact that different environmental conditions have on copepod population demographics and production characteristics will facilitate the optimization of copepod culture methods. In this study, the commonly cultured calanoid copepods Acartia tonsa and Parvocalanus crassirostris were reared at four salinities (20, 25, 30, 35 ppt). Experiments were conducted in triplicate to assess the impact of culture salinity on sex ratio, egg production, egg hatching rate, and mortality post hatch. The temperature was maintained at 25C for A. tonsa and 27.5C for P. crassirostris, and live Tisochrysis lutea was fed twice daily to maintain food availability above estimated carbon saturation densities for the two species (1,500 g C L-1 for A. tonsa and 1,000 g C L-1 for P. crassirostris). For A. tonsa, the percentage of females varied significantly and inversely (p=0.025) with salinity. For P. crassirostris the percentage of females did not differ significantly among salinity treatments. Survival from initial stocking of early nauplii to the adult stage was not affected significantly by salinity in either species. For both species, daily egg production by individual females significantly decreased (p=< 0.001) over 7 days. The total fecundity over 7 days was significantly higher (p=0.02) at 30 ppt for A. tonsa; salinity had no effect on fecundity in P. crassirostris. Egg hatching rate was not impacted by salinity or age for either species. This study suggests that production by A. tonsa may be optimized at 30 ppt whereas the production by P. crassirostris is minimally impacted within the salinity range tested.
Behavioral mechanisms underlying female blue crab migration in the northcentral Gulf of Mexico
03:00PM - 03:15PM
Presented by :
Helen Olmi-Graham, University Of Southern Mississippi
Co-authors :
M. Zachary Darnell, The University Of Southern Mississippi
Female blue crabs migrate seaward to spawn. They are capable of covering great distances during this spawning migration, some up to 200 km, and can travel at rates exceeding 10 km/day. Migrating female blue crabs use ebb-tide transport, swimming up into the water column and being carried seaward during ebb tide and remaining on the bottom during flood tide. This results in stepwise movement seaward during each successive ebb tide. In strongly tidal estuaries, ebb tide transport is driven by an endogenous circatidal swimming rhythm; female crabs collected from strongly tidal systems will continue to exhibit these swimming rhythms in the absence of environmental cues. Although female blue crabs in the weakly tidal estuaries of the northcentral Gulf of Mexico migrate distances similar to those in strong tidal estuaries, the mechanisms underlying this migration have not yet been investigated. To better understand the mechanisms underlying migration of female blue crabs in the northcentral Gulf of Mexico and other weakly tidal systems, we investigated vertical swimming behavior of crabs collected from Mississippi Sound under controlled laboratory conditions. Following collection, crabs were held individually in cylindrical tanks under constant conditions and behavior was monitored using time-lapse video. Vertical swimming activity was quantified and analyzed for periodicity using autocorrelation and maximum entropy spectral analysis (MESA) and analyzed in relation to tidal phase at the collection site using cross-correlation. Results will shed insight into whether or not an endogenous swimming rhythm underlies ebb-tide transport in crabs from the weakly tidal estuaries of the northcentral Gulf of Mexico.
02:00PM - 03:30PM
Virtual
Resilient Communities and Economies (Oral)
Format : Oral Abstracts
Track : Resilient Communities and Economies
Speakers
Sonia Vedral, Mississippi State University Extension And Northern Gulf Of Mexico Sentinel Site Cooperative
Laura Blackmon, USM Marine Education Center
Julie Shiyou-Woodard, Smart Home America
Tracie Sempier, Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium
Marian Hanisko, NOAA OCM
Christopher Burton, Auburn University Department Of Geosciences
Moderators
Tracie Sempier, Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium
This track will encompass natural, anthropogenic and social impacts to coastal hazard resilience and how communities adapt to these impacts. It will encourage a broad range of presentations focusing on state and local efforts to minimize environmental impacts while enhancing economic opportunities and improving resilience to both natural and technological hazards. This track will also include education and outreach efforts to raise awareness and understand climate and hazard challenges. Topics may include land policies; innovative floodplain management strategies; sustainable building design techniques and methodologies; community response and adaptation activities related to climate change, sea level rise and inundation events; and cultural and sociological impacts associated with natural and anthropogenic coastal hazards. Submissions discussing resilience-related topics, including engineering, modeling, tools, remote sensing, field-based experiments, social vulnerability indexing, and other topically-relevant behavioral science are also encouraged.
Adapting Sea-Level Rise in The Classroom to Out of The Classroom
02:00PM - 02:15PM
Presented by :
Sonia Vedral, Mississippi State University Extension And Northern Gulf Of Mexico Sentinel Site Cooperative
The Sea-Level Rise in the Classroom curriculum enhances scientific, environmental, and civics literacy of high school students through four modules on understanding and addressing sea-level rise impacts. Students that understand the risks and are prepared to undertake potential solutions generate an empowered coastal citizenry able to support resilient communities, ecosystems, and economies. However, school structure during COVID-19 presents different learning settings and hands-on explorations are not always possible. This presentation will share the adaptations we have made to continue reaching high school students in their classrooms or homes. As part of our curriculum we developed a guide for classes to visit 12 high water marks along the Mississippi coast. High water marks are a visible representation of prior floods and are placed as an educational tool to inform residents about risks from floods and consider actions to be more resilient. In collaboration with other departments at Mississippi State University including the Geosystems Research Institute and Northern Gulf Institute we have developed a virtual reality version of this field trip. Using an app, students can visualize water levels from Hurricane Katrina along with models of what Katrina would look like with future sea-level rise. Distance learning also restricted access of guest speakers. To connect local resilience professionals with high school classes we recorded interviews saved as a digital resource. Adapting in-person lessons to virtual learning helps reach students where they are and increases usability of our curriculum.
Stewardship in the Classroom: A Problem-based Learning Project in Community Resilience
02:15PM - 02:30PM
Presented by :
Laura Blackmon, USM Marine Education Center
Co-authors :
Jessie Kastler, University Of Southern Mississippi
Tracie Sempier, Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium
The Marine Education Center (MEC), part of the University of Southern Mississippi, recently expanded a multi-year Meaningful Watershed Education Experience (MWEE) program to reach students from across the Mississippi and Alabama Gulf Coast. The program focuses on coastal hazard resilience and aligns with the Community Resilience Index (CRI), a MS-AL SeaGrant publication, to introduce community planning and mitigation in the classroom. The program is multi-faceted and involves teacher development, student learning experiences, and a stewardship project. This past year over 600 students participated from 8 different schools. Partner teachers received support and attended a professional development workshop at the MEC exploring community resilience topics. Teachers then introduced students to resilience topics and how rising sea levels and coastal hazards may directly affect their communities. Students became with familiar with advanced mapping applications, i.e. the NOAA Sea Level Rise Viewer which highlights these direct affects in the community. Students next went outside the classroom on a trip to the MEC where they took a boat ride and collected samples in Davis Bayou. Back in the classroom, teachers then introduced the problem-based-learning projects with challenge scenarios assigned to student teams. The students worked together to explore historical flooding in their neighborhoods and propose solutions to the coastal community challenges. The groups then presented their solutions and the top presentations were selected to attend and present their ideas at the MEC’s Stewardship Summit. This project has been successful with the MEC and participating teachers continue to return to have their students be part of this meaningful learning experience in community resilience.
Gulf Coast Communities: Taking Action for a Better Tomorrow
02:45PM - 03:00PM
Presented by :
Tracie Sempier, Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium
Co-authors :
Laura Bowie, Gulf Of Mexico Alliance
James Pahl, Louisiana Coastal Protection And Restoration Authority
Rhonda Price, MDMR
LaDon Swann, Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium
Recognizing that coastal communities are at risk to natural, economic, and technological disasters, the Gulf of Mexico Alliance and Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium provided small grants for communities to build capacity for responding to future disasters in the Gulf of Mexico through the NOAA Regional Coastal Resilience Grant. While significant funding may be available to communities after a disaster, there are not many existing funding opportunities for communities that want to take proactive measures to become more resilient before the next storm. These small grants filled a real need for eight communities, as well as provided a series of “demonstration projects” at the local level we have learned from and shared with communities around the Gulf. The goal was to help Gulf of Mexico coastal communities enhance their overall resilience to future hazards using a systematic and integrated approach leading to standard methods to engage communities. During the four-year project, we found the following to be true: (1) New tools are not always necessary to build resilience- our gap analysis found most respondents just needed technical support or hands-on learning with existing tools in order to be successful; (2) Small grant programs can fill a real need- they provide “demonstration projects” at the community level that can be shared broadly. Impacts can include improving resilience, supporting business continuity, increasing capacity, enhancing habitat, and expanding best practices; and (3) Community of Practice groups work- these groups encourage networking of communities and practitioners to collectively learn from one another and build upon existing lessons learned so resources can be used in a more productive way. This presentation will discuss the actions involved in building resilience and what we’ve learned from communities in the Gulf about the process of taking an idea for change and turning it into a real on-the-ground project.
Nature-Based Solutions for Community Resilience: Resources to Enhance Planning and Implementation
03:00PM - 03:15PM
Presented by :
Marian Hanisko, NOAA OCM
Natural infrastructure approaches are recognized by coastal communities as effective options to reduce coastal flooding, manage stormwater runoff, adapt to climate change, and protect the quality of coastal waters and ecosystems. During this presentation, participants will learn about the suite of natural infrastructure resources available from NOAA’s Digital Coast. These tools have been developed to help coastal decision-makers plan and implement natural and nature-based infrastructure approaches in their communities. Resources highlighted will include the Nature-Based Solutions Training, Green Infrastructure Effectiveness Database, and various communication aids. Together, these resources help communities get started with natural infrastructure planning, explore the effectiveness of natural infrastructure strategies, and communicate their benefits.
Development of an Integrated Measurement Framework to Account for Contextual Differences in the Drivers of Community Resilience Along the Mississippi and Alabama Coasts
03:15PM - 03:30PM
Presented by :
Christopher Burton, Auburn University Department Of Geosciences
Communities that can increase their resilience are in a better position to absorb losses and other adverse impacts from climate-related natural hazards and disasters. For this assertion to be useful, however, insight regarding how to better measure and benchmark the concept will be valuable. This is because existing metrics aimed at measuring resilience suffer from a number of key limitations. Important characteristics of hazard and community context are often ignored. Moreover, most indicator-based methods represent a broad-brushed approach that often neglects the true underlying drivers (or lack thereof) of resilience at the community level. It is within this context that the purpose of this presentation is to describe the results of an MS-AL Sea Grant funded project aimed at developing an integrated measurement framework to better understand drivers of community resilience within the Mississippi and Alabama coastal zip codes. The methodology includes: 1) the identification of context-specific characteristics that drive the resilience of communities and businesses along the entirety of the Mississippi and Alabama coast; 2) the utilization of “top-down” (quantitative) and “bottom-up” (stakeholder-led) approaches; and 3) a better understanding of how hazard extent and scale affect resilience modeling results. With improved resilience metrics, our vision is to provide governments, risk managers, community and business leaders, and researchers new opportunities to create local initiatives and equitable public policy programs to increase the capacity of communities to mitigate, respond, and recover effectively and efficiently from damaging climate-related events.
Creating Stronger, Sustainable, More Resilient Communities
02:30PM - 02:45PM
Presented by :
Julie Shiyou-Woodard, Smart Home America
Co-authors :
Graham Green , Smart Home America
Changes in construction methods are improving the durability of our homes in the face of severe weather. Nearly 20,000 homeowners in 17 states have used the nationally recognized FORTIFIED Home™ resilient construction standard to strengthen their homes and reduce the cost of ownership. FORTIFIED Home is used by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and, increasingly, by state and local entities, to reduce the risk of loss from storms. Learn how beyond-code construction can reduce the likelihood of damage to new and existing homes from both high winds and water intrusion, two leading causes of loss and disruption.
02:00PM - 03:30PM
Virtual
Water Quality and Quantity (Oral)
Format : Oral Abstracts
Track : Water Quality and Quantity
Speakers
Corianne Tatariw, Biological Sciences; University Of Alabama
Karen Bareford, Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant; University Of Alabama
Tina Miller-Way, Dauphin Island Sea Lab
Michael Ihde, The University Of Alabama
Taylor Ledford, The University Of Alabama
Ruth Carmichael, Dauphin Island Sea Lab/University Of South Alabama
Moderators
Chris Flight, Dauphin Island Sea Lab
The bays and bayous of the coastal zone are squeezed between the land and sea, which leads to strong connections to both environments. As a result, direct modification to conditions in coastal systems and alterations to adjacent systems (e.g. watersheds, rivers, shelf waters) can affect changes in water quality. This underscores the difficulties associated with maintaining good water quality, as well as managing recreational, commercial and industrial interests that all depend on these water bodies. Increasingly frequent droughts and floods compound this difficulty, resulting in disruptions to normal patterns of freshwater availability. Potential presentations in this track include: how we assess these alterations in quality and quantity, how changes in the types and rates of terrestrial, aquatic and marine processes and activities have affected water quality, how we identify the human health and ecosystem impacts associated with these alterations, how we use this information to improve and better manage this critical resource, how we address water quality and quantity issues in formal and informal education and how we bring about behavior change to protect water quality. 
Ditching Nutrients: Roadside Drainage Networks are Hotspots for Coastal Nitrogen Removal
02:00PM - 02:15PM
Presented by :
Corianne Tatariw, Biological Sciences; University Of Alabama
Co-authors :
Olivia Mason, Florida State University
Behzad Mortazavi, University Of Alabama
Widespread wetland loss and degradation has resulted in a subsequent loss of the ecosystem services they provide, including the removal of human-produced nitrogen. Human-made stormwater control systems such as roadside ditches are possible hotspots for nitrogen removal in coastal watersheds, yet few studies have quantified their biogeochemical potential. We measured soil nitrogen removal potential and microbial 16S rRNA structure in 96 roadside ditches draining predominately forested, urban, and agricultural catchments surrounding Mobile Bay, AL (USA). Nitrogen removal by denitrification and anammox dominated over nitrogen retention by dissimilatory nitrate reduction to ammonium (DNRA), accounting for upwards of 89% of nitrate reduction on average. There were no differences in soil chemistry, annamox, DNRA, or microbial diversity across land use types. However, denitrification was more than twice as high in urban and agricultural ditches compared to forested ditches, and microbial indicator species analysis selected putative ammonia oxidizers (Nitrososphaeraceae and Nitrosomonadaceae), nitrate reducers (Gaiellales), nitrous oxide reducers (Myxococcales) as significant groups in Urban and Agricultural ditches. Additionally, denitrification and DNRA were positively correlated with plant biomass, which was selected as a key driver of microbial community structure. These results suggest that while land development may influence nitrogen removal in these systems, ditch management practices, such as mowing, may outweigh the effects of land use. Further, our findings show that constructed drainage networks represent areas of considerable nutrient removal potential in the landscape, with denitrification and anammox rates equal to or greater than those measured in “natural” ecosystems, and can potentially compensate for a loss of nitrogen removal capacity associated with stream and wetland degradation in the region.
The New Watershed Game: Coast Model
02:30PM - 02:45PM
Presented by :
Tina Miller-Way, Dauphin Island Sea Lab
Co-authors :
Karen Bareford, Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant; University Of Alabama
John Bilotta, University Of Minnesota Water Resources Center
Cynthia Hagley, Minnesota Sea Grant
Brenna Sweetman, NOAA Office For Coastal Management
Madison Rodman, Minnesota Sea Grant
The Watershed Game is a decade-old proven interactive tool for educating audiences about relationships between land use and water quality in streams, lakes, and large rivers. Existing in both local leader (policymakers, community leaders) and classroom (student) versions, the game allows players to understand how land use impacts water quality, increases their knowledge of tools (Best Management Practices, BMPs) that can be used to reduce or prevent adverse impacts, and realize how their collective actions can help achieve a clean water goal. The gaming approach serves to break down group barriers, encourage dialogue, civility and mutual respect; and build a sense of community among participants. Over the years, users have requested expansion of the game to include a focus on the unique needs and issues of coastal and estuarine environments. For the past 2 years, a team of individuals including Sea Grant personnel from Minnesota and Mississippi-Alabama, the Alabama Water Institute, the Dauphin Island Sea Lab, NOAA’s Office for Coastal Management and Gulf partners have worked to create a Coast model of the Watershed Game. The Coast model focuses on water quality but additionally integrates resilience into game play. Through literature reviews, surveys, and focus groups, the project team identified priority issues and existing BMPs. The Coast model’s gameboard depicts land uses appropriate for coastal environments, and the tool cards present plans, practices and policies that reduce nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment in coastal waters or enhance a community’s resilience to flooding. Two pilot workshops were held in Louisiana and Alabama (prior to cessation of travel due to the pandemic) and helped to refine gameboard graphics, select the most relevant tool cards, and clarify guidelines for game facilitation. Join us to tour the gameboard, view a round of play and offer input for the game’s remaining elements under development.
Chemical fingerprinting of metal cation mixtures in water
02:45PM - 03:00PM
Presented by :
Michael Ihde, The University Of Alabama
Co-authors :
Marco Bonizzoni, The University Of Alabama
Many metal ions are known to have severe health and environmental impacts, particularly in aqueous environments. Therefore, we have investigated the detection of divalent metal cations in water using array sensing techniques. Array sensing, also known as chemical fingerprinting or pattern recognition, can offer rapid detection of metal cations using simpler instrumentation that can be conducted on-site immediately following sample collection. Through our research group’s recent involvement in a MS-AL EPSCoR consortium, we intend to apply these results to metal cation detection and water quality monitoring along the Gulf Coast. A multivariate data set obtained by exposing an array containing two water soluble commercially available dyes (xylenol orange and methylthymol blue) to multiple metal ions was interpreted using pattern recognition algorithms such as linear discriminant analysis (LDA). The array was shown to discriminate nine divalent metal cations qualitatively with excellent resolution. We optimized our array further by taking advantage of responses from a variety of metal-dye stoichiometries to map metal ion concentrations of four environmentally relevant divalent metal ions (Hg(II), Pb(II), Cd(II), and Cu(II)) quantitatively at concentrations as low as 1 µM in neutral water. Based on each metal cation’s strong binding affinity to both dyes, near stoichiometric binding, and the system's overall linear response over a wide range of metal ion concentrations, our array was used to successfully discriminate binary and ternary metal cation mixtures, a particularly valuable accomplishment for chemical fingerprinting systems, which otherwise typically struggle with the “problem of mixtures”. To validate our array’s utility as a calibration plot, we projected a series of unknown metal cation mixtures on our original scores plot with exceptional predictive ability.
Are constructed marshes as effective in carbon sequestration and nitrogen removal as their natural counterparts?
03:00PM - 03:15PM
Presented by :
Taylor Ledford, The University Of Alabama
Co-authors :
Behzad Mortazavi, University Of Alabama
Corianne Tatariw, Biological Sciences; University Of Alabama
Sommer Starr, University Of Alabama
Erin Smyth, University Of Alabama
Lorae' Simpson, University Of Alabama
Abigail Wood, University Of Alabama
Julia Cherry, University Of Alabama
Human impacts on coastal marshes are considerable, with 1-2% of coastal marshes lost per year leading to subsequent losses in ecosystem services like nutrient filtering and carbon sequestration. Currently, marsh construction is being used to mitigate losses of marsh cover and services resulting from human impacts in coastal areas. Though marsh structure can be recovered shortly after construction, there are often long-term temporal lags in the recovery of ecosystem functions in constructed marshes. We conducted a year-long field study comparing productivity, denitrification and dissimilatory nitrate reduction to ammonium (DNRA) between two 30-year old constructed marshes (CON-1, CON-2) and a nearby natural reference marsh (NAT). Additionally, we compared porewater nutrient stocks and above- and belowground biomass stocks in each marsh to identify potential drivers of functional differences between marshes. We found that CON-1 and CON-2 were structurally similar to NAT (i.e., plant biomass was similar). Likewise, gross ecosystem productivity (GEP), ecosystem respiration (ER) and net ecosystem exchange (NEE) were similar across all marshes. Further, DNRA and denitrification were fully recovered in the constructed marshes; in fact, denitrification was greater in CON-2 when compared to NAT. While ammonium porewater concentrations were similar across all marshes, phosphate, nitrate + nitrite, and hydrogen sulfide concentrations were greater in NAT than CON-1 and CON-2. This work suggest that current marsh construction practices could be a suitable tool for replacing lost marsh function and cover. However, the lag in recovery of porewater nutrient stocks may also suggests that there are other biogeochemical functions not observed in this study that may lost or not fully restored in constructed marshes.
Testing oyster shell as a proxy for tissue to detect trace metal pollution
03:15PM - 03:30PM
Presented by :
Ruth Carmichael, Dauphin Island Sea Lab/University Of South Alabama
Co-authors :
Ti-Ara Turner, Judson College
Audrey McQuagge, University Of Alabama
Kimberly Peter, University Of South Alabama - Marine Sciences
Nathaniel Miller, University Of Texas
Oysters and other bivalve shellfish assimilate elements from the environment into their shell and soft tissues, making them potentially useful bioindicators of pollution to local waters. Unlike soft tissues, shell material is not readily metabolized and may provide a temporally explicit record of past pollution exposure. To determine if shell can be used as a bioindicator of pollution similarly to soft tissues (as a proxy for tissues) and how relationships between shell and tissue might vary with pollution sources or environmental conditions, we used solution-based Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry to measure trace metal concentrations in shell and soft tissues of native and lab-reared oysters. Native oysters were obtained from restored reef sites in LA, MS, and AL, with different expected pollution from nearby anthropogenic sources, and Lab-reared oysters were exposed to different types of contaminated water at two salinities (25, 14) to test a common local environmental variable. Overall, trace metal concentrations in shell increased with concentrations in tissue, with the values in tissue explaining 50% (native), 43% (lab-25), and 33% (lab-14) of variation in shell values. Mg and V were conserved (assimilated near 1:1) between shell and tissues in all treatments. Variation between shell and tissue was higher at lower salinity. These data indicate that shell can be a direct proxy for tissue for some elements and at least predictive for others but may be affected by environmental conditions such as salinity. Salinity may be particularly important to interpreting bioindicator data because it affects both oyster physiology and bioavailability of trace metals in the environment. This method, therefore, has high potential for use to reconstruct historical pollution events, such as the Deepwater oil spill, and may be most informative when other conditions that affect oyster physiology and trace metal bioavailability are also considered.
03:30PM - 04:00PM
30 Minute Break
04:00PM - 05:00PM
Virtual
Lightning Talks - Disasters and Disruptions
Format : Poster Abstracts
Track : Disasters and Disruptions
Speakers
Tina Miller-Way, Dauphin Island Sea Lab
Kelly Samek, Kelly.samek@noaa.gov
Moderators
Eric Sparks , MS-AL Sea Grant; Mississippi State University
The Gulf Coast has experienced - and is experiencing - a variety of disasters and disruptions from the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster (this year being the 10th anniversary), major hurricanes, freshwater inflow events, such as the opening of the Bonnet Carré Spillway and the ongoing COVID-19 health pandemic. For some of these disasters and disruptions, we have a better understanding of human and ecological recovery, with restoration efforts underway or planned to advance recovery. For others, our knowledge of the impacts and the recovery process is more limited. Topics in this track may include new research, perspectives and/or updates on human and ecological impacts, restoration, extension and education and outreach-related discoveries related to these and other major disruptions and disasters affecting the Gulf Coast.
The Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Coastal Science Fellowship for Minority Undergraduates
04:00PM - 05:00PM
Presented by :
Tina Miller-Way, Dauphin Island Sea Lab
Co-authors :
Eric Sparks , MS-AL Sea Grant; Mississippi State University
Shardeja English, Tuskegee University
Remeya Ganesh, Mississippi Valley State University
In 2020, the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium offered a Coastal Science Fellowship for Minority Undergraduates for the first time in an effort to broaden diversity in coastal sciences in the region. Fellows were recruited from historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in MS and AL to participate in a 10 week program. Each selected fellow received a stipend and allowance for room and board. Program mentors were recruited from across the MS-AL Sea Grant Consortium and received a stipend to support Fellow activities. Ms Remeya Ganesh from Mississippi Valley State (MS) and Ms. Shardeja English from Tuskegee University (AL) served as Fellows in 2020. Both were rising seniors. Ms. English was mentored by Dr. Eric Sparks and his team at the Mississippi State Coastal Research and Extension Center. Despite the COVID pandemic, Shardeja was able to work onsite and conducted a variety of field work including work on living shorelines, microplastics, and habitat restoration. Shardeja gained confidence and valuable experience in group work as well as insight into the graduate school application process. Ms Ganesh was mentored by Dr. Tina Miller-Way and the Discovery Hall Programs team at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab (DISL). Due to the pandemic and consequent delayed opening of summer programs at DISL, Remeya started her Fellowship working virtually on coastal science curricula but was onsite at DISL for the last month of the fellowship assisting in summer camp programs and outreach efforts. Remeya credits the program with helping her to teach effectively as well as learning about Gulf coast marine life. Despite their interest in health sciences careers, both felt they learned a great deal during the experience and that the Fellowship was valuable to their professional development. MASGC’s Coastal Science Fellowship for Minority Undergraduates will be offered again in 2021.
Facilitating Resource Management in Unprecedented Times: Lessons from the Gulf Coast
04:00PM - 05:00PM
Presented by :
Kelly Samek, Kelly.samek@noaa.gov
Co-authors :
Caitlin Young, NOAA RESTORE Science Program
Erin Seekamp, North Carolina State University
Almost overnight, the COVID-19 pandemic presented a host of new challenges for conducting business as usual for natural and cultural resource managers. As organizations strive to accomplish tasks in this time of uncertainty, most have had to turn to technological solutions for safely convening groups of people to share knowledge and deliberate decisions. Assembling subject-matter experts and stakeholders to participate in structured, interactive workshops to assist resource managers in their work has been a common approach in contemporary resource management. Can this technique effectively make the leap to the virtual world? What are some best practices meeting organizers can implement to replicate the most important features of in-person workshops and accomplish their goals? Lessons learned from a recent series of facilitated interagency meetings to discuss sediment management information needs for Gulf Islands National Seashore will be shared for the benefit of others who may be grappling with how to proceed with their own meetings using virtual platforms. Using this real-life illustration, the meeting’s organizers will offer their insights into effective tactics and strategies for all phases of workshop planning and execution. Numerous tips will be shared that are useful for any facilitated meeting, but planning considerations for successful virtual meetings will be emphasized. While virtual meetings are not ideal for some situations, with time and attention, many agendas can make the leap so that managers can meaningfully engage partners in their work.
04:00PM - 05:00PM
Virtual
Lightning Talks - Healthy Coastal Ecosystems
Format : Poster Abstracts
Track : Healthy Coastal Ecosystems
Speakers
Kelly Samek, Kelly.samek@noaa.gov
Tina Miller-Way, Dauphin Island Sea Lab
Mandy Sartain , MS-AL Sea Grant; Mississippi State University
Gabrielle Spellmann, The University Of Southern Missisippi
Anthony Vedral, Mississippi State Coastal Research And Extension Center
Rayne Palmer, Auburn University, Alabama Cooperative Extension, MS-AL Sea Grant
Tracy Jay, Mobile County Public School System
Ray Bodrey, UF/IFAS Extension Gulf County/Florida Sea Grant
Eric Sparks , MS-AL Sea Grant; Mississippi State University
Moderators
LaDon Swann, Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium
Development, resource extraction, climate change and other anthropogenic stressors on coastal ecosystems are issues of management concern. Scientists and stakeholders are attempting to understand such impacts and find integrative coastal management strategies. The seascape changes that may occur to coastal habitats because of these stressors can be dire. For example, changes in the hydrogeomorphology of a landscape combined impacts of subsidence, sea level rise and alterations in freshwater flow may have negative impacts on coastal habitats. They may also have cascading impacts on the many species residing in these habitats. The focus of this track is to present research, policy and educational opportunities and tools that have been used to improve our understanding of habitat vulnerability. This track is intended to provide a venue for scientists and managers to share their insights about habitat protection, conservation and restoration in light of the inevitable changes to our coasts.
The response of bats and their insect prey to different coastal upland habitat management techniques
04:00PM - 05:00PM
Presented by :
Mandy Sartain , MS-AL Sea Grant; Mississippi State University
Co-authors :
Eric Sparks , MS-AL Sea Grant; Mississippi State University
Jonathan Pitchford, Grand Bay NERR
Scott Rush, Mississippi State University
Coastal uplands are home to a variety of flora and fauna, including bats. Bats play a crucial role within ecosystems, but global declines in some bat populations have reduced many of the ecological and economic services bats provide. The greatest threats bats face within the United States are habitat loss, disturbances causing loss of cave hibernacula and maternity roosts, decline of food resources, white nose syndrome, and wind farm turbines. Many forested areas are managed in efforts to improve overall forest habitat quality and increase biodiversity. Understanding how bats respond to land management induced changes within forest habitat is necessary for the conservation of these species. Recently, there have been several large-scale land management projects associated with oil spill funds, including the study site for this project – The Grand Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve (GNDNERR), in Jackson County, Mississippi. This project will determine if the activity and diversity of bats and their insect prey is affected by different coastal upland land habitat management techniques, such as prescribed fire and mechanical clearing, within the GNDNERR. Analysis of bat diversity and activity will be assessed using acoustic surveys using bat call recorders placed within recently burned, mechanically cleared, and unmanaged areas. Black light traps will be used to trap night flying insects and malaise traps will be used to trap day flying insects for analysis of abundance and diversity relationships among potential bat prey between the land management techniques. Findings from this study could be used to inform land managers of the potential benefits and impacts of land management practices on forest bats and their insect prey.
The Effectiveness of Living Shorelines at Preventing Coastal Erosion and Maintaining a Healthy Ecosystem
04:00PM - 05:00PM
Presented by :
Gabrielle Spellmann, The University Of Southern Missisippi
There has been a constant battle with land owners and shoreline erosion. In the past, the main defense against erosion has been the construction of hardened structures. However, these structures eventually fail, require expensive maintenance, and change the ecosystem of the shoreline. This study will compare hardened shorelines to a newer alternative, called a living shoreline, as well as a natural shoreline as the control. A living shoreline is a method that often combines native vegetation and a wave dampener. The purpose of this research is to compare the functionality of natural marsh, living shorelines, and hardened shorelines at preventing erosion and maintaining a healthy ecosystem under different wave energies/exposure. The field data was collected with wave gages, YSIs, sediment cores, and vegetation quadrats. Google Earth was used to calculate erosion rates and fetch. We expect to find that living shorelines will function better at sites with lower wave energy than sites with higher wave energy. We expect that sediment and vegetation at living shorelines will resemble the sediment found in the natural marsh more so than in the hardened shoreline. The combination of vegetation and a wave dampener at a living shoreline will decrease the impact of erosion. This data on different exposure and wave energies will help managers and land owners to decide the best method to protect their property from erosion while maintaining a healthy ecosystem.
Impacts on Marsh Vegetation During and After the Presence of Marine Debris
04:00PM - 05:00PM
Presented by :
Anthony Vedral, Mississippi State Coastal Research And Extension Center
Co-authors :
Eric Sparks , MS-AL Sea Grant; Mississippi State University
Marine debris discarded in or transported onto marshes can negatively impact vegetation and shoreline stability. Such loss of habitat is of concern to coastal areas in the northern Gulf of Mexico due to ongoing habitat degradation and erosion as well as receding shorelines resulting from sea-level rise. This study aims to quantify the loss of vegetation due to the presence of debris for variable intervals of time as well as the recovery rates with and without restoration efforts after the removal of debris. Approximately 0.5 m^2 plots in Grand Bay, MS will be covered using two common types of debris items (wire crab pots and dense plastic squares intended to mimic opaque debris) for varying periods of time at both shoreline and higher marsh locations. Monthly measurements of vegetation density, vegetation shoot height, elevation profile, sediment grain size, and spatial extent of impact of the item will be collected to assess changes in marsh dynamics. After each sequential time period, debris from a subset of plots will be removed. Following removal, half of the plots will be re-planted, while the rest will be left to recover without intervention. Recovery will be measured by the same parameters as when the debris was present. At the conclusion, all plots that have not naturally recovered will be re-planted to minimize any negative impacts of the study. Data from this project will provide useful spatial and temporal information for making critical decisions when prioritizing the urgency and location of wetland cleanup sites from ongoing litter accumulation and sudden debris spreading disturbances such as in the aftermath of hurricanes.
Volunteers Gain an Understanding of the Vital Role Oysters Play in the Ecosystem Through a Hands-on Learning Experience
04:00PM - 05:00PM
Presented by :
Rayne Palmer, Auburn University, Alabama Cooperative Extension, MS-AL Sea Grant
Oyster reefs play a vital role in the ecosystem aiding in the removal of algae from the water column, providing habitat for more than 300 different species, and helping to protect the coast from erosion. The Mississippi Oyster Gardening Program is a volunteer-based project that focuses on educating citizens on the role oysters play in the environment. Volunteers, also known as “Oyster Gardeners,” receive spat set on whole shell from an oyster hatchery at the beginning of the season, typically May through June. Throughout the season (May/June – December), gardeners provide nursery phase care and protect the growing oysters by removing predators such as blue crabs, stone crabs and oyster drills from the gardens, removing biofouling such as mud and algae to optimize feeding. Gardeners track growth rates by taking and reporting oyster height measurements to the program. Established in 2016, the program is now in its fifth year of oyster gardening with 50 sites throughout coastal Mississippi. Future plans of the program include bringing lesson plans to classrooms focusing on oyster ecology and oyster anatomy to further the educational component. In addition, kiosk style displays that highlight oyster impacts on the ecosystem and how to get involved in the program will be placed in high traffic areas. To date, with a partnership among MASGC and MDMR, and funded by NFWF, the program has reached over 200 gardeners who have produced over 100,000 oysters that were planted on restoration reefs in the Mississippi Sound and represent a restorative potential of 5 acres and an economic impact of $107,155.49.
Introducing Students to the Concept of Microplastic Pollution in Local Waters
04:00PM - 05:00PM
Presented by :
Tracy Jay, Mobile County Public School System
Co-authors :
Troy Latham, Environmental Studies Center
Each year the Environmental Studies Center (ESC), which is a part of Mobile County Public Schools, holds special classes for high school Biology and Environmental Science students. This past year, the SEA ICE Program (Student Enrichment Activities in Coastal Ecology) incorporated the study of the impact of microplastics in our local waters. Working in conjunction with the Marine Debris Specialist at Mississippi State University Extension, students collected and analyzed water samples from local waters. Data was collected on the number of microplastics found and reported to an online database. Students were able to see firsthand how plastics remain in the aquatic environment and the impact they have on the ecosystem. The program was designed to bring awareness of how the global dependence of plastics negatively affects the environment and to encourage students to make better choices.
Fast-track your career as a Sea Grant Knauss Marine Policy Fellow
04:00PM - 05:00PM
Presented by :
Melissa Schneider, Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium
Co-authors :
Loretta Leist, MS-AL Sea Grant Consortium
Are you a graduate student interested in managing ocean and coastal resources? The NOAA Sea Grant John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship can allow you to work in Washington, D.C., for one year to help protect marine resources while learning more about national issues that involve natural resources. A competitive application process will match you with a federal agency or Congressional office that can benefit from your knowledge and ability to communicate science to policymakers. Knauss fellows help manage our nation’s resources, gain hands-on experience in how laws and regulations are created and implemented, learn about different career paths, develop diverse professional connections, improve leadership skills and more.
Unchartered Waters: A Multi-State Partnership to Assess Mangrove Expansion in the Northern Gulf of Mexico
04:00PM - 05:00PM
Presented by :
Ray Bodrey, UF/IFAS Extension Gulf County/Florida Sea Grant
Co-authors :
Eric Brunden
Just Cebrian, Northern Gulf Institute
Scott Jackson, UF/IFAS Extension Bay County/Florida Sea Grant
Erik Lovestrand, UF/IFAS Extension Franklin County/Florida Sea Grant
Aaron Macy, Mangrove Sighting Network
Rick O'Connor, Florida Sea Grant
Scott Phipps, Weeks Bay NERR/ADCNR
Cassy Porter, Grand Bay NERR
Mike Shelton, Weeks Bay NERR/ADCNR
Caitlin Snyder, Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve
Background: Mangroves are woody trees and shrubs that live along tropical and subtropical shorelines in both marine and brackish environments. There are 80 species found worldwide, with three species historically found in south Florida. However, coupled with environmental factors and warming in the northern Gulf of Mexico, there has been an increase in observations of mangroves in recent decades. Therefore, a baseline survey was needed to provide data on mangrove recruitment. The public was also educated about this emerging coastal shoreline topic through survey volunteerism. Purpose/Methods: Multiple agencies in Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida collaborated on this project with training and oversight from the Dauphin Island Sea Lab’s Mangrove Sighting Network Initiative Team. These agency professionals then trained and coordinated interns and volunteers to assist surveys that provided identification and mangrove locations in their respective states and counties. Trainings were conducted on monitoring protocols, basic mangrove biology, as well as identification of plants that could be mistaken for mangroves. Surveys were conducted in 100 meter transect lengths within each participating county and undertaken from spring to late summer, beginning in 2018. Results /Conclusion: Over 30 participants conducted surveys along the coast of Mississippi, Alabama, and the Florida panhandle. Though zeros were recorded for many transects, the wide search area and public education was valuable. During the last three years, over 500 mangroves were reported from the Florida panhandle, and one was found on Horn Island in Mississippi. There are plans to continue the survey effort.
A new and improved low-cost DIY wave gauge
04:00PM - 05:00PM
Presented by :
Eric Sparks , MS-AL Sea Grant; Mississippi State University
Co-authors :
Matthew Virden , Mississippi State University, Coastal Research And Extension Center
Nigel Temple , Mississippi State University
Bret Webb, University Of South Alabama
Anna Linhoss, Mississippi State University
Waves have profound effects on coastal geomorphology, but the understanding of wave climate effects on coastal ecology is limited due, in part, to the high cost of commercial wave gauges. High-cost gauges also limit the scope of coastal wave models and the ability of coastal land managers to design effective restoration, conservation and enhancement projects. To address these limitations, we built wave gauges using Arduino microcontrollers and accessories and tested their performance alongside commercial gauges (RBR Solo D 3 loggers) in a wave flume at the University of South Alabama. Results of that testing indicated agreement between the gauges was excellent in all wave channel tests with mean differences between pressure readings consistently near zero and with 95% of all differences within 1 cm of static water depth. While these gauges performed well, they were limited by their battery life (5 days measuring at 10Hz). We addressed this issue by utilizing a simpler microcontroller (Adafruit Feather 32u4 Adalogger) and modified operational coding to extend the battery life to 15 days with a smaller battery. The ability to use a smaller battery also allowed the size of the gauge housing to be reduced. A cheaper microcontroller, battery, and housing led to a decrease in DIY gauge parts cost from $300 to $160, which is 10-14x less than their commercial counterparts. Paired field deployments of the old and new DIY wave gauges in Back Bay, MS indicated that the two gauge types performed similarly with no discernable differences. Additionally, to make wave measurements as accessible as possible, we created a website (http://coastal.msstate.edu/waves) to house the parts list, operational code, how-to videos, and other materials related to the wave gauges.
04:00PM - 05:00PM
Virtual
Lightning Talks - Living Marine Resources
Format : Poster Abstracts
Track : Living Marine Resources
Speakers
John Luetzow, Econcrete Tech
Robert McGuinn, NOAA National Centers For Environmental Information (Northern Gulf Institute)
Lee Smee, Dauphin Island Sea Lab/University Of South Alabama
Mackenzie Russell, Dauphin Island Sea Lab/AL Marine Mammal Stranding Network
Christian Hayes, The University Of Southern Missisippi
Moderators
Stephen Sempier, MASGC
Although subject to long-term fluctuations and episodic anthropogenic impacts, the northern Gulf of Mexico continues to support a diversity of productive fisheries and sustain flora and fauna that are of interest to conservationists. This track will focus on the applied ecology of living resources in the Gulf of Mexico. A major challenge of working toward sustainability in this region is to balance the interests of stakeholders while continuing to develop data, models and management policies that result in long-term benefits. Potential presentation topics include research that addresses management questions necessary for sustainability of the Gulf of Mexico ranging from single species to entire ecosystems. Ecological studies help us understand the results of different management decisions and restoration activities, especially as we evaluate the consequences of natural and human-caused changes and changes to management and conservation strategies. Potential presentations for this track will allow the research community, private sector, community action groups, resource managers and NGOs to share knowledge with coastal decision-makers and increase dialogue among these groups.
Nekton Trophic Structure in Turtlegrass Ecosystems Across the Northern Gulf of Mexico
04:00PM - 05:00PM
Presented by :
Christian Hayes, The University Of Southern Missisippi
Co-authors :
Kevin Dillon, USM Division Of Coastal Sciences
M. Zachary Darnell, The University Of Southern Mississippi
Lee Smee, Dauphin Island Sea Lab/University Of South Alabama
Charles Martin, Nature Coast Biological Station, University Of Florida
Margaret Hall, Florida Fish And Wildlife Conservation Commission-Fish And Wildlife Research Institute
Bradley Furman, Florida Fish And Wildlife Conservation Commission-Fish And Wildlife Research Institute
Kelly Darnell, The University Of Southern Missisippi
Few studies have quantified trophic relationships in seagrass environments at the regional scale, making it difficult to make comparisons of trophic structures across seagrass ecosystems. We conducted a large-scale study at six sites across the northern Gulf of Mexico (Lower Laguna Madre, TX; Redfish Bay, TX; Chandeleur Islands, LA. St. George Sound, FL; Cedar Key, FL; and Charlotte Harbor, FL) during August–September 2018 to examine how trophic relationships in turtlegrass-dominated ecosystems vary across ~1500 km and 15 degrees longitude. We measured bulk carbon (δ13C) and nitrogen (δ15N) stable isotopes for 21 representative nekton species (n = 602 individuals) and 20 potential basal autotrophic carbon sources (n = 331 samples) that were common across all sites. Divergence in isotopic space and pairwise niche overlap between species and sites was evaluated using Stable Isotope Bayesian Ellipses (SIBER) and Niche Region and Niche Overlap Metrics for Multidimensional Ecological Niches (nicheROVER) techniques. Preliminary results indicate that seagrasses are an important basal carbon source for nekton species throughout the region, that variability in seagrass δ15N is similar among sites (-2.4 to 6.6), and that seagrass δ13C values may be more enriched in the western (-13.1 to -3.2) than the eastern Gulf (-18.9 to -9.6). These data provide useful information on food web structure in turtlegrass ecosystems at a macroecological scale that is directly relevant to natural resource management of these productive systems.
Sex Identification of Stranded Bottlenose Dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) Improves with Necropsy
04:00PM - 05:00PM
Presented by :
Mackenzie Russell, Dauphin Island Sea Lab/AL Marine Mammal Stranding Network
Co-authors :
Jennifer Bloodgood, Dauphin Island Sea Lab
Elizabeth Hieb, Dauphin Island Sea Lab
Ruth Carmichael, Dauphin Island Sea Lab/University Of South Alabama
Bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) strandings have been documented in Alabama since 1978, with enhanced data collection since 1996. Members of the public report sick, injured, and deceased marine mammals to the state stranding network and are asked to submit descriptions and/or photographs to confirm the species, location, and other necessary details of the stranding. One of these details is the sex of the stranded dolphin, which is vital to define mortality demographics and better understand underlying causes of death or at-risk members of a population through time. Sex identification can be difficult because dolphins lack external genitalia and internal examination (necropsy) of deceased individuals is not always possible due to scavenging, decomposition or inability to successfully salvage remains. To determine the effectiveness of the two most common sex identification methods, gross examination of photographs and necropsy, we compared sex ratios of 460 T. truncatus stranded in Alabama from 1996 to 2018. Sixty-eight percent (%) (n=313) were necropsied, of which 42% (n=131) were female, 54% (n=168) were male, and 4% (n=14) were unknown sex. Of the 147 carcasses that were not necropsied, 23% (n=34) were female, 40% (n=59) were male, and sex could not be determined for 37% (n=54) of individuals. We found that males were more easily distinguished via photograph than females because male genitalia are often distended during decomposition. The proportion of unknown sexes was lower and the proportion of female identifications was higher when animals were examined by necropsy (χ2= 67.98, p< 0.001 and p=0.003, respectively). These findings highlight the importance of necropsy and internal examination for sex determination in stranded dolphins and underscore the value of stranding response for obtaining complete demographic information needed to support cause of death determination and subsequent conservation actions.
Scared strong: predator exposure increases oyster survival
04:00PM - 05:00PM
Presented by :
Lee Smee, Dauphin Island Sea Lab/University Of South Alabama
Co-authors :
Bill Walton, AUSL
Benjamin Belgrad, Dauphin Island Sea Lab
Organisms may adjust characteristics such as behavior or morphology to reduce predation risk, but in doing so suffer reductions in growth and fecundity. To balance conflicting needs of reducing risk with energy acquisition and growth, organisms often limit expression of predator avoidance or deterrence to situations where predation risk is high. Chemical cues are often used for risk evaluation and are known to cause changes in behavior and morphology for a variety of species. We investigated morphological changes in Eastern oysters (Crassostrea virginica) in response to chemical cues from two common predators, blue crabs (Callinectes sapidus) and oyster drills (Stramonita haemastoma). We evaluated changes in shell morphology including size and strength and also assessed how morphological changes affected oyster survival in laboratory feeding assays and when exposed to a natural suite of predators. After 6 weeks, oysters exposed to both predators had significantly stronger shells. In laboratory feeding assays as well as in the field, oysters grown with either blue crabs or oyster drills had significantly lower mortality (~20%). These findings indicated that oysters use phenotypic plasticity to reduce predation risk, suggesting that predator-induced changes in oysters may be a viable strategy for improving oyster reef restoration.
The NOAA Deep Sea Coral Data Portal: A Public Resource for Research, Management, and Science Communication
04:00PM - 05:00PM
Presented by :
Robert McGuinn, NOAA National Centers For Environmental Information (Northern Gulf Institute)
Co-authors :
Melissa Partyka, AUMERC/MASGC
Heather Coleman, NOAA
Scott Cross, NOAA
Tom Hourigan, NOAA
Kirsten Larsen, NOAA NCEI
Emily Maung-Douglass, Louisiana Sea Grant
David Sallis, NOAA NCEI
Stephen Sempier, MASGC
Tara Skelton, Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium
Monica Wilson, Florida Sea Grant
For more than 50 years, Sea Grant has established collaborative relationships across the United States, linking science to application. Recently, the Gulf of Mexico Sea Grant Science Outreach Team, the National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI), and the Northern Gulf Institute (NGI) partnered to expand the use of long-term records of coastal and oceanographic data that support environmental prediction, scientific analyses, and formulation of public policy. NCEI is a leading authority for environmental information; their data stewardship maximizes NOAA’s investment in environmental research, converting scientific insights into dynamic, usable information that inform strategy and decision making in government, academia, and the private sector. The audience will learn about the Deep Sea Coral Data Portal created for NOAA Fisheries’ Deep Sea Coral Research and Technology Program (DSCRTP) by NCEI. This Portal provides access to deep sea coral and sponge data, images, and technical reports from research funded by DSCRTP and its partners. Users of the Portal’s digital map can search, discover, and download datasets from the National Deep-Sea Corals and Sponges Database. The map also features a custom search interface with filters for taxonomy, region, time frame, and depth range, and includes model overlays that project coral and sponge habitat suitability and population level projection for different locations and regions. Nearly 5 years after its initial launch, the Portal is set to undergo a rebuild. Members of NCEI, DSCRTP, and Sea Grant are seeking feedback on the utility, usability, and future needs for the Portal and its underlying databases.
The Application of ECOncrete® Bio-Enhancing Technology into Seawalls
04:00PM - 05:00PM
Presented by :
John Luetzow, Econcrete Tech
While coastal and marine infrastructure (CMI) such as ports and marinas, add a significant amount of hard substrate for marine organisms to inhabit, they do not support similar species assemblages to those of natural habitats. Standard CMI are designed and built to comply with specified engineering and operational requirements (strength, longevity etc.), and do not take into consideration ecological considerations. This leads to featureless designs, with very steep slopes, low structural complexity, and high homogeneity; all of which are rarely found in natural habitats. As a result, traditional CMI do not provide suitable conditions for the development of diverse biological assemblages and are typically dominated by nuisance and invasive species. As opposed to natural or nature-based systems that adapt and change with time, standard CMI deteriorate and become less effective in coping with new conditions resulting from long-term changes associated with global climate change. In light of predictions for an increase in human pressure on coastal zones, sea level rise and increased storminess, there is a growing global need for more adaptive, resilient environmentally sensitive CMI, especially with more countries adopting Blue Growth strategies aimed at sustainable management of coastal and marine resources. ECOncrete® - Bringing Concrete to Life ECOncrete® products fully comply with the strict requirements of coastal and marine construction, such as compressive strength, chloride penetration, and other industry standards. Yet as opposed to standard CMI, that inflict stress on coastal environments, ECOncrete® 's ecological concrete solutions enhanced biological productivity and ecological value to standard construction elements without altering their engineering functionality, reducing the ecological footprint of CMI. Not only do ECOncrete® products not compromise the structural performance of CMI, they actually improve it.
04:00PM - 05:00PM
Virtual
Lightning Talks - Resilient Communities and Economies
Format : Poster Abstracts
Track : Resilient Communities and Economies
Speakers
Cortney Cortez, The Balmoral Group
Charlene LeBleu, Auburn University
Sara Martin , Mississippi State University
John Cartwright, Mississippi State Univeristy
Renee Collini, Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium/Mississippi State University
Moderators
Sara Martin , Mississippi State University
This track will encompass natural, anthropogenic and social impacts to coastal hazard resilience and how communities adapt to these impacts. It will encourage a broad range of presentations focusing on state and local efforts to minimize environmental impacts while enhancing economic opportunities and improving resilience to both natural and technological hazards. This track will also include education and outreach efforts to raise awareness and understand climate and hazard challenges. Topics may include land policies; innovative floodplain management strategies; sustainable building design techniques and methodologies; community response and adaptation activities related to climate change, sea level rise and inundation events; and cultural and sociological impacts associated with natural and anthropogenic coastal hazards. Submissions discussing resilience-related topics, including engineering, modeling, tools, remote sensing, field-based experiments, social vulnerability indexing, and other topically-relevant behavioral science are also encouraged.
Flood Insurance and Claims: Effects of Community Rating System Activity Choices
04:00PM - 05:00PM
Presented by :
Kelvin Amon, Mississippi State University
Co-authors :
Dan Petrolia, Mississippi State University
Seong Yun, Mississippi State University
The Community Rating System (CRS) is a flood mitigation program of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). Recent research shows that the program has led to a substantial increase in flood insurance purchases and decreased claims payments, but our understanding of whether specific activities drive impacts is limited. The CRS has four major activity series: Public Information, Mapping and Regulation, Flood Damage Reduction, and Warning and Response. This work analyzes the effect that specific CRS activities have on flood insurance purchase and claims payments in four major flood-prone states: California, Florida, Louisiana, and Texas. Data were obtained from the OpenFema website between 1999-2018 and contain 3.1 million individual-level observations on flood insurance policies-in-force and 517,974 individual-level claims valued at over $15 billion. Data on CRS activity choices and credits earned were also obtained for each CRS community within these four states between 1999-2018. Credit points earned under Mapping and Regulation account for 53% of all credit points earned in these four states; Flood Damage Reduction accounts for 33%, Public Information accounts for 4%, and Warning and Response accounts 10%. We expect the results to illuminate specific activities that increase flood insurance purchases and decrease claims payments, and examine the extent to which choices appear to be driven by the incentive to reduce community flood risk, to earn insurance premium discounts, and/or minimize cost.
Finding Local Projections of Sea-Level Rise
04:00PM - 05:00PM
Presented by :
Renee Collini, Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium/Mississippi State University
As sea levels rise around the globe, adaption is becoming increasingly critical to ensure resilience of our coastal communities, ecosystems, and economies. Though sea levels are rising around the globe, sea level is not rising at the same rate everywhere. In addition to the global rise in sea level, known as eustatic sea-level rise (SLR), there are local influences that may exacerbate or slow down SLR at specific locations along our coasts. The largest example of this is vertical land motion, where uplift or sediment compaction changes the height of the land itself which can diminish or increase SLR. In the northern Gulf of Mexico, projections indicate that SLR will be about 25% greater than the global average. This means that it is critical as we consider and plan for SLR we are using locally relevant information about how much seas have risen and how much they are projected to rise for our specific location. This presentation will walk users through how to find projected rates of SLR for their city or county using a recently updated resources: www.LocalSLR.org.
Narrowing Sea-Level Rise Scenarios for Planning
04:00PM - 05:00PM
Presented by :
Renee Collini, Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium/Mississippi State University
Sea-level rise (SLR) projections have a wide range, in some locations projecting anywhere from 2 to 11 feet of SLR. This range exists due to natural variability, uncertainty in carbon emissions, and continually improving ice sheet melt science. This range can make it difficult for planners and project managers who are balancing a complex set of needs, goals, and capacities to chart a sensible pathway to resilience. Fortunately, not all SLR scenarios are equally as likely, providing power to planners. In this presentation I will quickly go over how to use risk tolerance, the exceedance probability associated with SLR scenarios, and project design life to narrow down the range of scenarios to a specific planning range.
Translating a Sea-Level Rise Projection to Future Conditions
04:00PM - 05:00PM
Presented by :
Renee Collini, Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium/Mississippi State University
Even after the range of sea-level rise (SLR) projections have been narrowed down to a planning scenario, it still requires translating the scenario into information that can be used to understand future conditions. For example, if a project for a new bridge design has a planning range of 3 ft of sea-level rise over the next 40 years, this still does not provide information that can be used in the bridge planning. The engineers, project manager, and planners need to translate the planning range (3 ft of sea-level rise) into useful information about the conditions to which the bridge will be subjected. Currently, in coastal MS and AL there are resources for understanding future high-tide and changes in storm surge. This information can be used to assess low lying areas, infrastructure that may be at risk, provide building guidance, etc. In this presentation, three different resources will be used to provide examples for translating sea-level rise scenarios into an understanding of future conditions – the NOAA SLR Viewer, the EESLR Storm Surge Story Map, and the Alabama Coastal Comprehensive Plan Story Map. The presentation will close with a brief review of how the information from these resources can be used in planning.
GeoCoast: Coastal Flooding Visualization and Decision-Support System
04:00PM - 05:00PM
Presented by :
John Cartwright, Mississippi State Univeristy
Co-authors :
John Van Der Zwaag, Mississippi State University
GeoCoast is an interactive, web-based tool that allows for the simulation of coastal flooding and sea level rise along the Mississippi Coast. GeoCoast is publicly accessible and allows users to visualize sea level rise impacts in both two-dimensional (2D) and three-dimensional (3D) environments. In each of the viewers users can identify the impacts of sea level rise on critical infrastructure, such as government and medical facilities. GeoCoast has traffic routing capabilities allowing users to view these impacts on local road networks for various, user-defined, inundation levels. The base inundation simulation in GeoCoast uses a simple linear superposition model built on QL2 lidar data collected in 2015. This base model allows users to visualize water depth across the landscape (up to 15 feet) with a simple map slider. Additionally, data layers for buildings and roadways are visualized by depth of inundation based on the selected water depth. Other data sources for flood simulation include NOAA’s sea level rise data from the Digital Coast and storm surge/flooding from ADCIRC model runs. The ADCIRC runs include hind cast data for hurricane Katrina and other significant tropical systems affecting the northern Gulf of Mexico. Current efforts are focused on expanding data simulations to include results from the Effects of Sea Level Rise in the northern Gulf of Mexico project, as well as the geography to include other areas of the northern Gulf Coast.
Living Shorelines Resources for the Gulf States
04:00PM - 05:00PM
Presented by :
Sara Martin , Mississippi State University
Co-authors :
Tracie Sempier, GOMA
Amy Gohres, Northern Gulf Of Mexico Sentinel Site Cooperative
Casey Fulford, Baldwin County Soil And Water Conservation District
Renee Collini, Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium/Mississippi State University
As living shorelines become more well-known as an alternative to shoreline armoring, the need to explain the benefits of and what living shorelines are is replaced by questions about design, permitting, and costs. To answer these questions, the Green Infrastructure Working Group (GIWG) – a sub-group of the Gulf of Mexico Climate & Resilience Community of Practice – gathered 34 environmental professionals from across the five Gulf States. Quickly, it became evident that rather than creating a new living shoreline resource, it would be more productive to gather the already existing resources in one place. The GIWG compiled these resources into an extensive repository. Next, the repository was divided into topic areas and presented at a series of workshops across the five states. At these workshops, end-users were able to give input on missing information, draft formatting, and more. Following the workshops, five state-specific living shoreline resource catalogs were created for Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida. Because these resource catalogs are somewhat technical, the GIWG also created audience-specific, living shoreline two-pagers and videos. The two-pagers include frequently asked questions with answers and links to resources for more information. The short videos feature descriptions of living shorelines, testimonials from end-users, and descriptions of the state-specific living shoreline catalogs. These three resources can be used by a variety of audiences and serve as a one-stop shop for living shoreline information, reducing the need to scour the internet for resources and instead jump into exploring them. The state-specific living shoreline resource catalogs, audience-specific living shoreline two-pagers, and the three audience-specific videos can all be found at www.GulfLivingShorelines.com.
Mitigating Stormwater Thermal Loads Using Low Impact Development SCMs
04:00PM - 05:00PM
Presented by :
Charlene LeBleu, Auburn University
Urban development contributes to alterations in the thermal regime of a watershed. Stormwater exiting urban heat islands results in thermal pollution, and may alter the ecological integrity of receiving waters. This poster reports on assessing Low Impact Development (LID) stormwater control measure impacts on the thermal characteristics of stormwater runoff in a controlled laboratory setting. Findings show that LID stormwater control measures (SCMs) such as pervious surfaces and rain gardens/bioretention can contribute in mitigating thermal loads from stormwater runoff. This laboratory study captured and infiltrated simulated stormwater runoff form four infrared heated microcosms (pervious concrete, impervious concrete, permeable concrete pavers, and turf grass), and sent the stormwater runoff through rain garden microcosms. A data logging system with thermistors located on, within and outside the microcosms was used to record stormwater runoff temperature change. The importance of this research helps established a baseline of data to study heat the removal effectiveness of LID SCMs when used alone or in a treatment train.
Economic Impacts of Water Quality Issues in the Gulf of Mexico
04:00PM - 05:00PM
Presented by :
Cortney Cortez, The Balmoral Group
Co-authors :
Craig Diamond, The Balmoral Group
Valerie Seidel, The Balmoral Group
For the past five years, Gulf of Mexico states have dealt with nearly annual appearances of massive Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) that have impacted coastal ecosystems and dependent tourism, fishing and the larger economies of communities. The research objectives of this project focused on quantifying the linkages between economic outcomes and Gulf of Mexico coastal health, specifically HABs. Results from the project were intended to enable coastal natural resource managers and their state and federal partners to quantify the economic implications for HABs (and their avoidance), and thereby assess options for restoration investment or management action. The tools developed in this project estimated economic impacts as measured by revenues, employment, wages and property values – all values that the public and official can understand. An important discovery was the critical linkage between social media metrics and economic impacts – as opposed to an assumed relationship between scientific data (in this case, HAB cell counts) and economic effects, which for the Florida Gulf Coast was weak or non-existent. To our knowledge, this was the first work to link economic impacts relating to Harmful Algal Blooms to social media activity. An online dashboard was developed and published which allows users to assess the economic impacts across time (monthly during the 2017-2019 event), geography (county, market region and state levels) and type (tourism, fishing, property values, etc.). The dashboard was designed to use publicly available data and thereby able to be replicated and transferrable to other Gulf States.
04:00PM - 05:00PM
Virtual
Lightning Talks - Water Quality and Quantity
Format : Poster Abstracts
Track : Water Quality and Quantity
Speakers
Tracy Wyman, Mississippi State University / Gulf Coast Community Design Studio
Patricia Sobecky, The University Of Alabama
Trupti Potdukhe, University Of West Florida
The bays and bayous of the coastal zone are squeezed between the land and sea, which leads to strong connections to both environments. As a result, direct modification to conditions in coastal systems and alterations to adjacent systems (e.g. watersheds, rivers, shelf waters) can affect changes in water quality. This underscores the difficulties associated with maintaining good water quality, as well as managing recreational, commercial and industrial interests that all depend on these water bodies. Increasingly frequent droughts and floods compound this difficulty, resulting in disruptions to normal patterns of freshwater availability. Potential presentations in this track include: how we assess these alterations in quality and quantity, how changes in the types and rates of terrestrial, aquatic and marine processes and activities have affected water quality, how we identify the human health and ecosystem impacts associated with these alterations, how we use this information to improve and better manage this critical resource, how we address water quality and quantity issues in formal and informal education and how we bring about behavior change to protect water quality. 
Residual rice husk char valorization as adsorbent for removal of methylene blue and ethinylestradiol from water
04:00PM - 05:00PM
Presented by :
Jonathan Lacuesta, College Of Engineering, University Of The Republic
Co-authors :
Beatriz Vega, Auburn University
Liji Sobhana, Åbo Akademi University
Dennis Kronlund, Åbo Akademi University
Jouko Peltonen, Åbo Akademi University
Soledad Gutiérrez, Universidad De La República
Pedro Fardim, KU Leuven
Rice husks (RH) are the hard-protective coverings of grains of rice and are removed from rice seeds as a side stream during the milling process. The disposal of RH generates a huge problem for rice industry since RH represents about 23% of initial rice seed weight. The valorization of this side stream could solve the disposal problem and reduce the cost of waste treatment. One possible use of the RH is to burn them as fuel for energy and vapor production. The ash obtained during that process is called rice husk ash (RHA). RHA disposal still generates high disposal costs. Different uses are considered for RHA valorization. Regarding the use of RHA as an adsorbent, previous work efforts are focused on water treatment. This concept has potential benefits on both water treatment and waste management. This work provides an assessment of the adsorption capacity of bio-chars prepared from rice husks. Rice husk char (RH-Char), pre-treated rice husk char (PT-Char) and industrial rice husk char (M-Char) are tested as adsorbents for the removal of methylene blue (MB) and ethinylestradiol (EE2). Results show that RH-Char and PT-Char present zeta-potential values near -52 mV and are rich in amorphous SiO2. M-Char shows a zeta-potential value of -32 mV and has crystalline SiO2. The bio-chars remove MB and EE2 efficiently. The adsorption capacity values for MB (in μmol/g ) are 769.2 (RH-Char), 41.2 (PT-Char), and 31.7 (M-Char). The adsorption capacity values for EE2 (in μmol/g) are: 33.1 (RH-Char), 19.1 (PT-Char), and 16.9 (M-Char). The information gathered in this work evidences the potential of rice husks bio-chars for bio-remediation and may in future contribute to the conversion of this side-stream to value-added materials.
Microbial Source Tracking in Shellfish Growing Areas
04:00PM - 05:00PM
Presented by :
Patrice Crawford, The University Of Alabama
Co-authors :
Patricia Sobecky, The University Of Alabama
Bays, estuaries, and rivers provide vital ecological, economical, and recreational services to coastal communities. These vital water bodies are under increasing pressures from urbanization, land-use changes, population growth, a changing climate, sea-level rise, and extreme weather events. Closures of shellfish harvesting (and recreational) coastal and inland waters are most often due to fecal contamination. Fecal indicator bacteria (FIB) can come from many sources; leaking sanitary sewers, pets, livestock, wildlife, and birds. Understanding the origin (source) of fecal pollution at locations where shellfish are grown is essential in assessing the associated human health risks as well as the determining actions required to manage shellfish harvesting areas. Regulatory methods for monitoring fecal contamination cannot differentiate between human and non-human fecal sources. Management and mitigation of fecal pollution entering shellfish waters would be more cost-effective if species-specific identification of the sources of fecal contamination were possible. To help address this gap, DNA-based genetic fingerprinting methods, collectively referred to as Microbial Source Tracking (MST) are gaining use, particularly as tools to supplement watershed assessments. Although MST-based studies have focused on beach and recreational waters, fewer have addressed their applicability for assessing shellfish growing areas. The overall objective of this project is to identify the species-specific source(s) of fecal contamination impairing shellfish harvesting waters in the Fowl River Bay area. Our experimental approach is to apply DNA-based source tracking methods using species-specific FIB markers for human, avian, ruminant, and domestic animal fecal bacteria present in water samples collected from designated shellfish harvesting locations in the Fowl River Bay. During this presentation, preliminary data for the applicability of a set of species-specific DNA markers for shellfish harvesting waters will be discussed.
Low Impact Development Gulf Coast : a community engagement tool to influence perceptions, practice and policy around sustainable stormwater management
04:00PM - 05:00PM
Presented by :
Tracy Wyman, Mississippi State University / Gulf Coast Community Design Studio
Low Impact Development (LID) is an approach to land development that preserves natural resources and uses natural processes in a designed approach to slow, disburse, and filter stormwater close to its source to allow for soil infiltration, thereby preventing flooding and protecting the water quality in our rivers, bays, and bayous. Commercial sites, parks, green ways, new development subdivisions, medians, and urban street-scapes all provide opportunities to take pressure off existing municipal stormwater systems through Low Impact Development strategies. This presentation will introduce the science behind Low Impact Development as a proven and economically viable stormwater management strategy that will maximize dollars being invested in downstream restoration projects. With significant resources being directed toward these restoration projects directly adjacent to the coastline, the connection between upland management strategies and activities to downstream flooding and natural water body pollution is undeniably more important now than ever. The cross-disciplinary practice of Low Impact Development stormwater management is highlighted in over 50 case studies near the Gulf Coast region in the "L.I.D. Gulf Coast" Story Map which will be showcased during this presentation. This growing collection of regional low impact development and green infrastructure projects serves as a learning tool to inspire practice, and as a catalyst for dialogue to drive sustainable stormwater management policy that will protect our natural water bodies. The audience will be invited to contribute projects to the story map collection, and to become involved in the ongoing dialogue around policy for Low Impact Development on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
Viable Vibrio vulnificus and V. parahaemolyticus in the Pensacola and Perdido Bays: Water Column, Sediments, and Invertebrate Biofilms
04:00PM - 05:00PM
Presented by :
Trupti Potdukhe, University Of West Florida
Co-authors :
Jane M Caffrey, UWF, Center For Environmental Diagnostics And Bioremediation
Michael Swords, University Of West Florida
Mackenzie Rothfus, University Of West Florida
Carrie Daniel, University Of West Florida, Center For Environmental Diagnostics And Bioremediation
Wade Jeffrey, University Of West Florida
Barbara Albrecht, University Of West Florida
Lisa Waidner, Univ. Of West Florida
Two major problematic waterborne pathogens in coastal Gulf of Mexico include Vibrio vulnificus and Vibrio parahaemolyticus. We surveyed 44 locations in 7 major basins for the abundances of these species during a cool winter month, where water temperatures ranged 12.3 – 22.2oC. Viable Vibrio species were enumerated in water column (n=44), sediments (n=43), and invertebrate biofilms (n=14) employing a chromogenic agar assay. In surface waters, V. vulnificus outnumbered V. parahaemolyticus by about 5-fold in most samples and was detected in 37 of 44 water samples, with maximum levels of 3,556 cells/mL. V. parahaemolyticus was only detected in 15 of 44 water samples, but with a maximum concentration of 8,919 cells/mL. On average, V. vulnificus outnumbered V. parahaemolyticus by 18-fold in all sediments. In all but one sediment sample, V. vulnificus was detected, with concentrations from 121 to 607,222 cells/mL. In contrast, V. parahaemolyticus were only detected in 33 of the 43 sediment samples, where concentrations ranged from 28 to 77,333 cells/mL. Of note is the positive significant correlation between V. vulnificus abundances in sediments and the salinity observed in the water column at depth (R=0.3887, p< 0.05), where bottom water salinities ranged from 2 to 28 PSU. Abundances in biofilms, collected from oyster or barnacle shells or from invertebrate worms found in sediment samples, were also evaluated. In comparing biofilm abundances on different types of shells, there was not a statistical difference between oysters (n=5) and barnacles (n=7) for V. vulnificus (p=0.675) or V. parahaemolyticus (p=0.628). This is the first study of the Pensacola Bay System enumerating viable Vibrio abundances and assessing ecological factors affecting their distributions in these 7 basins.
05:00PM - 05:15PM
15 Minute Break
05:15PM - 06:15PM
Virtual
Social Hour and Seafood Demonstrations (LIVE EVENT)
Speakers
Matthew Jargowsky, Mississippi State University & Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant
Ryan Bradley, Mississippi Commercial Fisheries United
Kay Bruening, Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium
William Walton, Auburn University Shellfish Laboratory
Moderators
LaDon Swann, Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium
During the social hour we will demonstrate how to pick a crab, shuck oysters, peel shrimp and fillet fish. Bring a beverage and snack with you for this culinary adventure.
Day 2, Dec 02, 2020
09:00AM - 10:00AM
Virtual
The Great Red Snapper Count Panel (LIVE EVENT)
Format : Panel
Speakers
Gregory Stunz, Texas A&M University Corpus Christi
Ryan Bradley, Mississippi Commercial Fisheries United
Dale Diaz, Gulf Of Mexico Fishery Management Council
Moderators
LaDon Swann, Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium
JIM FRANKS, USM-GCRL-FISHERIES CENTER
The red snapper (Lutjanus campechanus) is a popular target of the recreational and commercial fishing industries throughout the Gulf of Mexico. Historical overharvesting resulted in an overfished red snapper population. There is some disagreement among resource managers, fishermen and environmental groups surrounding the 2014 and earlier stock assessments for red snapper. Much of the disagreement centers on the accuracy of estimating the red snapper population around oil and gas platforms, artificial reefs and other structures considered to be difficult to sample using traditional sampling methods such as trawl surveys. In FY 2016, Congress directed the National Sea Grant College Program to implement a competitive research for red snapper fisheries data collections, surveys and assessments independent of the National Marine Fisheries Service. In the fall of 2017 a research team, made up of 21 scientists from 12 institutions of higher learning, a state agency and a federal agency, was awarded $9.5 million in federal funds for the project; with matching funds from the universities, the project will total $12 million. This panel will include scientists, fishermen and resource managers who will discuss the role of science in informing fisheries managers.
10:00AM - 11:30AM
Virtual
Disasters and Disruptions - Oil Spill (Oral)
Format : Oral Abstracts
Track : Disasters and Disruptions
Speakers
Kelly Swindle, Alabama Department Of COnservation And Natural Resources
Jessie Kastler, University Of Southern Mississippi
Melissa Partyka, AUMERC/MASGC
Moderators
Stephen Sempier, MASGC
The Gulf Coast has experienced - and is experiencing - a variety of disasters and disruptions from the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster (this year being the 10th anniversary), major hurricanes, freshwater inflow events, such as the opening of the Bonnet Carré Spillway and the ongoing COVID-19 health pandemic. For some of these disasters and disruptions, we have a better understanding of human and ecological recovery, with restoration efforts underway or planned to advance recovery. For others, our knowledge of the impacts and the recovery process is more limited. Topics in this track may include new research, perspectives and/or updates on human and ecological impacts, restoration, extension and education and outreach-related discoveries related to these and other major disruptions and disasters affecting the Gulf Coast.
Synthesizing oil spill science syntheses: A collaborative effort between the Gulf Sea Grant Programs and the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative
10:00AM - 10:15AM
Presented by :
Melissa Partyka, AUMERC/MASGC
Co-authors :
Danielle Bailey, Texas Sea Grant
Emily Maung-Douglass, Louisiana Sea Grant
Stephen Sempier, MASGC
Tara Skelton, Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium
Monica Wilson, Florida Sea Grant
The Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI) was founded in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill (DWH) with a commitment of $500 million in non-penalty funds by BP to conduct science to understand the impacts of oil spills on the environment and to public health. Now in its tenth and final year, GoMRI leadership and investigators are wrapping up ongoing projects and synthesizing the enormous amount of research collected over the past decade. Specifically, the goal of GoMRI’s synthesis effort has been to answer five key questions: What was the state of the science before Deepwater Horizon? What have we learned? What major gaps in knowledge still exist? How can we best apply what we have learned? Where do we go from here? To that end, GoMRI developed eight Core Areas of scientific focus aligned with GoMRI research themes. Leads for these Core Areas held a series of workshops designed to be working sessions to aggregate all research results in the Core Area, eventually leading to published reports and research articles. In 2014, GoMRI partnered with the four Gulf of Mexico Sea Grant Programs to create the Oil Spill Science Outreach Team. The team’s mission has been to conduct extension and outreach activities within the Gulf of Mexico and beyond to bring the science of oil spills to people whose livelihoods depend on a healthy Gulf. As the synthesis activities have progressed, members of the team have worked closely with the Core Area leaders to begin developing outreach publications that consolidate, summarize, and improve public access to 10 years of synthesized science and discovery. Audience members will learn about the results of GoMRI’s synthesis efforts that have helped society better understand oil spills and impacts of DWH to the Gulf of Mexico.
Preparing for oil spills: Results of a workshop series focused on regional social, economic, and human health needs
10:15AM - 10:30AM
Presented by :
Melissa Partyka, AUMERC/MASGC
Co-authors :
Danielle Bailey, Texas Sea Grant
Emily Maung-Douglass, Louisiana Sea Grant
Stephen Sempier, MASGC
Tara Skelton, Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium
Monica Wilson, Florida Sea Grant
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine Gulf Research Program’s (GRP) Thriving Communities Initiative seeks to improve the quality, accessibility, and use of information about how to protect communities from the impacts of oil spills. During a 2017 workshop, the GRP identified the need to collect input at a regional level to determine ways to support preparedness around the country. Since 2014, the Gulf Sea Grant Oil Spill Science Outreach Team (Team) has conducted outreach activities within the Gulf of Mexico and beyond, bringing the science of oil spills to communities, making the Team well-positioned to assist the GRP in these efforts. In 2018, the Team partnered with the GRP and Sea Grant programs around the country to co-host a series of regional workshops. These workshops– held in partnership with Alaska Sea Grant College Program, Virginia Sea Grant College Program, and University of Southern California Sea Grant Program – addressed three topical areas related to oil spills: social disruption, economic impacts, and public health. Each workshop was organized with the express goal of identifying region-specific outreach and research needs, potential pilot programs, and possible modifications to existing response protocols that would improve oil spill preparation in those communities. The discussions generated during the workshops were summarized into individual reports, which were synthesized into a document to be utilized by the GRP to inform future funding decisions. Session attendees can expect to hear some of the universal needs and concerns raised by workshop participants, needs unique to communities in the Northern Gulf of Mexico, and results of an evaluation of the workshop series.
Deepwater Horizon – Teaching About a Disaster During a Disruption
10:30AM - 10:45AM
Presented by :
Jessie Kastler, University Of Southern Mississippi
Co-authors :
Laura Blackmon, USM Marine Education Center
On April 20, 2005, The Deepwater Horizon rig exploded, claiming 11 human lives, and initiating an 87-day-long oil spill, a cross-habitat ecological event, and an unparalleled research effort that continues today. Alongside cross-disciplinary scientists addressing environmental questions raised by the spill, educators have engaged diverse groups of interested people in learning about the Gulf of Mexico and the impacts of the oil spill. The University of Southern Mississippi Marine Education Center undertook a variety of efforts to communicate oil spill science: collaborating with researchers to share their work and collaborating with other educators to facilitate teaching research results. Several of these activities addressed teachers. The 2019 dedicated issue of Current, The Journal of Marine Education featuring ‘GoMRI Research Resulting from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill’ was created collaboratively by GoMRI outreach coordinators. It offers research literature reviews that address several topics of interest to the public at a level accessible to teachers. The issue was featured in teacher professional development held virtually April 24-25. The teacher workshop, ‘Oil Spill Science: 10-year Review,’ was scheduled as a face-to-face experience including outdoor learning. The workshop took place completely online five weeks after the MEC began working remotely. Although some teachers cancelled participation because of their own remote working challenges, others requested MEC assistance in meeting their virtual instruction challenges. Through presentations by three speakers, participants gained insight into ecological impacts of the oil spill and explored the process of science using current oil spill research as an illustration. They worked in online teams to complete a project to explain how a specific topic illustrates process of science. Lessons learned through this program continue to inform MEC development of virtual education programs.
Post-Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Natural Resource Damage Assessment Restoration in Alabama
10:45AM - 11:00AM
Presented by :
Kelly Swindle, Alabama Department Of COnservation And Natural Resources
The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, in partnership with the other Alabama Trustee Implementation Group (AL TIG) members, has been implementing Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) restoration projects since 2016 with fines paid under the Oil Pollution Act. The other AL TIG members are the U.S. Department of Interior, U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. To date, implementation has begun on 39 NRDA funded restoration projects in Coastal Alabama. NRDA early restoration funded 8 projects prior to the April 2016 Consent Decree with BPXP. Post-settlement, the AL TIG has approved 3 Restoration Plans containing a total of 35 projects. These restoration projects aim to address injuries to sea turtles; marine mammals; birds; oysters; wetlands, coastal, and nearshore habitats; non-point source nutrient reduction; and recreational use. This presentation will provide a history of the NRDA process in Alabama, including the project screening and selection process, and will highlight several active projects that demonstrate the role of science in restoration decision making. Projects included in the discussion will include the Coastal Alabama Sea Turtle (CAST) Habitat Usage and Population Dynamics, Coastal Alabama Sea Turtle (CAST) Triage Center, Bayfront Park Restoration and Improvements, Assessment of Alabama Estuarine Bottlenose Dolphin Populations and Health, Colonial Nesting Wading Bird Tracking and Habitat Use Assessment—Two Species, and Oyster Hatchery at Claude Peteet Mariculture Center—High Spat Production With Study.
10:00AM - 11:30AM
Virtual
Living Marine Resources - Marine Mammals (Oral)
Format : Oral Abstracts
Track : Living Marine Resources
Speakers
Cristina Clark, Dauphin Island Sea Lab/AL Marine Mammal Stranding Network
Allison Hernandez, NMFS
Elizabeth Hieb, Dauphin Island Sea Lab
Carl Cloyed, Dauphin Island Sea Lab
Jennifer Bloodgood, Dauphin Island Sea Lab
Matthew Hodanbosi, University Of South Alabama/Dauphin Island Sea Lab
Although subject to long-term fluctuations and episodic anthropogenic impacts, the northern Gulf of Mexico continues to support a diversity of productive fisheries and sustain flora and fauna that are of interest to conservationists. This track will focus on the applied ecology of living resources in the Gulf of Mexico. A major challenge of working toward sustainability in this region is to balance the interests of stakeholders while continuing to develop data, models and management policies that result in long-term benefits. Potential presentation topics include research that addresses management questions necessary for sustainability of the Gulf of Mexico ranging from single species to entire ecosystems. Ecological studies help us understand the results of different management decisions and restoration activities, especially as we evaluate the consequences of natural and human-caused changes and changes to management and conservation strategies. Potential presentations for this track will allow the research community, private sector, community action groups, resource managers and NGOs to share knowledge with coastal decision-makers and increase dialogue among these groups.
Spatial Variation in Size of Stranded Common Bottlenose Dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) in the Northern Gulf of Mexico
10:00AM - 10:15AM
Presented by :
Matthew Hodanbosi, University Of South Alabama/Dauphin Island Sea Lab
Co-authors :
Ruth Carmichael, Dauphin Island Sea Lab/University Of South Alabama
Basic demographic data such as size variation in a stranded population can provide critical information about population dynamics, particularly for highly mobile marine mammals that can be difficult or costly to directly monitor. The common bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) is found in coastal and nearshore environments throughout the world and is the most commonly stranded marine mammal along the northern Gulf of Mexico (GOM) coast. Size frequency distributions of dolphin populations and relationships to established age classes (i.e.; perinate, yearling, calf, subadult, adult) are poorly documented, but have potential to vary among geographic regions, making these data essential to set baselines and detect changes in population demographics through time. To determine the difference in size distributions of stranded dolphins in the GOM, we analyzed straight length and location data for dolphins stranded between 2008 and 2019 for the US portion of the GOM as a whole and individually for each GOM state (Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida Gulf Coast). Chi-squared tests and mixture distribution analyses were performed on data in 8 cm bins. Louisiana, Mississippi, and Florida had different frequency distributions compared to the whole GOM (Chi-squared; p< 0.001). Texas, Mississippi, and Alabama had a greater proportion of perinate and neonate strandings than the whole GOM, suggesting lower reproductive success rates in these states. Three normal distributions were fit to the size frequency data for each state with means of 102.5±3.6, 197.7±7.4, and 249.8±4.6 cm, providing evidence that size within age class varies little between states. These findings indicate population demographics of dolphins spatially vary within the GOM but not along a continuous geographic spectrum. Future research is needed to determine which environmental factors most contribute to the consistency (size at age) and variation (stranding frequency within an age class) in GOM-wide demographic patterns of stranded dolphins.
Cause of Death and Prevalence of Brucella spp. and Morbillivirus spp. in Bottlenose Dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) in Alabama, 2015 – 2020
10:15AM - 10:30AM
Presented by :
Jennifer Bloodgood, Dauphin Island Sea Lab
Co-authors :
Alissa Deming, Pacific Marine Mammal Center
Kathleen Colegrove, Zoological Pathology Program, College Of Veterinary Medicine, University Of Illinois At Urbana-Champaign
Mackenzie Russell, Dauphin Island Sea Lab/AL Marine Mammal Stranding Network
Cristina Clark, Dauphin Island Sea Lab/AL Marine Mammal Stranding Network
Ruth Carmichael, Dauphin Island Sea Lab/University Of South Alabama
Mortality investigation for bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) stranded on the Alabama coast increased from 2010 to 2014 during the northern Gulf of Mexico unusual mortality event (UME) associated with the Deepwater Horizon oil spill (DWHOS). Cause of death (COD) patterns since that event have not been published and baseline prevalence of Brucella and morbillivirus, two infectious diseases previously reported in bottlenose dolphins in this region, are lacking for this population. We analyzed stranding records (n=225) of bottlenose dolphins in Alabama from 2015 to 2020 to determine COD and prevalence of Brucella spp. and morbillivirus spp. Cause of death was determined using gross necropsy and histological findings. To determine prevalence of Brucella and morbillivirus infections in stranded animals, a subset of individuals was selected for molecular testing. Necropsies were completed on 181 dolphins, and histology data were available for 63 of those animals to date. Cause of death was grouped into 7 general categories, including human and fisheries interaction, infectious, organ failure, prolonged freshwater exposure, trauma, multifactorial, and unknown. Unknown was further divided into those with poor and good body condition and those with evidence of fetal distress. Advanced decomposition limited COD determination in many individuals, however, fisheries interaction (n=8) was the most often confirmed cause. Morbillivirus was detected in 0% of samples tested (n=68), and Brucella was detected in 20% of samples tested (n=70). Brucella was detected in some moderately to severely decomposed carcasses, indicating that it may be feasible to test a broader range of stranded animals than previously assumed. This study provides valuable information on COD trends in bottlenose dolphins in Alabama since the DWHOS and is the first to establish baseline prevalence of two common infectious diseases in stranded animals from this population.
Specialization of a mobile, apex predator affects trophic coupling among adjacent habitats
10:30AM - 10:45AM
Presented by :
Carl Cloyed, Dauphin Island Sea Lab
Co-authors :
Rachel Wilson, Florida State University
Brian Balmer, National Marine Mammal Foundation
Aleta Hohn, NOAA
Lori Schwacke, National Marine Mammal Foundation
Eric Zolman, National Marine Mammal Foundation
Mandy Tumlin, Louisiana Department Of Fish And Wildlife
Randall Wells, Mote Marine Laboratory
Aaron Barleycorn, Mote Marine Laboratory
Ruth Carmichael, Dauphin Island Sea Lab/University Of South Alabama
Mobile, apex predators are commonly assumed to stabilize food webs through trophic coupling across spatially distinct habitats. The assumption that trophic coupling is common remains largely untested, despite evidence that individual behaviors of these predators might limit trophic coupling. We used stable isotope data from common bottlenose dolphins across the northern and eastern Gulf of Mexico to determine if these apex predators coupled estuarine and adjacent, nearshore marine habitats. 13C values differed among the sites, likely driven by environmental factors that varied at each site, such as freshwater input and seagrass cover. Within most sites, 13C values differed such that dolphins sampled inside and in the upper reaches of embayments had values indicative of estuarine habitats while those sampled outside or in lower reaches of embayments had values indicative of marine habitats. 15N values were more similar among and within sites than 13C values. Data from multiple tissues within individuals corroborated that most dolphins consistently used a narrow range of habitats but fed at similar trophic levels in estuarine and marine habitats. Individual habitat specialization in these dolphins maintained trophic compartments between estuarine and adjacent marine habitats at a regional scale, challenging the notion that trophic coupling by mobile, apex predators is widespread and common.
Impacts of in-water construction on West Indian manatees in the northern Gulf of Mexico
10:45AM - 11:00AM
Presented by :
Elizabeth Hieb, Dauphin Island Sea Lab
Co-authors :
Ruth Carmichael, Dauphin Island Sea Lab/University Of South Alabama
The West Indian manatee, which lives at the interface of freshwater and marine systems, can serve as a representative model for potential vulnerability of nearshore species to in-water construction activities. In coastal Alabama, planned construction projects including the Mobile River Bridge and Bayway widening and Mobile ship channel expansion may impact individual manatees as well as habitat resources and migration pathways. Direct impacts to manatees such as vessel interactions, entanglement or ingestion of construction materials, and entrainment may result in acute physical injury or mortality. Indirect impacts from construction such as habitat obstruction or degradation and increased noise from construction activities can alter behavior and intra-species communication and reduce access to essential resources. While permitting requirements for in-water construction projects help to mitigate risks, manatees may be particularly vulnerable in areas like the northern Gulf of Mexico where manatee occurrence has increased in recent years and relatively few data are available on abundance and distribution. Some impacts of construction may be immediately difficult to quantify, but planned operations can implement and evaluate a variety of mitigation strategies pre-, during, and post-construction to prevent large-scale negative outcomes. As human populations increasingly occupy coastal zones across the globe, effective planning of coastal development and in-water construction of bridges, marinas, boat launches, and other infrastructure will be essential to support conservation efforts for manatees and other species at-risk in affected areas.
Stranding trends and skin lesion prevalence of bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) exposed to a freshwater input event in Mobile Bay, AL
11:00AM - 11:15AM
Presented by :
Cristina Clark, Dauphin Island Sea Lab/AL Marine Mammal Stranding Network
Co-authors :
Mackenzie Russell, Dauphin Island Sea Lab/AL Marine Mammal Stranding Network
Alissa Deming, Pacific Marine Mammal Center
Jennifer Bloodgood, Dauphin Island Sea Lab
Ruth Carmichael, Dauphin Island Sea Lab/University Of South Alabama
An increased number of bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) with skin lesions indicative of freshwater exposure stranded in Alabama during Spring 2020. Little is known about the salinity threshold and length of exposure required for lesions to appear. Grossly, these lesions present acutely as combinations of pale, proliferative skin with areas of ulceration and erosions. These lesions progress to multifocal to coalescing erosions with blubber involvement and algal matting in presumably more chronic cases. In this study, stranding location, sex, age class, and presence/absence of skin lesions were analyzed for freshly dead and moderately decomposed dolphins (n=39) stranded between 1 Jan to 31 Aug 2020. Sixteen animals were not included in this study due to advanced state of decomposition. Discharge from the Alabama and Tombigbee Rivers and salinity data from Dauphin Island were examined during the same period to identify freshwater influx trends. A 40-year flood occurred in Mobile Bay between February and March, with the highest rate of discharge occurring in February, 2.4x greater than the 6-month average, and the lowest salinity occurring in March, 8 psu lower than the 6-month average. Fifty-one percent (20/39) of T. truncatus examined had evidence of freshwater-associated lesions. Prevalence of lesions was highest in adults (13 adults, 6 subadults, 1 calf), but did not differ between sexes. Individuals with freshwater lesions primarily stranded in April (n=13) and were more likely to strand in Mobile Bay (n=17) than in the Gulf of Mexico (n=1). The prevalence of freshwater-associated lesions on dolphins stranded in the Mobile Bay estuary, the fourth largest freshwater drainage system in the country, demands further investigation and highlights the importance of stranding response and skin lesion documentation, especially in times of environmental disruptions.
Vessel strike risk to sperm whales and Bryde’s whales in the Gulf of Mexico
11:15AM - 11:30AM
Presented by :
Allison Hernandez, NMFS
Co-authors :
Eric Patterson, NMFS
Jeff Adams, NMFS
Vessel strikes are one of the leading causes of human-related mortality for large whales. In the Gulf of Mexico, there is a high volume of vessel traffic from commercial shipping, fishing, recreation, oil and gas, and military vessels. This puts the sperm whale and the Gulf of Mexico Bryde's whale, both of which are listed as endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act, at risk of vessel strikes. To date, the magnitude and spatial extent of this risk is poorly understood. We quantified spatially-explicit vessel strike risk in the Gulf of Mexico for these two large whale species by combining several years of Automatic Identification System (AIS) vessel data with modeled species distribution data. Our analysis of the AIS data confirmed a large amount of vessel traffic in the Gulf of Mexico, a substantial portion of which was attributed to the oil and gas industry. Spatial analyses of the co-occurrence of vessel traffic and species distribution data indicated that Bryde’s whales face considerable vessel strike risk near De Soto Canyon and on the West Florida shelf, while sperm whales face elevated vessel strike risk in shipping lanes associated with the ports of Galveston and Port Arthur, Texas. For both species, the risk of lethal vessel strike is also high off the coast of Louisiana, near the Mississippi Canyon. This work represents one of the first attempts to quantify the spatially-explicit vessel strike risk for the Gulf of Mexico’s two resident large whales species. The identified areas of higher risk can help managers prioritize where mitigation measures can be implemented to reduce the risk of vessel strikes for both sperm whales and the Gulf of Mexico Bryde's whale.
10:00AM - 11:30AM
Virtual
Healthy Coastal Ecosystems - Wetland Ecology (Oral)
Format : Oral Abstracts
Track : Healthy Coastal Ecosystems
Speakers
Christian Miller, Mobile Bay National Estuary Program
Clayton W. Hale, Department Of Forestry, Mississippi State University
Emelia Marshall, The University Of Southern Mississippi
Madelyn McFarland, Mississippi State University
Development, resource extraction, climate change and other anthropogenic stressors on coastal ecosystems are issues of management concern. Scientists and stakeholders are attempting to understand such impacts and find integrative coastal management strategies. The seascape changes that may occur to coastal habitats because of these stressors can be dire. For example, changes in the hydrogeomorphology of a landscape combined impacts of subsidence, sea level rise and alterations in freshwater flow may have negative impacts on coastal habitats. They may also have cascading impacts on the many species residing in these habitats. The focus of this track is to present research, policy and educational opportunities and tools that have been used to improve our understanding of habitat vulnerability. This track is intended to provide a venue for scientists and managers to share their insights about habitat protection, conservation and restoration in light of the inevitable changes to our coasts. 
Avian Use of Marsh Terraces in Gulf Coastal Wetlands
10:00AM - 10:15AM
Presented by :
Madelyn McFarland, Mississippi State University
Co-authors :
Brian Davis, Mississippi State University
Michael Brasher, Ducks Unlimited Inc
Mark S. Woodrey, Mississippi State University
Larry Reynolds, Louisiana Department Of Wildlife And Fisheries
Gulf of Mexico coastal wetlands support millions of migratory birds annually. However, between 2004 and 2009, Gulf states have experienced 71% of the total decline of coastal wetlands within the conterminous United States with Louisiana accounting for most of this loss. Marsh terracing is one method used to combat coastal wetland loss. This restoration technique uses in situ sediment to construct segmented ridges in open water areas of shallow coastal wetlands to dissipate erosive wave energy, reduce turbidity, increase submerged aquatic vegetation production, and create habitat for a diversity of avian species. Despite widespread use of marsh terraces in coastal restoration, research on their value as bird habitat is limited and inconclusive. Using both ground and aerial surveys, our study evaluates avian use of marsh terraces across multiple paired sites (terraced and non-terraced) in coastal Louisiana. Surveys focused on two guilds of birds: breeding secretive marsh birds and wintering waterfowl. Preliminary results from our first field season indicated: 1) terraced sites were used predominately by non-focal species such as red-winged blackbirds, 2) low use of terraced sites by focal marsh bird species, 3) and generally low use of terraced and non-terraced sites by wintering waterfowl, although species abundances varied in space and time. Field efforts are ongoing, and data collection will be completed by July 2021. Future analysis will examine relationship between avian use and habitat characteristics of study sties (e.g., submerged aquatic vegetation, diversity and structure of emergent vegetation). Marsh complexes throughout the Gulf region, including the “Biloxi” marshes in southeastern Louisiana and southwestern Mississippi, continue to experience significant marsh loss. Our results will better inform decisions on restoration techniques used to minimize marsh loss and improve bird habitat at local and regional scales.
Evaluating Functional and Trophic Equivalence of Restored Marshes on Deer Island, MS
10:15AM - 10:30AM
Presented by :
Emelia Marshall, The University Of Southern Mississippi
Co-authors :
M. Zachary Darnell, The University Of Southern Mississippi
Patrick Biber, The University Of Southern Missisippi
Kevin Dillon, USM Division Of Coastal Sciences
Monotypic stands of Juncus roemerianus dominate the marshes of Mississippi and other areas in the northeastern Gulf of Mexico. Although Juncus-dominated marshes are common in this region, few studies examined the effects of restoration efforts on faunal inhabitants of these marsh ecosystems. Deer Island is a remnant island off the coast of Biloxi, Mississippi and has been subject to erosion and morphological changes since the 1850s resulting in a loss of one third its original footprint. Restoration projects began on the island in 2003 to restore the Juncus-dominated landscape, hydrology, soil characteristics, and community structure in hopes of enhancing ecological functions such carbon sequestration and fisheries support. To assess the outcome of these restoration efforts, this study examined environmental characteristics, faunal community structure, and trophic support in two restored marshes (5+ yrs old and 15+ yrs old) and a natural reference marsh (100+ yrs old). Transect sampling targeted fiddler crabs, periwinkles, olive snails, and ribbed mussels on the marsh surface, while minnow trap sampling in submerged areas targeted nekton. Invertebrate abundances along the transects were significantly higher in the natural marsh. Nekton abundance, species richness, and Simpson’s index of diversity varied by site and season. We used mixed effects models to observe these differences as a function of percent Juncus cover and total vegetation cover. Stable isotope analysis (SIA) will provide insight as to whether Juncus is a primary basal carbon source for consumers and how energy is transferred through food webs in the restored marshes compared to the natural marsh. Our assessment of consumer community structure, combined with previous studies evaluating environmental and vegetative characteristics provide a thorough assessment of restoration efforts on Deer Island, MS and gives insight into future restoration projects on Juncus-dominated marshes in this area.
From Devastation to Regeneration: Atlantic White-Cedar Regeneration 14 Years Post- Hurricane Katrina
10:30AM - 10:45AM
Presented by :
Clayton W. Hale, Department Of Forestry, Mississippi State University
Co-authors :
Joshua J. Granger, Department Of Forestry, Mississippi State University
The number and severity of hurricanes in the Gulf Coast are increasing, resulting in intensified disturbance to coastal forest communities. Atlantic white-cedar (Chamaecyparis thyoides) grows no further than one hundred miles from the coast, making the species and associated plant communities particularly vulnerable to large-scale disturbances such as hurricanes. Occurring primarily along the Atlantic Coast from Maine to Florida, this species does form isolated communities along the Gulf Coast regions of Florida, Alabama, and Mississippi. Atlantic white-cedar is imperiled and at risk of extirpation by extreme weather events, altered disturbance regimes, changes in hydrology, and management. The primary objective of this study was to evaluate the recovery of Atlantic white-cedar 14-years post-Hurricane Katrina. Pre- and post- Hurricane Katrina data were compared with recent data to determine how Southern Mississippi’s Atlantic white-cedar has recovered post-Hurricane Katrina. All Atlantic white-cedar ≥ 2.5 cm at breast height (1.37 m) were inventoried within a ~4.85 ha study area located within Grand Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Jackson County, Mississippi. This inventory was compared with data obtained after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 to evaluate the long-term impacts of hurricanes on the stand density for this species. Following the 2005 hurricane, Atlantic white-cedar has increased in density across the study site. This increase was spatially correlated with wind damaged and toppled trees previously recorded within this population just after the hurricane. The structural changes caused by the hurricane disturbance supported the regeneration of this imperiled species. Understanding the long-term recovery of Atlantic white-cedar allows land managers and conservationists to more effectively manage for the species on the landscape.
Island Apple Snail Management in Langan Park
10:45AM - 11:00AM
Presented by :
Christian Miller, Mobile Bay National Estuary Program
Co-authors :
Katie Dylewski, Mobile Bay National Estuary Program
The Mobile Bay National Estuary Program has been implementing a comprehensive management strategy to reduce the population of Island Apple Snails in an urban watershed in Mobile, Alabama. Invasive species management was identified as a priority for habitat restoration in the Three Mile Creek Watershed Management Plan published in 2014. In 2019, RESTORE Act funds were secured by the MBNEP to develop an Invasive Species Control Plan for the Three Mile Creek Watershed, which outlined strategies to manage invasive plants and the iconic invader, the Island Apple Snail. In 2020, MBNEP began implementing the Plan to control these prolific breeders in Langan/Municipal Park lakes, considered to be the source of the snail population in the Watershed. MBNEP and partners are using a multi-pronged approach including biweekly mechanical egg mass removal and opportunistic adult collection, extensive habitat management through herbicide application to manage lake vegetation and reduce egg-laying opportunities, and chemical control with chelated copper to kill adults. In addition, trapping of Island Apple Snails is being conducted by the University of South Alabama to monitor and track population abundance throughout the lakes pre- and post- copper treatments. Results of management efforts to date will be presented coupled with preliminary Island Apple Snail monitoring trends. Community partnerships will also be highlighted to show the level of collaboration required to effectively control such an aggressive invasive species.
10:00AM - 11:30AM
Virtual
Resilient Communities and Economies - Flooding (Oral)
Format : Oral Abstracts
Track : Resilient Communities and Economies
Speakers
Brenna Sweetman, NOAA Office For Coastal Management
Liya Abera, The University Of Mississippi
Hal Needham, Catastrophe & National Claims
Mikaela Heming, MS-AL Sea Grant; Mississippi State University
Stephen Deal, Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium
This track will encompass natural, anthropogenic and social impacts to coastal hazard resilience and how communities adapt to these impacts. It will encourage a broad range of presentations focusing on state and local efforts to minimize environmental impacts while enhancing economic opportunities and improving resilience to both natural and technological hazards. This track will also include education and outreach efforts to raise awareness and understand climate and hazard challenges. Topics may include land policies; innovative floodplain management strategies; sustainable building design techniques and methodologies; community response and adaptation activities related to climate change, sea level rise and inundation events; and cultural and sociological impacts associated with natural and anthropogenic coastal hazards. Submissions discussing resilience-related topics, including engineering, modeling, tools, remote sensing, field-based experiments, social vulnerability indexing, and other topically-relevant behavioral science are also encouraged.
Improving Flood Outreach Through the Program for Public Information: A Case Study from Orange Beach
10:00AM - 10:15AM
Presented by :
Stephen Deal, Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium
Presentation will highlight the steps taken to formally adopt a Program for Public Information in the city of Orange Beach, Alabama. The Program for Public Information, also known as a PPI, is a public policy approach developed by FEMA to better coordinate flood risk and communication at the local level. Participants in the session will learn how sea grant staff worked with the city of Orange Beach to develop a systematic approach targeting local stakeholders and developing messages tailored to specific local audiences and their communication needs. Information will also be shared about how sea grant products, such as the enhanced Coastal Resilience Index, were used to facilitate information gathering on the city's existing flood outreach and other CRS activities. In addition to outlining the PPI process, the presentation will also explore how flood outreach activities were integrated into a broader discussion on city resilience needs.
Show, Don't Tell: Encouraging Resilience to Future Flooding in the Northern Gulf of Mexico
10:15AM - 10:30AM
Presented by :
Mikaela Heming, MS-AL Sea Grant; Mississippi State University
Co-authors :
Renee Collini, Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium/Mississippi State University
The Gulf of Mexico is an area of rich culture and beautiful coastlines; however, coastal living comes with ever-increasing risk. Communities are already experiencing increased flooding and exacerbated storm surge due in part to sea-level rise (SLR). Many Gulf communities are already taking steps to become more resilient to current and future hazards, helping them bounce back after storms or to be ready for future conditions. Through a series of short films, the Resilience to Future Flooding video project seeks to show northern Gulf coastal audiences (i.e., local and county government, coastal trainers, nonprofits, and regional planners within Mississippi, Alabama, and northwest Florida) what sea-level rise is, its potential impacts, and what Gulf Coast communities are already doing about it. The films generated in this project are intentionally short, around 5 minutes, and were developed with extensive input from an Advisory Committee comprised of target audience sectors. Three ‘101’ films cover basic information about SLR in the northern Gulf, how SLR will change storm surge, and information on how SLR can be integrated into planning. There is also a series of case studies that showcase five Gulf communities that have taken on various adaptation and preparedness strategies, oftentimes without a primary or direct goal of enhancing their resilience to SLR. Each video includes content to make it more relevant to one of the northern Gulf states (Mississippi, Alabama, or northwest Florida). Through the combined use of local references and hearing directly from the communities, these case studies effectively encourage other communities to implement their own resilience projects. During the presentation, the project will be summarized, a description of how best to utilize these tools will be shared, and a video will be shown.
On-the-Ground Resilience to Future Flooding
10:30AM - 10:45AM
Presented by :
Hal Needham, Catastrophe & National Claims
Co-authors :
Mikaela Heming, MS-AL Sea Grant; Mississippi State University
Renee Collini, Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium/Mississippi State University
Casey Fulford, Alabama Soil & Water Conservation Committee
On-the-ground resilience to current and future flooding takes many different forms and can look like direct or indirect actions, specific or broad plans, and immediate or long-term planned activities. A recently completed series of short films demonstrates this diversity through five unique case studies of Gulf Coast communities increasing their flood resilience in various ways. The same project that developed these short films also provided funding for additional communities to take action in the northern Gulf of Mexico. This presentation will showcase two of these ongoing projects. The first example, from Magnolia River in Alabama, seeks to address flooding concerns now and in the future while simultaneously reducing sedimentation and pollution via constructed wetlands on the river uplands. This project provides a necessary feasibility study to assess if this could work and, if so, how the wetland should be constructed to maximize effectiveness. The second example is from Biloxi, Mississippi, where they developed a building elevation database and constructed a comprehensive storm surge history for the city. These data provide a more accurate and detailed analysis of flood risk under current and future flood scenarios (e.g., storm surge with sea-level rise). Both of these examples highlight unique ways that future flood resilience can be tailored to address the specific needs faced by different communities. In this presentation, a short introduction to the overall Resilience to Future Flooding project will be provided with more detailed presentations from the respective leads of the Alabama and Mississippi projects.
Determining Implementation Barriers for Green infrastructure for Coastal Flood Control
10:45AM - 11:00AM
Presented by :
Liya Abera, The University Of Mississippi
Co-authors :
Cristiane Surbeck, University Of Mississippi
Kristina Alexander, Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Legal Program
Coastal cities suffer from flooding in part due to increased impervious surfaces from construction and development projects. One way to curb flooding is to install green stormwater infrastructure (GSI). But a few barriers prevent the installation of GSI: technical uncertainty, city ordinances, and the costs of constructing and maintaining those systems. Our team of engineers and attorneys is assessing GSI implementation, including evaluating the effectiveness of GSI techniques to prevent flooding, conducting life-cycle cost assessments, and analyzing whether city ordinances pose a legal or economic barrier to implementing GSI in communities in the Northern Gulf of Mexico. We have selected two properties to analyze: one in Orange Beach, AL and one in Biloxi, MS. The main goal of this project is to help communities become more resilient to flooding. During the 2-year project funded by the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium, the project team will work on the following objectives: (1) estimate changes in potential floodwater volumes based on different stormwater control structures imposed by city ordinances; (2) estimate construction and long-term operation and maintenance costs for stormwater infrastructure, including GSI, based on current and potential future versions of city ordinances; (3) determine at what point the city ordinances or regulatory requirements for GSI increase life-cycle costs to the point that it is not practical to build; and (4) propose modified ordinances to include flexible GSI options for communities to improve their resilience to climate change and their FEMA Community Rating System flood impact reduction scores. The presentation will discuss the scope of the project and what has been learned at this point, emphasizing information useful to Northern Gulf cities regarding mapping and what data are being used. The presentation will also discuss what information is sought from Orange Beach and Biloxi zoning and stormwater ordinances.
Adapting Stormwater Management For Coastal Floods: New User-Driven Improvements
11:00AM - 11:15AM
Presented by :
Brenna Sweetman, NOAA Office For Coastal Management
Co-authors :
Josh Murphy, NOAA Office For Coastal Management
For coastal communities, climate change is making flood and stormwater management increasingly complex, as heavy rainfall runoff, inland flooding, storm surge, and sea level rise is proving to be a game changer. NOAA’s Water Initiative is working to meet these challenges by transforming how NOAA develops and delivers water information services to society. A self-guided resource, “Adapting Stormwater Management for Coastal Floods,” represents a big step in this direction (https://coast.noaa.gov/stormwater-floods/). Divided into four sections, the web-based resource helps the user do the following: understand the issue; assess current and future flood impacts on community stormwater management systems; analyze the current system; and determine the actions needed to mitigate impacts to the existing system. There are also links to additional resources, data, models, tools, and case studies. The target audience for this resource is focused on stormwater managers, floodplain managers, and community planners who are interested in a collaborative approach for implementing forward thinking stormwater management goals. This product was originally released in 2018 and can be found on the Digital Coast website. NOAA’s Office for Coastal Management recently upgraded the original product based on feedback gathered at two community engagement workshops. This presentation will showcase the product and highlight the NOAA Water Initiative’s recently developed framework for Service Delivery that strives to provide user-driven science and services.
10:00AM - 11:30AM
Virtual
Water Quality and Quantity - Pollution & Microplastics (Oral)
Format : Oral Abstracts
Track : Water Quality and Quantity
Speakers
Ebenezer Nyadjro, Mississippi State University
Jaden Akers, Mississippi State University, Coastal Research And Extension Center
Spencer Weitzel, Mississippi State University
Austin Scircle, University Of Mississippi
Marco Bonizzoni, The University Of Alabama
The bays and bayous of the coastal zone are squeezed between the land and sea, which leads to strong connections to both environments. As a result, direct modification to conditions in coastal systems and alterations to adjacent systems (e.g. watersheds, rivers, shelf waters) can affect changes in water quality. This underscores the difficulties associated with maintaining good water quality, as well as managing recreational, commercial and industrial interests that all depend on these water bodies. Increasingly frequent droughts and floods compound this difficulty, resulting in disruptions to normal patterns of freshwater availability. Potential presentations in this track include: how we assess these alterations in quality and quantity, how changes in the types and rates of terrestrial, aquatic and marine processes and activities have affected water quality, how we identify the human health and ecosystem impacts associated with these alterations, how we use this information to improve and better manage this critical resource, how we address water quality and quantity issues in formal and informal education and how we bring about behavior change to protect water quality. 
Fluorescent conjugated polymers to sense polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons
10:00AM - 10:15AM
Presented by :
Marco Bonizzoni, The University Of Alabama
Co-authors :
Michael Ihde, The University Of Alabama
Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are highly harmful environmental pollutant particularly relevant to waterways. These molecules have characteristic absorption and fluorescence spectra; however, their low effective concentrations makes their chemical sensing and quantitation challenging. We established that these hydrocarbons modulate the emission of the fluorescent moieties embedded in poly(fluorene) conjugated polymers to which we introduced variations in the conjugated core, as well as in the branches coming off the backbone. We focused on polymers including phenylbenzimidazole groups or polyethylene glycol chains as pendant chains. We showed that small PAH molecules quenched the fluorescence of these polymers based on an inner-filter effect whose effectiveness is characteristic of each PAH structure, thus making these polymers effective promiscuous sensors for these hydrocarbons. Indeed, we showed that the interaction patterns between these polymers and the "EPA 16" PAHs is sufficiently rich and nuanced that it contains sufficient information for chemical differentiation of these species.
The Occurrence and Distribution of Microplastics in Oysters from the Mississippi Sound
10:15AM - 10:30AM
Presented by :
Austin Scircle, University Of Mississippi
Co-authors :
Deborah Gochfeld, University Of Mississippi
James Cizdziel, University Of Mississippi
Ann Fairly Barnett, University Of Mississippi Department Of Biomolecular Sciences, Division Of Environmental Toxicology
The occurrence of microplastic (MP) pollution in consumer seafood is an increasingly studied and worrying circumstance. Microplastics have been found to negatively impact marine life that ingests them and filter feeding organisms and detritivores are particularly vulnerable. Compounding this, many of these species, like oysters, are foundational species, which provide a variety of valuable ecosystem services and are commercially and culturally significant in communities along the northern Gulf of Mexico (nGoM). Oysters are commonly used as bioindicators of water quality as they are susceptible to marine pollutants and changes in marine ecosystems. Our previous work on MPs in the Mississippi River Basin suggested that the Gulf of Mexico acts as a sink for MP pollution being funneled through the Mississippi River and that the marine life therein is exposed to relatively high levels of MPs compared to other coastlines. In ongoing research, we are analyzing both whole and dissected tissues (digestive tract, mantle, gills) of oysters sourced from multiple sites in the Mississippi Sound to evaluate both the concentration and types of MPs present. Furthermore, the dissection and analysis of individual tissues shows where the MPs accumulate within the oyster. The MPs are extracted and isolated using sample preparation methods newly developed in our laboratory and characterized using multiple techniques, including micro-Fourier Transform Infrared (µ-FTIR) and Laser Direct Infrared (LDIR) Imaging, which provide MP counts, morphologies, polymeric compositions, and sizes. This talk will include discussion of the methodology and preliminary data on the compartmentalization of MPs within Gulf Coast oysters and on the concentrations and characteristics of MPs at oyster reefs in the nGoM.
Availability and Assessment of Microplastic Ingestion by Marsh Birds in Mississippi Gulf Coast Tidal Marshes
10:30AM - 10:45AM
Presented by :
Spencer Weitzel, Mississippi State University
Co-authors :
Jared Feura, Mississippi State University
Scott Rush, Mississippi State University
Ray B. Iglay, Mississippi State University
Mark S. Woodrey, Mississippi State University
Research on the fate and uptake of plastic pollutants in tidal marsh ecosystems is sparse. In an attempt to quantify microplastic prevalence in tidal marsh ecosystems along the coast of Mississippi, we sampled marsh sediments and resident tidal marsh bird stomach contents within three marsh complexes along the Mississippi Coast. To investigate the availability of microplastic pollutants in the marsh habitat, we collected marsh sediment samples at 12 sampling locations within the marsh complexes. To investigate possible microplastic ingestion by resident tidal marsh birds, we captured Clapper Rails (Rallus crepitans) and Seaside Sparrows (Ammospiza maritima) near each sampling location and performed non-lethal stomach flushing to obtain a sample of their stomach contents. We used generalized linear models to differentiate microplastic counts in sediment and bird stomach samples among species, marsh complex, the distance from the Gulf of Mexico, and combinations of these variables. We detected microplastics in 64% of marsh sediment samples, 83% of Clapper Rail, and 69% of Seaside Sparrow stomach samples. The dominant types of microplastics detected in sediment and bird samples were fibers. Model selection showed random and highly variable microplastic concentrations in the tidal marsh sediments within and between marsh complexes. The top models for microplastic counts in marsh bird stomach samples included species and microplastics concentration in the nearby sediments. This study provides the first evidence of microplastic ingestion by resident tidal marsh birds and the first study of microplastic prevalence and distribution within tidal marshes along the Mississippi coast.
NOAA NCEI Global Marine Microplastic Database Initiative
10:45AM - 11:00AM
Presented by :
Ebenezer Nyadjro, Mississippi State University
Co-authors :
Zhankun Wang, Mississippi State University
Tim Boyer, NOAA
Scott Cross, NOAA
Just Cebrian, Northern Gulf Institute
Marine microplastics (< 5 mm) pollution is a growing problem affecting coastal communities, marine ecosystems, aquatic and marine life, and human health. It is hard to escape news of debris of all kinds, and more specifically plastic debris of all sizes, in our oceans. Despite the growing awareness, data management of measurements of marine debris, from large size visual surveys along the coast and in the open ocean, to effects of microplastics on planktonic communities, lags far behind the needs of the scientific, education, and decision maker communities. This lack of large-scale, long-term, comprehensive data on microplastics makes it difficult to completely understand the sources, distribution and impacts of microplastics. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI), the nation’s environmental data steward, is spearheading efforts to make available global data on microplastics. NCEI is currently collating (micro)plastic data from across the world and inputting this into a database. The goal is to develop a one-stop repository where data on all types of marine debris and microplastics are aggregated, archived, and served in a consistent and reliable manner. This will establish NCEI as the primary location for marine debris data management. The database, when completed, hopes to contain extensive information on global microplastics. Together with other NCEI databases, such as the Global Ocean Current Database, World Ocean Database, and the Surface Underway Marine Database etc., researchers and interest groups will be able to access and assess data that will enable new insights in understanding of the global microplastic problems. The microplastic database will be freely accessible and will be maintained with newly received data from global users.
Using Citizen Scientists to Evaluate Factors Contributing to Microplastic Contamination in Tap Water
11:00AM - 11:15AM
Presented by :
Jaden Akers, Mississippi State University, Coastal Research And Extension Center
Co-authors :
Anthony Vedral, Mississippi State Coastal Research And Extension Center
Eric Sparks , MS-AL Sea Grant; Mississippi State University
Shelby Harrier , Mississippi State Coastal Research And Extension Center
Microplastics are an increasing environmental hazard with potential negative implications for global health. Defined as plastic 5 mm or less in size, microplastics commonly result from fragmentation of larger anthropogenic items. The presence of microplastics in residential water supplies intended for human consumption is of great concern and there has been limited research on potential drivers of microplastic contamination within a small geographic area. It is thought that distance water travels through plastic pipes, age of plumbing, and type of plumbing could influence the variability in microplastic concentrations at a municipal scale. To begin to address these questions, citizen scientists (6th graders) from Singing River Academy and Trent Lott Academy in Jackson County, MS collected tap water samples from their bathtub spout (no filter) at their residences, while documenting their address, plumbing type, age of residence, and water source (well or city). All collected samples were from city water sources. Over 200 samples were collected and analyzed for microplastic contamination. Microplastics were counted and sorted by type: fragments, films, fibers, and beads, with fibers being the most frequently identified. Nearly every sample was observed to have microplastics, with an average of 11 per liter, indicating microplastic pollution is abundant and without more extensive filtering processes or reducing plastic use will continue to grow. Other information, such as distance from water source, type of plumbing, and age of residence will be analyzed to determine potential driving factors for microplastic contamination.
11:30AM - 11:45AM
15 Minute Break
11:45AM - 01:15PM
Virtual
Healthy Coastal Ecosystems - Wetland Ecology (Oral)
Format : Oral Abstracts
Track : Healthy Coastal Ecosystems
Speakers
Rachel Weisend, Texas A And M University Corpus Christi
Spencer Weitzel, Mississippi State University
Eric Weingarten, University Of Mississippi
Henrique Haas, Auburn University
Moderators
Stephen Sempier, MASGC
Development, resource extraction, climate change and other anthropogenic stressors on coastal ecosystems are issues of management concern. Scientists and stakeholders are attempting to understand such impacts and find integrative coastal management strategies. The seascape changes that may occur to coastal habitats because of these stressors can be dire. For example, changes in the hydrogeomorphology of a landscape combined impacts of subsidence, sea level rise and alterations in freshwater flow may have negative impacts on coastal habitats. They may also have cascading impacts on the many species residing in these habitats. The focus of this track is to present research, policy and educational opportunities and tools that have been used to improve our understanding of habitat vulnerability. This track is intended to provide a venue for scientists and managers to share their insights about habitat protection, conservation and restoration in light of the inevitable changes to our coasts.
Understanding the importance of wetland ecosystems for water quality and quantity in a costal watershed
11:45AM - 12:00 Noon
Presented by :
Henrique Haas, Auburn University
Co-authors :
Sabahattin Isik, Auburn University
Latif Kalin
Mohamed Hantush, EPA
This study aims at evaluating the effects of wetlands on downstream flow, nitrate, organic nitrogen, and phosphate loading in the Fish River watershed (FRW), located in Baldwin County, coastal Alabama. The FRW drains to the Weeks Bay and represents approximately 75% of the freshwater inputs of this sub-estuary of the Mobile Bay. The Weeks Bay is one of the few designed Outstanding National Resources Water in Alabama and has experienced a significant loss of natural land cover over the past two decades. Consequently, it is of the utmost importance to assess the importance of natural ecosystems such as wetlands in the water quality purification of this pristine watershed. We set up a SWAT model that captured the spatial distribution of 44 major wetlands across the FRW. The SWAT model was calibrated using flow and water quality data available at the watershed outlet by performing 500 simulations from 2008 to 2015. The results yielded daily NSE values of 0.87, 0.86, and 0.54 for streamflow, phosphate, and nitrate, respectively. The upper (90%) and lower limits (10%) of the prediction interval along with the medians of the SWAT generated nutrient loadings and discharge to each wetland were fed as input data to the process-based WetQual model. The outputs of WetQual were then incorporated back into SWAT as point sources and SWAT was rerun. The SWAT-WetQual coupling was automated through a FORTRAN routine. The removal efficiencies of the 44 wetlands were found to be 13-15%, 26-45%, and 65-69% for nitrate, organic nitrogen, and phosphate, respectively. The median removal efficiencies at the watershed outlet were estimated at 5.4%, 28%, 56% for nitrate, organic nitrogen, and phosphate, respectively.
Non-Linear Responses of Wetland Sediment Microbiota to Salinity
12:00 Noon - 12:15PM
Presented by :
Eric Weingarten, University Of Mississippi
Co-authors :
Colin Jackson, University Of Mississippi
Despite the central role of wetland microbial communities in nutrient cycling and carbon sequestration, little is known of how sediment bacteria differ by salinity, particularly between fresh, intermediate, brackish, and saltmarshes. In this study, the sediment bacterial community and extracellular enzyme activity of 22 wetlands along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts of the southeastern U.S. were surveyed. This included nine tidally connected pairs of wetlands, differing in salinity regime but separated by < 20 km. Disentangling sediment bacterial dynamics in response to salinity variation at multiple temporal (0-300 days), concentration (0 ppt – 39 ppt), and geospatial scales (0 km – 2,000 km) is necessary to better predict the impacts of saltwater intrusion on the wetland microbiome. Five sediment cores were taken from each site and separated into surface and root-zone fractions. Bacterial DNA was extracted, the V4 region of the 16S rRNA gene amplified, and amplicons sequenced using Illumina MiSeq. Activities of the extracellular enzymes β-glucosidase, NAGase, peroxidase, phenol oxidase, and acid phosphatase were assayed to infer mineralization rates of cellulose, lignin, chitin, and organic phosphates. Wetland bacterial communities differed significantly by salinity (p< 0.001) and each pairwise comparison of wetland salinity class was significant (p=0.006). Ordinations show a stepwise differentiation of bacterial composition from freshwater to saltwater. Ordination distances between bacterial communities at different salinity levels revealed a strong but non-linear response, with low levels of salinity increase (0 ppt – 5 ppt) as well as salinity increases across the saltmarsh domain (18 ppt – 30 ppt) having much stronger effects than across brackish salinity marshes (5 ppt – 18 ppt). Enzyme activity also varied non-linearly, but generally decreased with salinity. Thus, even small changes in salinity may have large impacts on coastal microbiomes.
Distribution, Density, and Habitat Associations of Non-breeding, Tidal Marsh Birds in Mississippi
12:15PM - 12:30PM
Presented by :
Spencer Weitzel, Mississippi State University
Co-authors :
Jared Feura, Mississippi State University
Ray B. Iglay, Mississippi State University
Kristine Evans, Mississippi State University
Scott Rush, Mississippi State University
Mark S. Woodrey, Mississippi State University
Secretive marsh birds are difficult to survey for, especially during the non-breeding season when vocalizations are infrequent, complicating population estimation efforts. While some breeding population assessments have been performed, dynamics of marsh bird populations, especially during the non-breeding season along the northern coast of the Gulf of Mexico, remain relatively unknown. To address the void in non-breeding season population information for marsh birds along the coast of Mississippi, we conducted line transect surveys distributed across a spatially-balanced sampling framework of Mississippi tidal marshes December – February, 2018–2020. Using hierarchical distance sampling models for unmarked populations, we estimated species-specific non-breeding population densities and habitat associations of eight marsh bird species across a mosaic of tidal marsh communities, spanning oligohaline to polyhaline emergent and open marsh systems. Marsh Wrens (Cistothorus palustris) were encountered most (n = 1,593) among all surveyed marsh complexes with an estimated coast-wide density of 5.18 ± 1.13 birds/ha. Clapper Rails (Rallus crepitans; n = 606) were also widespread but less dense (0.78 ± 0.33 birds/ha). Seaside Sparrows (Ammospiza maritima; n = 410) on the other hand were more localized within the broader tidal marsh ecosystem with estimated densities ranging from zero when undetected to 3.37 ± 0.78 birds/ha at the Hancock County marsh complex. This study provides the first statewide, non-breeding density estimates for tidal marsh birds along the Mississippi Coast and the first data of these kind for the northern Gulf of Mexico region. These population estimates and density distributions also help increase our understanding of the non-breeding season avian community composition within tidal marshes.
Diurnal and Vegetation based Geochemical Activity in Mangrove Marsh Ecosystems
12:45PM - 11:00PM
Presented by :
Rachel Weisend, Texas A And M University Corpus Christi
Co-authors :
Brandi Kiel Reese, University Of South Alabama, Dauphin Island Sea Lab
Megan Mullis, Texas A&M University Corpus Christi
Brett Baker, University Of Texas Marine Science Institute
Ian Rambo, University Of Texas Marine Science Institute
Mangrove ecosystems are highly productive and can store disproportionate amounts of carbon in their sediment that may be metabolized to methane by methanogens. Methane can then be released to the atmosphere through outgassing. By evaluating the structure and function of microbial communities in mangrove sediments, more can be understood about the role mangrove systems play in the carbon cycle. We investigated the methane flux in mangrove-dominated, Spartina-dominated, and seagrass-dominated sediments at Mission-Aransas National Estuarine Research Reserve in South Texas. Atmospheric concentrations of methane, carbon dioxide, and sulfide were measured using a gas analyzer connected to a flux chamber. Mangrove-dominated and Spartina-dominated sediment had greater concentrations of methane than seagrass-dominated sediment. Complementary data for dissolved ammonium, nitrate, sulfate, and sulfide within the porewater showed similar trends. These results show that diurnal variability may have a significant impact on how methane emissions are modeled. Sediment from 2, 12, and 20 cm were sequenced using Illumina HiSeq for metagenomes and metatranscriptomes. The 16S rRNA genes and 16S rRNA transcripts from the metagenomes and metatranscriptomes, respectively, were investigated to compare community structure. Genes pertaining to geochemical pathways were compared between 54 metagenome samples. Sulfur cycling genes (soxZ, dsrC, dsrH) were expressed in August mangrove samples at 12 cm along with the increased expression of genes associated with carbon fixation. Further work will be done to investigate microbial community structure and function with regard to observed methane emissions.
11:45AM - 01:15PM
Virtual
Living Marine Resources - Oysters (Oral)
Format : Oral Abstracts
Track : Living Marine Resources
Speakers
Benjamin Belgrad, Dauphin Island Sea Lab
Jane M Caffrey, UWF, Center For Environmental Diagnostics And Bioremediation
Lauren Swam, Louisiana State University
Merritt McCall, University Of South Alabama/Dauphin Island Sea Lab
Moderators
Rayne Palmer, Auburn University, Alabama Cooperative Extension, MS-AL Sea Grant
Predator-prey Effects on C. virginica Survivorship in an Oyster Reef Environment
11:45AM - 12:00 Noon
Presented by :
Merritt McCall, University Of South Alabama/Dauphin Island Sea Lab
Co-authors :
Sean Powers, University Of South Alabama
Oyster reef habitat created by the eastern oyster, Crassostrea virginica, has been declining at an alarmingly rapid rate along the United States Atlantic and Gulf Coasts. Oyster reefs support an important commercial fishery as well as provide estuarine ecological services such as filtration, creation of refugia, and provision of feeding habitat for mobile and sessile species across a spectrum of life stages. They also greatly contribute to biomass production of both reef-associated fishes and invertebrates which have long term benefits for estuarine environments and the anglers that utilize reef habitats to target economically important fishes, making the species dynamics on these reefs an important area of study. Predator foraging Finfish species such as Sheepshead (Archosargus probatocephalus) are commonly found on Alabama oyster reefs along with predatory invertebrates such as the stone crab (Menippe mercenaria). Stone crabs are one of many reef-associated invertebrate predators of eastern oysters, with eastern oyster spat (< 30mm) being the most vulnerable life stage. Sheepshead are a generalist species, but previous studies have indicated a diet preference towards crustaceans and gastropods. A manipulative mesocosm experiment was used to assess the interaction and potential non-consumptive effects between Sheepshead, stone crabs, and eastern oysters. Preliminary research showed that when presented with the option of consuming a stone crab or eastern oysters, crabs are preferentially selected by Sheepshead every time. By consuming the predatory invertebrates found on oyster reefs, Sheepshead could protect the vulnerable eastern oyster from stone crab predation. This potential predator-prey interaction, if found to exist, could be used to inform management to protect these valuable and sensitive environments.
Estimation of Suspended Particulate Matter using Multispectral Unmanned Aerial Systems Imagery over an Oyster Reef
12:00 Noon - 12:15PM
The Oysters in the Mississippi Sound are depleting because of a range of environmental and anthropogenic stressors. While some of the organic matter in water can be helpful for oyster survival and growth, the detritus in the suspended particulate matter (SPM) can foul these suspension feeding animals. Oysters are also subjected to additional stress because of bioavailability of the contaminants associated with SPM. Runoff from adjacent watersheds and resuspension of bottom sediments increase SPM in the water column. Remote sensing is useful in mapping the spatio-temporal distribution of SPM. The overarching objective of this research is to develop remote sensing algorithms for mapping SPM using Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS). UAS imagery was collected by 71 flights during seven week-long trips in the months of March, May, June, July, and December 2018, and June and July, 2019 over the Henderson Point and Pass Christian Oyster Reefs, Mississippi, the largest oyster reef in the Mississippi Sound. Water samples and ancillary data were also collected from 71 locations during each flight. An empirical algorithm was developed using field data and data collected using a handheld radiometer. A series of image processing techniques were applied to the UAS imagery and the output were validated using a second method of image processing to ensure the accuracy of the UAS imagery output. The SPM algorithm was then applied to all the UAS imagery to generate SPM images. Subsequently, a time series analysis was performed with discharge to the Wwestern Mississippi Sound. The outcome of this study will not only help monitoring the water quality over the oyster reef in Mississippi but also the procedures developed to process the UAS imagery and algorithm development could act as a blueprint for future research in exploring the potential of using UAS for remote sensing of water quality.
Low salinity tolerance in oyster populations: Assessing effects of salinity on growth and survival of Crassostrea virginica
12:15PM - 12:30PM
Presented by :
Lauren Swam, Louisiana State University
Co-authors :
Megan La Peyre, USGS, Louisiana Fish And Wildlife Cooperative Research Unit, Louisiana State University Agricultural Center
Brian Callam, Louisiana Sea Grant College Program
Jerome La Peyre, Louisiana State University Agricultural Center
Estuaries are naturally dynamic systems facing increasing variability of water quality conditions due to increased rainfall and snow melt caused by climate change, coastal land loss, and river management. Across the northern Gulf of Mexico, one ecologically and economically important species residing in estuaries is Crassostrea virginica, the eastern oyster. Although highly tolerant to a wide range of salinities and salinity variation, more frequent exposure of oysters to extreme low salinity (< 5) may impact overall population sustainability within some estuaries. This study assesses previously unexamined populations of C. virginica from low salinity areas of the Louisiana coast for population-specific tolerance to low salinities (< 5). Spat (< 25 mm) from four C. virginica populations were grown in an off-bottom long-line system in both a high salinity (10-15) (Grand Isle, LA) and a low salinity (< 6) (Cocodrie, LA) environment. Oysters were set out in December 2019 and growth and mortality are being tracked for a 12-month period. Upon completion of sampling, population specific growth, mortality, condition and dermo infection intensity will be analyzed examining population and site and their interaction. These analyses will determine if there is population-specific adaptation to low salinity based on the conditions in which the parent stock of populations came from. Identifying populations of C. virginica that are tolerant of low salinity would facilitate the strategic placement of oyster seed in areas to be impacted by lower salinity to promote restoration, aquaculture, and industry along coastal Louisiana.
Using Citizen Science to Examine Water Quality, Oyster Survival and Growth during Project Oyster Pensacola
12:30PM - 12:45PM
Presented by :
Jane M Caffrey, UWF, Center For Environmental Diagnostics And Bioremediation
Co-authors :
Barbara Albrecht, UWF
Kimberly Bremner, Bream Fishermen Association
Project Oyster Pensacola is a partnership between the Bream Fishermen Association (BFA), a volunteer monitoring and citizen engagement organization, and the Pensacola Bay Oyster Company. Project goals were to engage citizens to learn about water quality and how oysters improve water quality, as well as encourage citizens to consider ways they can improve water quality. Interested citizens, schools, and organizations participated in the project to deploy cages with 75 triploid oysters at various locations throughout Pensacola and Perdido Bay systems. Cages were deployed at 25 locations. BFA members and citizen volunteers monitored water quality, oyster survival and growth approximately every 4 months. After 14 months of deployment, oyster survival and growth were again measured, along with recruitment of fish and invertebrates. Salinity over the study period ranged from 1 to 29 with the lowest salinities in Perdido and Blackwater Bays and the highest salinity in Big Lagoon. Dissolved oxygen concentrations in surface waters averaged 91% saturation and were generally higher in winter than summer of fall. Salinity and dissolved oxygen were positively correlated. Oyster mortality was highest at sites with low salinity, particularly those less than 5. Oyster growth rates were positively correlated with salinity and dissolved oxygen. Recruitment of wild oysters at sites was highest above 20 PSU. Diverse fish and invertebrate communities were associated with cages. Blennies were the most common fish taxa. Crustaceans were dominated by amphipods and barnacles, while mussels were the most abundant mollusk. Oyster drills were only found at high salinity locations along with other marine species such as soft corals, tunicates, sponges and anemones. At sites with the average salinity greater than 20 PSU, the community composition was significantly different than sites between 10 and 20 PSU. These results may be helpful in guiding future oyster restoration efforts in the region.
Bolstering oyster resilience for aquaculture and reef restoration using predator cues
12:45PM - 11:00PM
Presented by :
Benjamin Belgrad, Dauphin Island Sea Lab
Co-authors :
Emily Combs, Florida Atlantic University
Lee Smee, Dauphin Island Sea Lab/University Of South Alabama
William Walton, Auburn University Shellfish Laboratory
Many mollusks alter their shell morphology in response to predator exudates or injured conspecifics to lower their predation risk. However, studies have yet to examine whether this predator-avoidance response can be applied under aquaculture scenarios to improve fisheries. We tested whether exposure to predator cues under hatchery conditions can increase the survival of oysters, Crassostrea virginica, planted in the wild. Juvenile oysters grown in a flow-through system were exposed to either caged blue crabs, Callinectes sapidus, or controls of empty cages for four and eight weeks then placed in the field for 30 days. We compared the shell crushing force, shell morphological characteristics, and individual survival of oysters across predator exposure time and treatments. Oysters grown in the hatchery for eight weeks were, on average, 46% larger and almost 2x stronger than oysters grown for four weeks. However, predator exposure also caused a 50% increase in shell strength for both time periods. These differences yielded significantly greater gains in survivorship over time as predator induced oysters nursed for four weeks exhibiting 53% higher survival in the field than unexposed oysters while this survivorship gain jumped to 300% for eight weeks of cue exposure. Our findings demonstrate that predator cues can be an effective means for the industry to increase the operational efficiency of aquaculture and restoration efforts, and may potentially be applied to other bivalve fisheries (e.g. clams, mussels).
11:45AM - 01:15PM
Virtual
Resilient Communities and Economies - Debris (Oral)
Format : Oral Abstracts
Track : Resilient Communities and Economies
This track will encompass natural, anthropogenic and social impacts to coastal hazard resilience and how communities adapt to these impacts. It will encourage a broad range of presentations focusing on state and local efforts to minimize environmental impacts while enhancing economic opportunities and improving resilience to both natural and technological hazards. This track will also include education and outreach efforts to raise awareness and understand climate and hazard challenges. Topics may include land policies; innovative floodplain management strategies; sustainable building design techniques and methodologies; community response and adaptation activities related to climate change, sea level rise and inundation events; and cultural and sociological impacts associated with natural and anthropogenic coastal hazards. Submissions discussing resilience-related topics, including engineering, modeling, tools, remote sensing, field-based experiments, social vulnerability indexing, and other topically-relevant behavioral science are also encouraged.
11:45AM - 01:15PM
Virtual
Water Quality and Quantity - Litter Cluster (Oral)
Format : Oral Abstracts
Track : Water Quality and Quantity
The bays and bayous of the coastal zone are squeezed between the land and sea, which leads to strong connections to both environments. As a result, direct modification to conditions in coastal systems and alterations to adjacent systems (e.g. watersheds, rivers, shelf waters) can affect changes in water quality. This underscores the difficulties associated with maintaining good water quality, as well as managing recreational, commercial and industrial interests that all depend on these water bodies. Increasingly frequent droughts and floods compound this difficulty, resulting in disruptions to normal patterns of freshwater availability. Potential presentations in this track include: how we assess these alterations in quality and quantity, how changes in the types and rates of terrestrial, aquatic and marine processes and activities have affected water quality, how we identify the human health and ecosystem impacts associated with these alterations, how we use this information to improve and better manage this critical resource, how we address water quality and quantity issues in formal and informal education and how we bring about behavior change to protect water quality. 
11:45AM - 01:15PM
Virtual
Water Quality and Quantity - Watershed Planning Cluster (Oral)
Format : Oral Abstracts
Track : Water Quality and Quantity
The bays and bayous of the coastal zone are squeezed between the land and sea, which leads to strong connections to both environments. As a result, direct modification to conditions in coastal systems and alterations to adjacent systems (e.g. watersheds, rivers, shelf waters) can affect changes in water quality. This underscores the difficulties associated with maintaining good water quality, as well as managing recreational, commercial and industrial interests that all depend on these water bodies. Increasingly frequent droughts and floods compound this difficulty, resulting in disruptions to normal patterns of freshwater availability. Potential presentations in this track include: how we assess these alterations in quality and quantity, how changes in the types and rates of terrestrial, aquatic and marine processes and activities have affected water quality, how we identify the human health and ecosystem impacts associated with these alterations, how we use this information to improve and better manage this critical resource, how we address water quality and quantity issues in formal and informal education and how we bring about behavior change to protect water quality.
01:15PM - 01:30PM
15 Minute Break
01:30PM - 02:30PM
Virtual
Coalitions for Undertaking a Comprehensive Watershed Restoration and Improving Environmental Management Panel (LIVE EVENT)
Format : Panel
Speakers
Ashley Campbell, City Of Daphne
Michael McMillan, City Of Spanish Fort
Michael Sharp, National Fish And Wildlife Foundation
John Peterson, Mott MacDonald
Moderators
Roberta Swann, Mobile Bay National Estuary Program
In 2012, the Mobile Bay National Estuary Program partnered with State agencies, the cities of Daphne and Spanish Fort, Baldwin County, and other partners and to initiate implementation of the D'Olive Watershed Management Plan (WMP). The first project, installation of a step pool conveyance to restore a deeply incised tributary to Joe's Branch, won a Gulf Guardian Award for Partnerships. With significant funding secured in late 2013 from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation's Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund, supplemented with further NFWF funding in 2015, the MBNEP and partners sustained a coalition for restoring stormwater degraded streams across the three constituent watersheds, D'Olive Creek, Tiawasee Creek, and Joe's Branch, with the following objectives:Reduce upstream sediment inputs into the Lake Forest Lake/D'Olive Creek/ Tiawasee Creek systems,Reduce sediment loads carried into D'Olive Bay and the Mobile Bay estuary to protect downstream submerged aquatic vegetation fishery nursery areas,Remediate past effects of sediment loading, including the restoration of Lake Forest Lake, andMitigate future impacts of development in the Watershed, where feasible.Panelists will discuss the value of:Coalition building across geopolitical boundaries in sustaining a multi-year restoration effort, which evolved over timeLeveraging capacities to across coalition members to work with private property owners and provide project management for a city with limited capacity,Partners in leveraging resources to achieve de-listing of impaired stream segments,Changing regulations as a catalyst for restoration and environmental management, andLandscape-scale restoration and the importance of a plan.This WMP-driven restoration program resulted in the restoration of 11,833 linear feet of degraded streams, enhancement of 92 acres of floodplain and wetlands, annual load reductions of 5,272 tons of sediment delivered downstream, and the April 2020 de-listing of Joe's Branch from the State's 303(d) list of impaired waters.
02:30PM - 02:45PM
15 Minute Break
02:45PM - 04:15PM
Virtual
Living Marine Resources - Fisheries Management (Oral)
Format : Oral Abstracts
Track : Living Marine Resources
Although subject to long-term fluctuations and episodic anthropogenic impacts, the northern Gulf of Mexico continues to support a diversity of productive fisheries and sustain flora and fauna that are of interest to conservationists. This track will focus on the applied ecology of living resources in the Gulf of Mexico. A major challenge of working toward sustainability in this region is to balance the interests of stakeholders while continuing to develop data, models and management policies that result in long-term benefits. Potential presentation topics include research that addresses management questions necessary for sustainability of the Gulf of Mexico ranging from single species to entire ecosystems. Ecological studies help us understand the results of different management decisions and restoration activities, especially as we evaluate the consequences of natural and human-caused changes and changes to management and conservation strategies. Potential presentations for this track will allow the research community, private sector, community action groups, resource managers and NGOs to share knowledge with coastal decision-makers and increase dialogue among these groups.
02:45PM - 04:15PM
Virtual
Healthy Coastal Ecosystems - Ecosystem Management (Oral)
Format : Oral Abstracts
Track : Healthy Coastal Ecosystems
Development, resource extraction, climate change and other anthropogenic stressors on coastal ecosystems are issues of management concern. Scientists and stakeholders are attempting to understand such impacts and find integrative coastal management strategies. The seascape changes that may occur to coastal habitats because of these stressors can be dire. For example, changes in the hydrogeomorphology of a landscape combined impacts of subsidence, sea level rise and alterations in freshwater flow may have negative impacts on coastal habitats. They may also have cascading impacts on the many species residing in these habitats. The focus of this track is to present research, policy and educational opportunities and tools that have been used to improve our understanding of habitat vulnerability. This track is intended to provide a venue for scientists and managers to share their insights about habitat protection, conservation and restoration in light of the inevitable changes to our coasts. 
02:45PM - 04:15PM
Virtual
Resilient Communities and Economies (Oral)
Format : Oral Abstracts
Track : Resilient Communities and Economies
This track will encompass natural, anthropogenic and social impacts to coastal hazard resilience and how communities adapt to these impacts. It will encourage a broad range of presentations focusing on state and local efforts to minimize environmental impacts while enhancing economic opportunities and improving resilience to both natural and technological hazards. This track will also include education and outreach efforts to raise awareness and understand climate and hazard challenges. Topics may include land policies; innovative floodplain management strategies; sustainable building design techniques and methodologies; community response and adaptation activities related to climate change, sea level rise and inundation events; and cultural and sociological impacts associated with natural and anthropogenic coastal hazards. Submissions discussing resilience-related topics, including engineering, modeling, tools, remote sensing, field-based experiments, social vulnerability indexing, and other topically-relevant behavioral science are also encouraged.
02:45PM - 04:15PM
Virtual
Water Quality and Quantity (Oral)
Format : Oral Abstracts
Track : Disasters and Disruptions
The bays and bayous of the coastal zone are squeezed between the land and sea, which leads to strong connections to both environments. As a result, direct modification to conditions in coastal systems and alterations to adjacent systems (e.g. watersheds, rivers, shelf waters) can affect changes in water quality. This underscores the difficulties associated with maintaining good water quality, as well as managing recreational, commercial and industrial interests that all depend on these water bodies. Increasingly frequent droughts and floods compound this difficulty, resulting in disruptions to normal patterns of freshwater availability. Potential presentations in this track include: how we assess these alterations in quality and quantity, how changes in the types and rates of terrestrial, aquatic and marine processes and activities have affected water quality, how we identify the human health and ecosystem impacts associated with these alterations, how we use this information to improve and better manage this critical resource, how we address water quality and quantity issues in formal and informal education and how we bring about behavior change to protect water quality.
02:45PM - 04:15PM
Virtual
Water Quality and Quantity - Hydrology & Sediment (Oral)
Format : Oral Abstracts
Track : Water Quality and Quantity
The bays and bayous of the coastal zone are squeezed between the land and sea, which leads to strong connections to both environments. As a result, direct modification to conditions in coastal systems and alterations to adjacent systems (e.g. watersheds, rivers, shelf waters) can affect changes in water quality. This underscores the difficulties associated with maintaining good water quality, as well as managing recreational, commercial and industrial interests that all depend on these water bodies. Increasingly frequent droughts and floods compound this difficulty, resulting in disruptions to normal patterns of freshwater availability. Potential presentations in this track include: how we assess these alterations in quality and quantity, how changes in the types and rates of terrestrial, aquatic and marine processes and activities have affected water quality, how we identify the human health and ecosystem impacts associated with these alterations, how we use this information to improve and better manage this critical resource, how we address water quality and quantity issues in formal and informal education and how we bring about behavior change to protect water quality. 
04:15PM - 04:30PM
15 Minute Break
04:30PM - 05:30PM
Virtual
Lightning Talks - Healthy Coastal Ecosystems
Format : Poster Abstracts
Track : Healthy Coastal Ecosystems
Development, resource extraction, climate change and other anthropogenic stressors on coastal ecosystems are issues of management concern. Scientists and stakeholders are attempting to understand such impacts and find integrative coastal management strategies. The seascape changes that may occur to coastal habitats because of these stressors can be dire. For example, changes in the hydrogeomorphology of a landscape combined impacts of subsidence, sea level rise and alterations in freshwater flow may have negative impacts on coastal habitats. They may also have cascading impacts on the many species residing in these habitats. The focus of this track is to present research, policy and educational opportunities and tools that have been used to improve our understanding of habitat vulnerability. This track is intended to provide a venue for scientists and managers to share their insights about habitat protection, conservation and restoration in light of the inevitable changes to our coasts.
04:30PM - 05:30PM
Virtual
Lightning Talks - Living Marine Resources
Format : Poster Abstracts
Track : Healthy Coastal Ecosystems
Although subject to long-term fluctuations and episodic anthropogenic impacts, the northern Gulf of Mexico continues to support a diversity of productive fisheries and sustain flora and fauna that are of interest to conservationists. This track will focus on the applied ecology of living resources in the Gulf of Mexico. A major challenge of working toward sustainability in this region is to balance the interests of stakeholders while continuing to develop data, models and management policies that result in long-term benefits. Potential presentation topics include research that addresses management questions necessary for sustainability of the Gulf of Mexico ranging from single species to entire ecosystems. Ecological studies help us understand the results of different management decisions and restoration activities, especially as we evaluate the consequences of natural and human-caused changes and changes to management and conservation strategies. Potential presentations for this track will allow the research community, private sector, community action groups, resource managers and NGOs to share knowledge with coastal decision-makers and increase dialogue among these groups.
04:30PM - 05:30PM
Virtual
Lightning Talks - Resilient Communities and Economies
Format : Poster Abstracts
Track : Healthy Coastal Ecosystems
This track will encompass natural, anthropogenic and social impacts to coastal hazard resilience and how communities adapt to these impacts. It will encourage a broad range of presentations focusing on state and local efforts to minimize environmental impacts while enhancing economic opportunities and improving resilience to both natural and technological hazards. This track will also include education and outreach efforts to raise awareness and understand climate and hazard challenges. Topics may include land policies; innovative floodplain management strategies; sustainable building design techniques and methodologies; community response and adaptation activities related to climate change, sea level rise and inundation events; and cultural and sociological impacts associated with natural and anthropogenic coastal hazards. Submissions discussing resilience-related topics, including engineering, modeling, tools, remote sensing, field-based experiments, social vulnerability indexing, and other topically-relevant behavioral science are also encouraged.
04:30PM - 05:30PM
Virtual
Lightning Talks - Water Quality and Quantity
Format : Poster Abstracts
Track : Healthy Coastal Ecosystems
04:30PM - 05:30PM
Virtual
Lightning Talks - Water Quality and Quantity - Hydrology & Sediment
Format : Poster Abstracts
Track : Disasters and Disruptions
The bays and bayous of the coastal zone are squeezed between the land and sea, which leads to strong connections to both environments. As a result, direct modification to conditions in coastal systems and alterations to adjacent systems (e.g. watersheds, rivers, shelf waters) can affect changes in water quality. This underscores the difficulties associated with maintaining good water quality, as well as managing recreational, commercial and industrial interests that all depend on these water bodies. Increasingly frequent droughts and floods compound this difficulty, resulting in disruptions to normal patterns of freshwater availability. Potential presentations in this track include: how we assess these alterations in quality and quantity, how changes in the types and rates of terrestrial, aquatic and marine processes and activities have affected water quality, how we identify the human health and ecosystem impacts associated with these alterations, how we use this information to improve and better manage this critical resource, how we address water quality and quantity issues in formal and informal education and how we bring about behavior change to protect water quality. 
05:30PM - 05:45PM
15 Minute Break
05:45PM - 06:45PM
Virtual
Social Hour (LIVE EVENT)
Track : Healthy Coastal Ecosystems | Living Marine Resources | Disasters and Disruptions | Resilient Communities and Economies | Water Quality and Quantity
Grab an early dinner or refreshments and join everyone for a virtual social.
Day 3, Dec 03, 2020
09:00AM - 10:00AM
Virtual
Science and Policy for Oyster Management Panel (LIVE EVENT)
Format : Panel
Speakers
Jessica Jones, US FDA Gulf Coast Seafood Laboratory
Victoria Pruente, Auburn University Shellfish Laboratory
Moderators
William Walton, Auburn University Shellfish Laboratory
With the growth of the oyster aquaculture industry in the region, government agencies are charged with regulating this new industry in a way ensures that consumers and the environment are protected while allowing the industry to thrive. In Alabama, specifically, with concerns that routine desiccation might pose a public health risk, public health officials initially imposed a 30-day required resubmersion period prior to harvest. This created challenges for the industry and farmers requested applied research to provide better data to regulators. This research, conducted collaboratively by academia and federal agencies, allowed a reduction in the required resubmersion period to two weeks and one week for certain types of culture methods. Panelists will discuss what worked well in this process and what could work better, as well as challenges.
10:00AM - 10:30AM
30 Minute Break
10:30AM - 12:00 Noon
Virtual
Healthy Coastal Ecosystems - Shorelines (Oral)
Format : Oral Abstracts
Track : Healthy Coastal Ecosystems
Speakers
David Tidwell, Geological Survey Of Alabama
Chris Boyd, Troy University
Eric Sparks , MS-AL Sea Grant; Mississippi State University
Mindy Joiner, Moffatt & Nichol
Matthew Jones, Mobile County
Moderators
Sara Martin , Mississippi State University
Development, resource extraction, climate change and other anthropogenic stressors on coastal ecosystems are issues of management concern. Scientists and stakeholders are attempting to understand such impacts and find integrative coastal management strategies. The seascape changes that may occur to coastal habitats because of these stressors can be dire. For example, changes in the hydrogeomorphology of a landscape combined impacts of subsidence, sea level rise and alterations in freshwater flow may have negative impacts on coastal habitats. They may also have cascading impacts on the many species residing in these habitats. The focus of this track is to present research, policy and educational opportunities and tools that have been used to improve our understanding of habitat vulnerability. This track is intended to provide a venue for scientists and managers to share their insights about habitat protection, conservation and restoration in light of the inevitable changes to our coasts. 
Episodic and Temporal Beach Characterization Along the Alabama Gulf Coast
10:30AM - 10:45AM
Presented by :
David Tidwell, Geological Survey Of Alabama
Co-authors :
Stephen Jones, Geological Survey Of Alabama
Within the past two decades, Alabama’s coastline along the Gulf of Mexico was significantly altered by both natural and anthropogenic processes. Tropical cyclones, such as Hurricanes Ivan (September 2004) and Katrina (August 2005), caused unprecedented damage to habitat, recreational beaches, and infrastructure. Large-scale beach nourishment projects were completed in response to these large-scale erosional events and normal seasonal erosion events, such as passage of frontal systems. The Coastal Resources Program of the Geological Survey of Alabama collects, develops, archives, and disseminates episodic and temporal shoreline change data through the beach monitoring project, funded through the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Lands Division, Coastal Section. Methods of research include the collection, development, and dissemination of high-resolution coastal imagery and supporting thematic layers, shoreline change analyses (high resolution surveying techniques, aerial photographic interpretations, and statistics), and use of the Environmental Systems Research Institute Inc. ArcGIS® platform, Version 10.8 to model airborne laser altimetry and historic shoreline vectors. This research helps to further understand and document these erosional events and the resiliency of Alabama beaches as they respond to natural processes and human-induced change. Research presented will include an overview of data the Geological Survey of Alabama collects, develops, models, and disseminates. Emphasis will be placed on episodic and temporal dynamics of the beach environment and its natural resiliency from erosional events of coastal dune systems.
Development, Implementation, and Availability of the Gulf of Mexico Living Shorelines Management Models and Decision Support Tool.
10:45AM - 11:00AM
Presented by :
Chris Boyd, Troy University
Co-authors :
Stephen Jones, Geological Survey Of Alabama
The current trend in the Gulf of Mexico is to install hard structures, such as, bulkheads, groins, or revetment on shorelines to protect waterfront coastal properties from erosion. In Alabama over 26% of the state’s tidal shoreline has been armored, 40% of Tampa Bay’s shoreline has been armored, and 20% of tidal marshes in Galveston Bay have been lost as a result of armoring. Hard structures tend to present negative effects to hydrodynamics and erosion to adjacent unprotected properties. In addition, hard structures can also cause unwarranted consequences to coastal habitat, sustainable fisheries, and nutrient recycling. Based on discussions from the greater Gulf of Mexico scientific community more decision support tools need to be produced and made available to the public and decision makers to help encourage the use of living shorelines. The presenter will discuss the creation and application of the Gulf of Mexico Shoreline Management Model (SSM) and the Shoreline Decision Support Tool (DST) as funded by the NOAA RESTORE Science Program, that return upland and shoreline recommendations. The Models discussed will include the Galveston Bay, Lake Pontchartrain, and Coastal Alabama SSM viewers along with the interactive DST. The shoreline best management practices will be presented for each LSSM viewer. A short interactive training will be presented to allow the participants to understand essential input attributes and the ability to generate a natural or modified shoreline best management practice for a shoreline of interest upon completion of the seminar. Challenges and solutions for implementing the Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences SSM for the select geographic regions in the Gulf of Mexico will also be discussed, including issues associated with generating and acquiring data for the SSM, where to access the SSM viewers and DST, and future access to the model and operator’s manual upon completion of the project.
Living shorelines: Small-scale decisions leading to large-scale impacts
11:15AM - 11:30AM
Presented by :
Eric Sparks , MS-AL Sea Grant; Mississippi State University
Co-authors :
Sara Martin , Mississippi State University
Nigel Temple , Mississippi State University
Matthew Virden , Mississippi State University, Coastal Research And Extension Center
Renee Collini, Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium/Mississippi State University
Natural shorelines provide ecosystem services that are integral to maintaining healthy and resilient coastal ecosystems and communities. However, anthropogenic and environmental stressors are reducing the extent of natural shorelines and, thus, their capacity to provide critical ecosystem services. Small-scale private property owners own an overwhelming majority of waterfront property in coastal Mississippi and Alabama. Therefore, environmentally-focused management of private shorelines can provide large-scale benefits. Unfortunately, the most common shoreline management strategies for private property owners are hardened structures (e.g., bulkheads and seawalls) that are known to impair coastal ecosystems. An alternative to hardened shorelines is living shorelines, which are a collection of shoreline stabilization techniques that incorporate natural materials such as native shoreline plants. To promote living shorelines with private property owners, the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Living Shorelines Program and its partners began producing guidance documents, offering technical assistance, and conducting trainings for private property owners and contractors. Throughout these interactions, property owners and contractors have expressed their potential barriers to living shoreline adoption and needs (living shoreline research, communication, and training). In this presentation, we will discuss the status of addressing those barriers and needs as well as introduce some new living shoreline assistance programs in Mississippi and Alabama.
Resilience-enhancing living shoreline on the Lake Pontchartrain urban waterfront, Phase 1
11:30AM - 11:45AM
Presented by :
Mindy Joiner, Moffatt & Nichol
Co-authors :
Kevin Hanegan, Moffatt & Nichol
The Bucktown community in Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, has a rich history and culture, starting as a lakefront fishing village that now contains over 1,000 homes, schools, pumping stations, and an active U.S. Coast Guard station. Like most of Jefferson Parish, Bucktown’s land mass is below sea level. The levee and drainage system, necessary for flood protection, has also diminished the natural Lake Pontchartrain shoreline. The Bucktown Marsh Restoration and Living Shoreline project aims to rebuild the natural first line of defense against typical wave action and rising sea levels, to increase the resilience of the levee and the community it protects, and restore the ecological functions of the Lake Pontchartrain shoreline. By constructing a living shoreline using nature-based features, wave activity would be attenuated, protecting the levee from erosion and increasing the resilience of the Bucktown community in the face of coastal hazards. These nature-based features would also provide habitat for local aquatic species, waterfowl, shorebirds and other coastal fauna. A feasibility study was completed as a first step towards engineering and design of a shoreline stabilization and restoration strategy, which includes shoreline protection and marsh creation components. The feasibility study assesses various potential shoreline protection strategies to protect, stabilize, and enhance the Lake Pontchartrain shoreline for both habitat and public recreational use. A coastal modeling study was completed to characterize the wave climate and water level conditions which inform the schematic design of project features. Relative sea level rise was assessed and included in modeling to optimize shoreline protection geometry. This study provides the basis of an integrated approach to design a living shoreline that is scalable and adaptable beyond the current footprint. The results of the study can be used as the foundation for shoreline protection and increased resilience along the full urbanized Lake Pontchartrain shoreline.
Road to Resiliency: Restoration of the Dauphin Island Causeway Shoreline
11:45AM - 12:00 Noon
Presented by :
Matthew Jones, Mobile County
Co-authors :
Wade Burcham, Geosyntec Consultants, Inc.
Tina Sanchez, Mobile County
Situated along the western shore of Mobile Bay, the Dauphin Island Causeway serves as a key transportation corridor and the sole roadway to the “Sunset Capital of Alabama,” Dauphin Island. This strategically significant barrier island has 1,300 residents and is an important tourist destination. Shoreline erosion, loss of wetlands, rising sea levels, and coastal storms battering the shore have degraded the shoreline along this critical transportation link. The goal of the Dauphin Island Causeway Shoreline Restoration Project is to protect the existing shoreline from ongoing erosion and to restore habitat function to areas of eroded intertidal marsh. This project includes designing a 3.2-mile living shoreline to improve the resilience of the community by restoring shoreline along a key segment of the vulnerable roadway and creating a marsh habitat. The project will reestablish approximately 100-acres of tidal marsh and tidal creeks in Mobile Bay. Offshore breakwaters and sills will protect the marsh and reduce wave-induced erosion. The breakwaters will further serve as habitat for the challenged oyster population. Hydrodynamic modeling, sediment transport modeling, and a host of other tools are being used extensively in the planning process to determine the appropriate spatial arrangement, elevation, and composition of wave attenuation structures; appropriate marsh elevations; and depth, slope, and spatial arrangement of tidal channels. The wave attenuation structure design intends to reduce the erosional wave energy at the shoreline significantly. The marsh attributes intend to optimize tidal flooding dynamics in support of the proposed vegetation planting scheme and to maximize the benefit to marsh-dependent fishery species in the region. This presentation will discuss the design, challenges, and opportunities of this important shoreline project.
10:30AM - 12:00 Noon
Virtual
Healthy Coastal Ecosystems - Ecosystem Management (Oral)
Format : Oral Abstracts
Track : Healthy Coastal Ecosystems
Speakers
Kelley Barfoot, Mobile Bay National Estuary Program
Tarice Taylor, CSS, Inc./Lynker Team On Contract With NOAA Office For Coastal Management
SATHISHKUMAR SAMIAPPAN, Mississippi State University
Andrew Shamaskin, Mississippi State University
Moderators
Roberta Swann, Mobile Bay National Estuary Program
Development, resource extraction, climate change and other anthropogenic stressors on coastal ecosystems are issues of management concern. Scientists and stakeholders are attempting to understand such impacts and find integrative coastal management strategies. The seascape changes that may occur to coastal habitats because of these stressors can be dire. For example, changes in the hydrogeomorphology of a landscape combined impacts of subsidence, sea level rise and alterations in freshwater flow may have negative impacts on coastal habitats. They may also have cascading impacts on the many species residing in these habitats. The focus of this track is to present research, policy and educational opportunities and tools that have been used to improve our understanding of habitat vulnerability. This track is intended to provide a venue for scientists and managers to share their insights about habitat protection, conservation and restoration in light of the inevitable changes to our coasts. 
Habitat Assessment and Trend Analysis
10:30AM - 10:45AM
Presented by :
Kelley Barfoot, Mobile Bay National Estuary Program
Co-authors :
Roberta Swann, Mobile Bay National Estuary Program
In 2019, a GIS analysis was performed to produce a status and trends report to measure habitat loss or gain from previous studies. In 2016, the MBNEP produced habitat maps of Mobile and Baldwin counties at one-meter resolution. Due to the higher resolution of the 2016 imagery and a new methodology for classifying habitats, the habitat map product produced several inconsistencies, and as a result, these maps were not useful for conduct of a full analysis of habitat change. Because of the different applications of Cowardin and Anderson habitat classification codes (Anderson et al., 1976; Cowardin et al., 1979) by different contractors classifying habitats in 2001/2002 and 2015/2016, initial analyses revealed some large and unexpected changes across the 10 common habitats used in this schema. The differing methodologies used for classifying habitat data made it very difficult to analyze any changes in habitat types over the time period from 2001 to 2016. Due to the inconsistency between mapping products, the MBNEP attempted to translate the 2016 mapping products to match the 2010 identified priority habitat types: pine savanna, longleaf pine, freshwater wetlands, maritime forest, intertidal marshes and flats, and beaches and dunes. This attempt produced overlapping Cowardin/Anderson systems, sub-systems, classes, sub-classes, and modifiers across several habitat types, resulting in a duplication of acreage for several habitat types. The MBNEP successfully resolved the errors by using a recently completed soil survey for Mobile County, an existing soil survey for Baldwin County, and additional data and guidance from Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) soil experts. To address the “double counting” of acreage, selected criteria were employed to identify locations of certain habitat types. The selected criteria are NRCS soil survey data and Alabama Department of Environmental Management’s (ADEM) continuous 10-foot contour line.
Coastal Change Analysis Program (C-CAP) High Resolution Land Cover
10:45AM - 11:00AM
Presented by :
Tarice Taylor, CSS, Inc./Lynker Team On Contract With NOAA Office For Coastal Management
INTENDED AUDIENCE: Current, accurate land cover and change information is a common foundational data set that can be used to address a wide range of management issues, from flooding risk and natural infrastructure to policy evaluation and land use planning. Detailed information related to impervious areas, wetland features, and other cover types can inform endless applications. MAIN USE: For almost two decades, NOAA’s Office for Coastal Management (OCM) has been producing standardized, 30-meter, land cover and change information for the coastal United States through its Coastal Change Analysis Program (C-CAP). More recently, NOAA has been working to establish an operational high resolution (1-meter) land cover product line, bringing the national C-CAP framework to the local level and allowing for more site-specific, local applications. This presentation will discuss the status of current pilot projects within the Gulf of Mexico, the advanced AI Machine and Deep Learning methods used in their creation, highlight the advantages of this more detailed data compared to previous/existing land cover data, and discuss future vision for creating these products in additional geographies. GEOGRAPHY & SCALE: NOAA’s vision is to produce 1-meter land cover products for all the Coastal areas of the U.S., and update these products every 4 to 6 years. Currently, several pilot projects are taking place, including the 6 coastal counties in MS. In addition, 10-meter products have been recently released for all the coastal areas within the Gulf of Mexico (and much of the rest of the country). ACCESSIBILITY: The C-CAP Land Cover data is available within NOAA’s Digital Coast website, which is managed by OCM and can be accessed via https://coast.noaa.gov/digitalcoast/data/ccaphighres.html. A brief overview video can be found at this web address along with background information and technical assistance resources.
A LAND CONSERVATION PRIORITIZATION TOOL FOR THE US GULF OF MEXICO REGION
11:00AM - 11:15AM
Presented by :
SATHISHKUMAR SAMIAPPAN, Mississippi State University
Co-authors :
Andrew Shamaskin, Mississippi State University
Jiangdong Liu, Mississippi State University
Kristine Evans, Mississippi State University
Anna Linhoss, Mississippi State University
Amanda Sesser, 21sustainability LLC
There is an overwhelming consensus among conservation experts that an efficient, data-driven, science-based geospatial conservation prioritization tool can help guide or optimize the dollars spent on land conservation. In this work, we developed and implemented a conservation prioritization framework that integrates open-source data and an optimization method based on stochastic multicriteria acceptability analysis (SMAA). SMAA is capable of handling problems with multiple constraints, unknown user preferences, and insufficient or missing data. The data measures were developed from openly available peer-reviewed data from federal and state agencies. These data were used to evaluate projects based on their ecological merit. Since the data that indicate ecological factors tend to be on different scales (geospatial, non-geospatial) and type (raster/vector/table), each of these data measures were converted into a one square km hexagonal grid format over the entire study region (Gulf of Mexico RESTORE Region) for further analysis. SMAA algorithms incorporated over 100,000 user preferences to evaluate the merit of conservation projects by assigning random weights. The increasing use of web applications to provide visualizations of geospatial data has improved access to scientific information. Yet many applications lack capabilities in “on-the-fly” processing and analytics. The framework developed as part of this work was implemented as a web-based, user-friendly, geospatial tool that can prioritize conservation lands “on-the-fly” based on geospatial footprints. From early validations with the stakeholders, the developed framework produces valuable recommendations for conservation agencies based on an easy to use geospatial web interface. This tool will be a part of the Strategic Conservation Assessment project toolkit.
A LAND CONSERVATION VISUALIZATION TOOL FOR THE US GULF OF MEXICO REGION
11:15AM - 11:30AM
Presented by :
Andrew Shamaskin, Mississippi State University
Co-authors :
Jiangdong Liu, Mississippi State University
SATHISHKUMAR SAMIAPPAN, Mississippi State University
Kristine Evans, Mississippi State University
Anna Linhoss, Mississippi State University
Amanda Sesser, 21sustainability LLC
In the past decade, the boom of large scale spatial products enrich conservation experts with more resources and data to make smarter and more comprehensive land conservation decisions on large study areas. Web application, as one of the most accessible methods to share data across a large audience, has been increasingly used to provide intuitive visualization to support conservation efforts. However, as the data increase in size, visualizing large volumes of spatial datasets dynamically through web application has become increasingly challenging. In this research, we developed the Conservation Visualization Tool (CVT), which provides a region-wide visualization based on the existing data measures available in the Strategic Conservation Assessment (SCA) database. The tool was developed and tested with five conservation goals proposed by the Gulf of Mexico (GoM) Restore Council and was used as a framework for grouping the identified conservation plans and projects. The goals are 1. Restore and Conserve Habitat, 2. Restore Water Quality, 3. Replenish and Protect Living and Marine Resources, 4. Enhance Community Resilience, and 5. Restore and Revitalize the Gulf Economy. The SCA database contains over 20 ecological and socioeconomic indicators across the five Restore goals. Each of these data measures was converted into a one square km hexagonal grid format over the entire GoM Region. Based on users’ organizational priorities and conservation emphasis, the system would perform a calculation that combines the existing data values within the database with the users’ conservation priorities and generate a region-wide spatial visualization ‘on-the-fly’. The CVT would be used to identify potential conservation hotspots based on customized priorities schema as well as explore the spatial distribution of conservation potential across the region.
10:30AM - 12:00 Noon
Virtual
Living Marine Resources - Oysters (Oral)
Format : Oral Abstracts
Track : Living Marine Resources
Speakers
Jessica Pruett, University Of Mississippi National Center For Natural Products Research
LaDon Swann, Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium
Denis Wiesenburg, The University Of Southern Missisippi
Dan Petrolia, Mississippi State University
Chet Rakocinski, USM Gulf Coast Research Lab
Luke Fairbanks, The University Of Southern Missisippi
Moderators
LaDon Swann, Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium
Although subject to long-term fluctuations and episodic anthropogenic impacts, the northern Gulf of Mexico continues to support a diversity of productive fisheries and sustain flora and fauna that are of interest to conservationists. This track will focus on the applied ecology of living resources in the Gulf of Mexico. A major challenge of working toward sustainability in this region is to balance the interests of stakeholders while continuing to develop data, models and management policies that result in long-term benefits. Potential presentation topics include research that addresses management questions necessary for sustainability of the Gulf of Mexico ranging from single species to entire ecosystems. Ecological studies help us understand the results of different management decisions and restoration activities, especially as we evaluate the consequences of natural and human-caused changes and changes to management and conservation strategies. Potential presentations for this track will allow the research community, private sector, community action groups, resource managers and NGOs to share knowledge with coastal decision-makers and increase dialogue among these groups.
Concerned Oystermen Restoring Estuaries (CORE)
10:30AM - 10:45AM
Presented by :
LaDon Swann, Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium
Co-authors :
Rusty Grice, Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium
Bill Walton, AUSL
The massive disruptions to the oyster industry caused by the Covid-19 pandemic creates an opportunity to rethink how oyster habitat can be restored and created. Oyster reef restoration and enhancement projects have focused on replacing or supplementing cultch material in the hopes of gaining a natural spat set. Despite these considerable efforts, oyster reproduction has varied wildly over the last 5 years from Florida to Texas causing nearly catastrophic consequences to the Gulf oyster community. The use of aquaculture as a tool for restoration or enhancement has been limited, with any efforts primarily focused on the use of spat on shell. We seek to determine the ecosystem service benefits provided using large, single oysters, obtained from the private commercial aquaculture sector. The objectives are to: 1. Partner with the Alabama Marine Resources Division and the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources to identify appropriate sites to place oysters. 2. Purchase oysters from farmers in Alabama and Mississippi to provide up to 450,000 3-plus inch farm-raised oysters for enhancement. 3. Monitor the farmed oysters’ growth and survival and the ecosystem services they provide. 4. Conduct stakeholder engagement about the program. Participating oyster farmers are providing oysters to the appropriate state agencies (AL MRD and MS DMR) for deployment at designated sites. Working in cooperation with the state agencies, oysters stocked will be monitored by Auburn University Shellfish Lab (AUSL) personnel to assess oyster growth and survival, natural recruitments, and estimates of associated ecosystem services. In addition to the direct support to oyster farmers during the pandemic by paying a net price of $0.33 per oyster, this project will also provide critical ecosystem services through improved water quality, increased biodiversity, creation of more diverse habitat and cultural services provided by productive oyster reefs.
Impact of Water Quality Stressors Associated with Flooding Events on the Growth and Survival of Larval and Juvenile Oysters
10:45AM - 11:00AM
Presented by :
Jessica Pruett, University Of Mississippi National Center For Natural Products Research
Co-authors :
Ann Fairly Barnett, University Of Mississippi Department Of Biomolecular Sciences, Division Of Environmental Toxicology
Kristine Willet, University Of Mississippi
Stephanie Showalter-Otts, Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Legal Program
Deborah Gochfeld, University Of Mississippi
Oyster reefs are important ecosystems that provide invaluable services for coastal communities. Crassostrea virginica populations in the northern Gulf of Mexico have suffered heavy losses in the 21st century due to alterations in water quality from various disasters, including openings of the Bonnet Carré Spillway. These flooding events reduce salinity, increase nutrient and pollutant levels, and introduce freshwater harmful algal species into coastal waters where oysters live. Significant resources have been invested to restore oyster reefs, but recovery is reliant on the survival of early oyster life stages. We assessed the effects of stressors associated with flooding events on larval and juvenile oyster development to better understand the tolerances of early oyster life stages. We exposed D-stage larvae to a range of dissolved oxygen (1-8 mg/L O2), microcystin (0-20 μg/L), pH (7.1-8.1), and salinity (3-15 ppt) concentrations in 96-hour single stressor experiments. Larvae were not affected by any microcystin or pH concentrations tested, but low salinity and hypoxia reduced shell growth. Using concentrations informed by the results of the larval assays, we then exposed juvenile oysters to the same water quality stressors for 24 days in the lab. Juvenile wet weight and shell growth were decreased by hypoxia, low pH, and low salinity, but microcystin had no effect. These laboratory-exposed juveniles were then transplanted to the field to assess how prior exposure to stressors affects growth and survival in natural conditions. Larval and juvenile oyster survival was relatively unaffected for the duration and stressor concentrations tested, but the negative impact on growth of early life stages may limit the recovery and resilience of oyster reefs. Further research is needed to determine the combined impact of multiple stressors across all life stages of oysters, as the frequency and intensity of extreme flooding events rise.
Potential for Oyster Reef Restoration in Mississippi Sound
11:00AM - 11:15AM
Presented by :
Denis Wiesenburg, The University Of Southern Missisippi
Oysters in Mississippi Sound are important to the ecosystem and to the local economy, or they used to be. In the early 1900s, over 2 million pounds of oysters from Mississippi Sound were processed each year. From the year 2000 to 2013, the oyster harvest decreased from 1.5 million pounds to 0.5 million pounds. The harvest has decreased significantly each year since then. Recognizing their importance, the Mississippi Gulf Coast Restoration Plan considers “Restoring and protecting existing oyster reefs in Mississippi [is] critical to the ecological and economic sustainability of the region.” The plan focuses on increasing the density and acreage of oyster reefs in the Mississippi Sound. The Governor’s Oyster Council has set of goal of producing one million sacks of oysters from Mississippi Sound by 2025. To this end, tens of millions of dollars have been devoted to oyster research and especially restoration by the State of Mississippi using primarily federal funds. While over harvesting may have contributed to the decline, the influence of increasing amounts of freshwater in Mississippi Sound cannot be discounted. From 1937 to 2007 (70 years), the Bonne Carre Spillway was opened 8 times. Since 2007 (13 years), the spillway has been open 7 times, as recently as April 2020. Each time the spillway is open, fresh water diverted from the Mississippi River can flood Mississippi Sound potentially lowering the salinity to a level deleterious to oysters. Restoration efforts must consider whether oysters reefs can survive and whether restoration efforts will be effective considering how the current conditions of river water diversion differ from times when oyster harvests were abundant.
Oyster Economics: Costs, Returns, and Ecosystem Benefits of Extensive Bottom Harvest, Intensive Aquaculture , and Non-Harvested Reefs
11:15AM - 11:30AM
Presented by :
Dan Petrolia, Mississippi State University
The purpose of this paper is to identify likely ranges of costs, market returns, and ecosystem benefits associated with three different oyster (Eastern oyster, Crassostreia virginica) production methods: extensive bottom harvest, intensive off-bottom aquaculture, and non-harvested reefs. As part of this endeavor, this paper also compiles the limited and disparate literature on costs, yields, and returns associated with commercial oyster production. I use Monte Carlo simulation to estimates the likely distribution of gross market returns, gross nonmarket benefits associated with four ecosystem services, and net benefits. I find that extensive bottom harvest has the lowest and least variable per-acre cost, whereas intensive off-bottom aquaculture and non-harvested reefs have much higher and more variable per-acre costs. Gross market returns are lower but also less variable for bottom harvest, whereas they are higher but more variable for off-bottom aquaculture. I find that gross nonmarket benefits for non-harvested reefs are relatively high with relatively little variability, whereas those of off-bottom aquaculture are relatively low with low variability. Gross nonmarket benefits for bottom harvest are estimated to be highly variable. These results are driven by the contribution of market returns, and consequently, gross benefits associated with non-harvested reefs are much lower. When market returns, nonmarket benefits, and costs are considered together, bottom harvest is net positive, with moderate upside potential. Off-bottom aquaculture has the greatest upside potential, but also substantial downside potential, with mean returns at or near zero. Because non-harvested reefs have no market benefits, and because of the relatively high cost, most of the distribution of net benefits lies in the negative range.
Recruitment Limitation of the Eastern Oyster (Crassostrea virginica) in Mississippi Sound.
11:30AM - 11:45AM
Presented by :
Chet Rakocinski, USM Gulf Coast Research Lab
Co-authors :
Leah Morgan, University Of Southern Mississippi Gulf Coast Research Laboratory
In addition to suitable substrate and physical conditions, successful oyster recruitment requires an adequate supply of planktonic larvae from local and remote source areas, followed by the subsequent survival and growth of early post-settlement stages. Recruitment limitation arises when the stock size is constrained below some threshold density by the supply of larvae. Above the threshold density, stock size should reflect post-settlement processes such as growth and predation more than larval supply rates. Low abundances of adult oysters in some areas of Mississippi Sound in the summer of 2018 were likely caused by the combined effects of multiple stressors. Thus in 2018, local recruitment was potentially limited within certain areas of Mississippi Sound. Despite low abundances of adults in some areas, spat settlement appeared sufficient to support oyster recruitment throughout western Mississippi Sound in 2018. However, subsequent sustained freshwater inflow for 122 d in 2019 extensively devastated adult oyster stocks, apparently even including more remote sources of larval supply. Consequently, the recruitment limitation threshold was exceeded, as spat settlement was effectively eliminated in Mississippi Sound during the oyster spawning season of 2019. Thus, recruitment limitation now presents a major challenge to oyster restoration efforts in Mississippi.
Supporting Scientific Discovery and Science-Based Guidance for Restoration and Management through the Mississippi Based RESTORE Act Center of Excellence (MBRACE)
11:45AM - 12:00 Noon
Presented by :
Luke Fairbanks, The University Of Southern Missisippi
Co-authors :
Kelly Darnell, The University Of Southern Missisippi
Landry Bernard, The University Of Southern Mississippi
The Mississippi Based RESTORE Act Center of Excellence (MBRACE) was designated as Mississippi’s Center of Excellence in September 2016. MBRACE is a consortium of Mississippi’s four research universities (Jackson State University [JSU], Mississippi State University [MSU], University of Mississippi [UM], and The University of Southern Mississippi [USM]), with USM serving as the lead institution. The mission of MBRACE is to seek sound comprehensive science-and technology-based understanding of the chronic and acute stressors on the dynamic and productive waters and ecosystems of the northern Gulf of Mexico and to facilitate sustainable use of the Gulf’s important resources. Since its designation as Mississippi’s Center of Excellence in 2016, MBRACE has funded research projects totaling over $5M. Four projects were funded in Fall 2017 under the Core Research Program (Core 1) that examined how ecological conditions relevant to oysters vary over time and between restored and unrestored oyster reefs in Mississippi Sound. In Spring 2020, MBRACE funded three new projects through the Competitive Research Program, focused on water quality and oyster sustainability in Mississippi, as well as a second round of the Core Research Program (Core 2) to support the original four projects for continued work. Research funded by MBRACE contributes to scientific discovery within the Gulf of Mexico and, through the Center’s close partnership with state managers, provides science-based guidance for state restoration and management priorities. This presentation will provide information and updates on MBRACE and MBRACE-funded research activities, including new projects, products, and other developments.
10:30AM - 12:00 Noon
Virtual
Resilient Communities and Economies (Oral)
Format : Oral Abstracts
Track : Resilient Communities and Economies
Moderators
Tina Miller-Way, Dauphin Island Sea Lab
This track will encompass natural, anthropogenic and social impacts to coastal hazard resilience and how communities adapt to these impacts. It will encourage a broad range of presentations focusing on state and local efforts to minimize environmental impacts while enhancing economic opportunities and improving resilience to both natural and technological hazards. This track will also include education and outreach efforts to raise awareness and understand climate and hazard challenges. Topics may include land policies; innovative floodplain management strategies; sustainable building design techniques and methodologies; community response and adaptation activities related to climate change, sea level rise and inundation events; and cultural and sociological impacts associated with natural and anthropogenic coastal hazards. Submissions discussing resilience-related topics, including engineering, modeling, tools, remote sensing, field-based experiments, social vulnerability indexing, and other topically-relevant behavioral science are also encouraged.
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