MSU Extension offers agricultural assistance

msu-extension- MSU Extension offers agricultural assistance

Many people know about the University of Southern Mississippi Gulf Coast Research Lab in Ocean Springs, working to understand more about the habitat of the Mississippi Sound. Jackson County also has another resource in the Mississippi State University Extension.

“We’re part of the university but not on the academic side,” said Terri Thompson, County Coordinator and Family Consumer Sciences agent. “Every county in the state of Mississippi gets two or three agents. Agents cover areas from agricultural, family consumer sciences, county coordinators, and 4-H.”

The purpose of the Extension Center and its agents is to assist the community in the areas of agriculture.

“One of the biggest things we do for Jackson County we have homeowners that come in they have tree questions, grass questions, or bug questions,” Thompson said. “We do soil testing, plant identification, bug identification. We may not do it in the office, but they can bring it to us and we can get it to the right person so say what the homeowner needs to do.

“I work with youth and adults, and I do programs with the Jackson County Civic Action Committee centered around different topics like hurricane preparation, nutrition and health, and money management. Caitlin McLeod is our 4-H Agent, and she works with youth ages 8-18. She works with a few community clubs like the horse club, livestock club, shooting sports club, and different activities throughout the school systems in Jackson County.”

For more information about the MSU Extension in Jackson County, visit their website. Keep up with their news and events by liking their Facebook page

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Ocean Springs recognized for climate resilience efforts

This article was originally published in May on the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium website.

os-award_community_environment Ocean Springs recognized for climate resilience efforts

Members of the Gulf of Mexico Climate and Resilience Community of Practice honored the City of Ocean Springs for its work in the field of climate adaptation planning and environmental resilience.

Through a competitive process, group members voted for Ocean Springs to receive its 2017 Spirit of Community Award.

Each year, members of the Gulf of Mexico Climate and Resilience Community of Practice select a municipality to recognize for outstanding leadership in climate adaptation and resilience planning. The group is made up of more than 300 education, outreach and extension professionals, community leaders and planners, whose work includes contributing to the resilience of coastal communities. Group members learn from each other about how coastal communities are adapting to sea-level rise, precipitation changes, coastal storms and other issues.

Since the inception of the Climate and Resilience Community of Practice in 2010, Ocean Springs has been an active member and participant that shares climate ideas, challenges and needs. The city regularly communicates with group members and leaders. These correspondences help the city leverage its resources and implement initiatives and policy proposals that have been outlined within the community of practice. Just recently, the city was awarded a series of small grants from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Coastal Storms Program to address various environmental risks, such as storm surge, coastal erosion and sea-level rise.

“The City of Ocean Springs has made great strides toward addressing future storm and flooding vulnerabilities,” said Tracie Sempier, regional program manager for the Gulf of Mexico Alliance and coastal storms outreach coordinator for the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium. “This award recognizes the city’s commitment to finding creative solutions to erosion control, stormwater runoff and flood mitigation. The city’s proactive approach serves as an example for other Gulf of Mexico communities.”

Most notably, the City of Ocean Springs recently proposed a modified living shoreline for property owned by Jackson County. The county supervisors agreed and implemented the Inner Harbor Park project, which will protect the area from further coastal erosion while preserving some of the basic ecological functions of the waterways in the park. The city found out recently that it will be able to implement living shoreline elements on Front Beach in FY2018 with support from the Mississippi Tidelands Trust Fund Program. The living shoreline design was developed through Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium awards. The use of this innovative coastal mitigation technique is an example of the city’s commitment to using local government resources to advance applied science. 

For more information about the Climate and Resilience Community of Practice, go to their website.

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Grand Bay NERR celebrates 18th birthday with a bash

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Eighteenth birthdays are one of the most important birthdays to experience, and Friday the Grand Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve celebrated its 18th birthday.

Established as a reserved on June 16, 1999, the Grand Bay NERR has spent nearly two decades researching and educating others about the unique environment in Jackson County.

“We do a lot of big community events, so we wanted to have this event to hype up the importance of the reserve here in the community,” said Education Coordinator Avery Sward. “Every single person who works here at the reserve is working on this event, so we have all come together to have such a big event with crafts and games and tours.”

The birthday bash offered fun for visitors of all ages, from environmentally-friendly crafts to exploring what the reserve had to offer.

“Today we are doing guided trail tours every half hour right by the entrance,” Sward said. “You can go down the trail with different scientists to learn more about the plants and animals in the area. We have a gentleman set up on a couple tables with artifacts to talk about the history and culture of the Grand Bay NERR and the civilizations that have lived on this land. We have games set up and eco-friendly crafts making bird feeders and leaf-print birthday cards. We also have a small science room with an opportunity to see things through a microscope, the small side of science.”

Anyone who might have missed the festivities didn’t miss a chance to explore the reserve. Anyone wishing to explore Grand Bay NERR can stop by and experience a tour, staff permitting. 

For more information about the reserve, visit their website.

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Children experience Sound at Sea Camp

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Sea Camp at the University of Southern Mississippi’s Gulf Coast Research Lab is celebrating its 30th year this summer. 

That is three decades of educating Gulf Coast children about the Mississippi Sound and the larger environment of the Gulf Coast.

“Children in 1st through 6th grades get hands-on experience learning about their local environment,” said Summer Dorcik, Marine Education Specialist with the GCRL. “We take them on several different field trips, so it’s all very hands on.”

One of such field trips involved taking some of the kids out on the water.

“We talked about the estuary and salinity and the Mississippi Sound,” Dorcik said. “After that we pulled a trawl and got a population sample of the animals that were in there, like shrimp, crab, baby white trout, and even an alligator gar.”

The GCRL’s Sea Camp is a series of one-week day camps, allowing different age groups different adventures.

“With the 1st graders, because they are younger, we tend to stay more on property with that group,” Dorcik said. ” For kids in 3rd through 6th grades they get to go to Ship Island on Thursdays, so they are really excited about that. Wednesdays 5th and 6th graders they actually go out on the Pascagoula River.”

But why send your child to Sea Camp?

“It’s something awesome if you are looking for an experience your kids will never forget or something that might help them decide they like science or being out in the environment and being a steward of the environment,” Dorcik said. “That’s something I think kids take away from this experience.”

For more information about Sea Camp, visit the GCRL website.

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Grand Bay NERR to celebrate 18th birthday

The Grand Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve will celebrate its 18th birthday this weekend.

The Grand Bay NERR was officially designated as a NERR on June 16, 1999, making it the 24th reserve in the National Estuarine Research Reserve System. There are now 29 reserves nationwide.

During Friday’s celebration, visitors will be able to enjoy games, crafts, and the reveal of some new additions to the reserve.

“We’ve recently made a trail for visitors to walk through the pine savanna,” said Sandra Huynh at Grand Bay NERR. “You can find the beginning of the trail right off the Savanna Trail Boardwalk behind the Coastal Resources Center.

“Although the 18th birthday is our plan for a soft opening of the trail, we may have to only show visitors the trail at this time, but not walk through it, because of all the recent rain.”

A Science Discovery Room will also be available to visitors during the celebration. 

“The Science Discovery Room will have a ‘Small Science’ theme, where guests can explore different environments through a microscope,” Huynh said. “We’ll have samples of water from our research stations in the estuary, all the way to exploring life in a ditch.”

The celebration will be held Friday from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. at 6005 Bayou Heron Road in Moss Point.

For more information about the Grand Bay NERR, visit their website

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River tour offers unique look at coast habitats

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A true gem of Jackson County is the Pascagoula River, one of the largest free-flowing rivers left in the nation. A habitat for so many different species of plants and animals, there is so much one could see while exploring the Pascagoula River. One Jackson County business that helps make that possible is McCoy’s River and Marsh Tours.

“We do eco-tours out of Pascagoula River Audubon Center,”said Capt. Benny McCoy. “We take birders out. We do help the Gulf Coast Research Lab do their research, but mostly we do eco-tours.”

IMG_1728-e1497041760235 River tour offers unique look at coast habitats

No two tours are the same. You never know when you are going to see with McCoy at the helm.

“Depending on the time of year, you can get your birds, different types of birds, your plants, maybe some history of the area,” McCoy said. “Mostly we see how marshes and swamps kind of intertwine with each other and what the purpose is of each one of them. These areas are very important for the seafood industry and things we like to eat because this is where a lot of it is grown and nurseries are formed. You just learn about the nature of the Gulf Coast.”

As part of his job, McCoy gets to take people from all walks of live through the Escatawpa and Pascagoula rivers and see how they react to the unique natural habitat.

“We get people from all over our country and overseas, and they say it’s one of their greatest memories here on the Gulf Coast,” he said. “It says a lot, not only about the tour, but also what we have on the Gulf Coast.”

“I was visiting friends in Ocean Springs and I looked up the tour,” said North Carolina resident Lou Kraus. “So far, this has been a real highlight for us. The captain is a good story teller and very informed. I’m very pleased and privileged to be here.”

Even after doing the tours for 17 years, McCoy sees no signs of slowing down because of what he gets out of doing the tours.

“I’ve been doing this for 17 years, and mostly what I get the thrill out of is meeting new people,” he said. “I get to meet a lot of great people throughout our country and all over the world. I get to learn their stories, and they get to see the beauty of the area. It pretty much sells itself because it’s amazing what is out there. Every season has something new out there, and they get to relax and get out on the water.”

IMG_1728-e1497041760235 River tour offers unique look at coast habitats

Ahead of National Get Outdoors Day on June 10, McCoy has one piece of advice for anyone who hasn’t been able to explore the river yet.

“Come on out and get on the water and see what we can find out here,” he said. “There are all kinds of critters you can see and look at. Come on out and enjoy the outdoors. Get out of the house and get some sun.”

For more information about McCoy’s River and Marsh Tours, visit their website.

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Programs manager encourages outdoor adventure

erin-audubon Programs manager encourages outdoor adventure

People, and mainly children, are spending a lot more time indoors in the past couple decades. Not only does this affect a child’s health, but it also has an impact on the adults they become. 

The Pascagoula River Audubon Center offers so many programs to get people outdoors, and so much of it is thanks to Programs Manager Erin Parker.

“My responsibility here is over all of the education programs, all the school groups, the programs calendar, speakers and workshops,” Parker said. “Any classes we have, I help set those up. I do a lot of the teaching, a lot of teaching biodiversity of the area and getting people outdoors.”

While the Audubon Center began this year’s summer camps this week, the center offers programs all year long to give people of all ages a chance to get outdoors.

“We have programs for every age,” she explained. “One program we have during the school year is Toddler Tuesdays. It’s for children ages 2, 3, and 4, and it’s all about getting kids and parents comfortable with being outside. We have everything from that to tours for senior citizens. There is really something for everyone here. We do a lot of school programs, college students will come, and we have adult classes like learning how to identify birds.

“One program we have is Birds and Brews. It happens every third Thursday of the month and there is always a theme. It’s a great way to relax after work and enjoy a beer or wine. We have snacks, trivia, guided hikes, and it’s a great way to explore center without kids while getting to hang out outside of a bar.”

The PRAC’s summer camp is also a way to get kids outdoors in a fun way through arts and crafts and some hiking activities for older children.

erin-audubon Programs manager encourages outdoor adventure
erin-audubon Programs manager encourages outdoor adventure

Parker is a perfect fit for this position, as she has always had a passion for teaching and the outdoors.

“I’ve always been really outdoorsy,” she said. “Every day is different. When you set out on a hike or boat ride, you never know what you’re going to find. You find more and more things you don’t know about.

“This is my dream job. I get to work with people, especially people that have never been outdoors. It’s really fun and interesting, and your own backyard is way more fun than anything you’re going to see on a screen.”

Also, working at a center devoted to the Pascagoula River is a huge added benefit for Parker.

“It is so biodiverse down here, and everything changes seasonally, so always I’m always learning new things,” she said. “I love talking to people about how we help protect these wild, incredible places that we get to explore. It’s pretty neat to be here in Jackson County in our own center, teaching locals and people from out of state. I get to teach them about how great Mississippi and Jackson County is.”

With National Get Outdoors Day on June 10, Parker is passionate about getting to explore the natural habitats that surround them.

 

“Especially as adults, we are spending so much time on phones or computers and it is really important to have screen-free time,” she said. “Kids and parents don’t spend a lot of time outdoors, meaning we don’t get to use our senses to explore. Now we feel like the world has changed, and we can’t let kids out of our site, but this is such an amazing place to grow up because there’s so many different habitats and it is always changing.”

erin-audubon Programs manager encourages outdoor adventure

For anyone interested in the programs the center offers but aren’t too familiar with the outdoors, Parker offers one important piece of advice.

“Come on out and visit,” she said. “There is no better way to explore than with someone who is very comfortable outdoors. Having someone who is very comfortable being out there is the best way to introduce someone to nature. We will take people out kayaking for the first time, for example, and they almost always come back.”

Pay it Forward Fridays:

JaxCoHome would love to hear about people doing good in our community. If you know someone that is a champion for our community, the environment, education or local business, fill out the nomination form by clicking here.

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Gautier refuge protects native Mississippi species

sign-crop Gautier refuge protects native Mississippi species

Jackson County has the privilege to serve as home to the Mississippi Sandhill Crane, a critically endangered species that is slowly increasing in population thanks to the Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge.

sign-crop Gautier refuge protects native Mississippi species

“Our refuge was established in 1975 as one of the first refuges established under the Endangered Species Act, and we were specifically established to protect and preserve the habitat of the critically-endangered Mississippi Sandhill Crane,” said Refuge Ranger Melissa Perez. “It is one of the most critically endangered birds certainly in North America and really in the world. At the time the refuge was established, there were approximately 35 Sandhill Cranes left in the wild.” Perez estimates there are roughly 120-130 cranes on the refuge today.

Not only does the refuge preserve and protect a bird species native to The Magnolia Sate, but it also works to keep its habitat thriving.

“The wet pine savanna is a very unique habitat, and only three percent of that habitat that once existed actually exists today,” Perez explained. “You used to be able to find it stretching from Texas to Florida, but now you can find just a little bit in Jackson County and just a smidge in Baldwin County in the Mobile area, so the habitat in and of itself is endangered as well.”

sign-crop Gautier refuge protects native Mississippi species

The refuge serves as home to the Dusky Gopher Frog, five species of carnivorous plants, certain species of orchids, and some rarer species of sparrows.

 

sign-crop Gautier refuge protects native Mississippi species

“The Dusky Gopher Frog is also critically endangered. There were about 100 left in the wild, so right now now we have a captive breeding program where we breed them in captivity and release them into the wild here on the refuge,” Perez said. “The diversity of plant life here is pretty amazing as well. Just on our short nature trail by the visitor’s center you can see five different species of carnivorous plants, ranging from pitcher plants, which people are more familiar with, to the little more fantastic ones to sundews or the butterworts or the bladderworts.”

One of the unique practices at the refuge is the prescribed burns.

“It may seem odd, but this is fire dependent habitat,” Perez said. “We used to have wildfires come through the area every 2-10 years, but with the urbanization and suburbanization surround the refuge, that’s not really possible anymore. With the prescribed burns, you get, all of the benefits of that rejuvenation with the control that you want in a populated area.”

 

sign-crop Gautier refuge protects native Mississippi species

Not only does the refuge serve to protect and preserve these endangered species, but is also an asset to the overall economy of Jackson County.

“From just our bird watchers that come to visit the refuge, we get them from all over the world and have about 10 thousand to 15 thousand visitors annually through the visitor’s center, but we also have more visitors to our more remote trails around the refuge, and it’s increasing every year,” Perez explained. “We are located in Gautier and the city’s slogan is it’s Nature’s Playground. This is the only place on Earth you can see the Mississippi Sandhill Crane.”

For anyone interested in visiting the refuge, the onsite museum is open all year and free of charge. However, guided tours are not offered during the summer.

“Starting in October into February or early March we offer guided tours twice a week on Wednesday and Saturday mornings,” Perez said. “You spend a few hours with us in our vehicles and go crane spotting, but we don’t offer them during the summer months, which is nesting season, because we don’t want to minimize disturbances during that time.”

For more information, visit the refuge website.

 

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Fishing rodeo goes on despite rainy weather

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Even though the first weekend of June wasn’t met with the most ideal weather, that did not stop local fishers from coming out to the Ocean Springs Marine Mart Fishing Rodeo.

The two-day tournament ran Saturday and Sunday, and fishing began first thing Saturday morning.

“We have two different divisions for this tournament,” said Kenny Deniro, tournament director.” We have the offshore division, which involves Cobia and Red Snapper. The in-shore division has Red Fish, Speckled Trout, Flounder and Blackfish.”

The event wasn’t exclusive to competitors, as there was also live music, food and drink offered for anyone just wanting to see the fish and feel like part of the community.

“This is a good economic driver and an old-fashioned way of getting the community together,” said Jim Franks. Franks works at the Gulf Coast Research Lab with the University of Southern Mississippi and served as the Weigh Master at the tournament. “Everyone is interested in fish, so this is good all around for Jackson County.” Franks has served as weigh master for similar events for 30 years.

Winners, announced Sunday evening, were Tomas Pojer for Cobia, Jerry Plaskett for Red Snapper, Todd Lipps Jr. for Black Fish, Donnie Bosarge for Speckled Trout, Jeffery Waltman for Red Fish, and Aaron Chu for Flounder. 

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Reserve educator brings lessons to life

ranew-of-grand-bay-nerrjpg-9b532ce4cb680837 Reserve educator brings lessons to life

Teachers and educators do what they do not for themselves, but for future generations. Teachers prepare children to be adults and the impact they will have on the world, and one of Jackson County’s educators who really take this duty to heart is Rick Ranew.

As the education specialist at the Grand Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, Ranew works with other staff members to design and implement programs that address current coastal issues on the school level from kindergarten to 12th grade.

“This is a job I’ve always wanted to have,” Ranew said. “What I do, basically, is that I develop curriculums for students kindergarten through 12th grade that deals with environmental science. I work alongside my staff. They do research, and I do everything from water sheds to estuaries to water quality to wetlands and litter.” 

Not only is Ranew able to educate any visitors to the Grand Bay NERR about the local environment and the impact they have on nature, but he also takes opportunities to visit Jackson County schools and bring the lessons to the classroom.

“I’ve gone on the road to schools that can’t come here,” he explained. “I just visited East Central Middle School, and I work to talk about what they are already covering in their classes.”

ranew-of-grand-bay-nerrjpg-9b532ce4cb680837 Reserve educator brings lessons to life

Classes that are able to take a field trip to the reserve are able to have Rick bring the lesson to life. They are able to actually see and experience what they are learning, and the visiting science teachers see the value in these visits.

“Once again, we have not been disappointed,” said Deborah Richardson, a 4th grade teacher at Escatawpa Upper Elementary School in Moss Point. “Our field trip to the Grand Bay NERR on April 28, was outstanding. Mr. Rick Ranew and his volunteer were so kind and knowledgable. The students and teachers truly enjoyed the experience. Some of the students who participated had this to say: ‘It was fantastic; the hike along the boardwalk was fun.’ ‘I liked the scavenger hunt and the animals we got to see.’ ‘It was especially exciting to see the osprey nest and deer tracks.’

As the website states, ‘The Education Program of the Grand Bay NERR is integrated program of life-long learning opportunities designed to educate a variety of audiences on the importance of wisely caring for estuary, or coastal resources.’ Our students here at Moss Point Escatawpa Upper, due to the social economic makeup of the community, do not get the do not get the opportunity to visit such sites on their own. It is only through the generous offers that are funded by the state we are able to adventure out to our own backyard and participate in the k-16 Community Educational Program. Being able to visit the many habitats of the reserve as living laboratories and classrooms truly brings it to life for the students. To experience a field trip to the Grand Bay NERR first-hand is a once in a lifetime opportunity is not only educational, but thrilling for these students. As a teacher, it’s priceless to be able to take our students to a world that we know they’ll never be able to experience on their own.

Again, thank you for a memorable educational experience at the Grand Bay NERR in Moss Point, Mississippi.”

ranew-of-grand-bay-nerrjpg-9b532ce4cb680837 Reserve educator brings lessons to life

Not only will Ranew take student visitors, but he enjoys teaching those of all ages.

“I recently had veterans come out, and I gave them a tour,” Ranew said. “We’re going to have them come back out in the fall for fishing. I also do a program during the summer where I take retired people and put them together with some students, and it allows students to tap into the wisdom of these senior citizens. I’m all about inspiring and enthusiasm.”

The passion for his work is clear to anyone who has the chance to speak to Ranew. 

“I love what I’m doing. It’s not that I have to do it, I get to do it, he explained. “I’m 63 and retirement isn’t in my vocabulary. I want to inspire future generations to become good stewards of the coastal habitats, knowing that seafood comes from estuaries and rivers. I encourage them, especially young ladies, to go into science. Our best scientists are young ladies on staff. I am very passionate of taking care of what we’ve got. And one day they will be one ones making decisions for the coast. If I can inspire one student when I have a group out here, I’ve done my job.”

The impact he has on his students is a lasting one, as some visitors will even say that want to grow up to be like Rick Ranew.

ranew-of-grand-bay-nerrjpg-9b532ce4cb680837 Reserve educator brings lessons to life
ranew-of-grand-bay-nerrjpg-9b532ce4cb680837 Reserve educator brings lessons to life

 

Pay it Forward Fridays:

JaxCoHome would love to hear about people doing good in our community. If you know someone that is a champion for our community, the environment, education or local business, fill out the nomination form by clicking here.

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