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A Jackson County Jewel Turns 19

IMG_7571 A Jackson County Jewel Turns 19

This Jewel of Jackson County has been providing Stewardship, Research, Education, and Training about our unique coastal estuaries for 19 years now.  The Grand Bay Estuarine Research Reserve plays an important role by partnering with local industry, schools, and professional science and research venues to gather important data and research to help us preserve the coastal environment we all enjoy here.  Established in 1999 under the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources (DMR) as part of the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Estuarine Research Reserve System (NERR), it is 18,000 acres of pure coastal beauty.

IMG_7571 A Jackson County Jewel Turns 19

The savannas, salt marshes/pannes, bays, and bayous here along the Pascagoula and Escatawpa River deltas are among some of the most beautiful and unique anywhere on the planet.  The Grand Bay NERR had its humble beginnings with a few modular commercial trailers and dedicated staff in 1999.  It has now grown into its own sporting a ground breaking 20,000 square foot Coastal Resources Center.  The building was the state’s first government owned LEED Gold Certified (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) building by the US Green Building Council (USGBC).  Inside you’ll find meeting space, classrooms, interactive exhibits, dorms and private rooms for visiting researchers along with administrative offices.  Basically, the Grand Bay NERR put its building money where its heart is; environmental stewardship, energy savings, ecology, and low impact footprint.  The sustainable design strategy can be seen throughout the facility.  But, the GBNERR is much more than a wonderful building.

Look past the Coastal Research Center and you’ll find boardwalks, birding trails, blueways for paddling, and yes, even hunting by permit.  If you’re looking for wildlife sightings, well, you will find it.  Check this link for a list of typical sightings, stories, and photographs.  You will also enjoy the many family friendly and community oriented events the GBNERR offers throughout the year.  There are programs for all ages that educate and stimulate.

IMG_7571 A Jackson County Jewel Turns 19

You can check out their Facebook page @GrandBayNERR and their website, grandbaynerr.org, for details on all the events and educational opportunities offered there.  The professional, knowledgeable staff also will come and speak to your group/organization OR you can plan to bring your group to their large meeting room for a change of scenery and pace.

The Grand Bay NERR is a true jewel in our community with so much to offer and they would like you to celebrate their 19th year with them!  On June 15th, from 10AM-2PM, they are having a birthday party with a special look at Bewildering Bugs that are unique to the reserve area.  Sandra Huynh, Director’s Assistant at Grand Bay NERR says, “There will be family friendly games, crafts, trail tours, & more…Be sure to pack your lunch for a picnic!”  Are you busy on June 15th?  Maybe bugs aren’t your thing?  Well, no worries!  June 16th they will host a Rain Barrel Workshop from 9 AM – 11 AM.  Learn more about how to “collect and store water during storms that can be used for: watering your lawn or plants in your garden, washing your pets, and cleaning your car. They are a great way to save money on your water bill while helping reduce the impacts of stormwater runoff.”  Then, you get to build your very own rain barrel!  Please contact Dennis McGrury to register (228-523-4190 or dennis.mcgrury@dmr.ms.gov). Cost is $35 per barrel constructed.

HAPPY 19TH BIRTHDAY GRAND BAY NERR!  Jackson County is fortunate to have you!

 

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Pay It Forward Friday: Wild at Heart Rescue

Wild at Heart Rescue is a non-profit wildlife rescue right here in Jackson County. Through rescue and rehabilitation they help injured, sick, or orphaned animals native to Mississippi. When possible, the animals are returned to their natural habitat once they become healthy enough.

When an animal cannot be returned to the wild, whether for legal reasons or for the benefit of the animal, Wild at Heart takes care of that animal for the rest of its life. For example, they have pigeons that have been with them for twenty years because legally, they are not native to Mississippi. 

Wild at Heart Rescue welcomes all animals in need, no matter the species. They care for all types of mammals, birds, and reptiles. 

They became famous for a viral photo of an owl hugging a man. When her caregiver went out of town for a few days, it was obvious that GiGi the owl missed him. When he returned, she spread her wings to give him a hug! 

The rescuers work tirelessly to help all of their residents, and they get more rescues every day. Their daily routine includes cleaning out the pens and making sure everyone is fed properly. For some animals, this can be very expensive. For example, buying rats to feed the owls is quite costly. Medical care for the animals comes at a high price as well. In addition to the care they provide each day, they stay on call to rescue animals whenever and wherever the need arises.

To continue the selfless work they do for animals in need, Wild at Heart depends on donations from caring people like you. Support their mission by donating at www.paypal.me/WildatHeartRescueInc.

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Here are the Final Numbers on November’s Mississippi Coastal Cleanup

OS1 Here are the Final Numbers on November's Mississippi Coastal Cleanup

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The 2017 Mississippi Coastal Cleanup brought in more than 1,700 volunteers to help pick up trash at 40 locations along the coastline. Although the event is typically held in October each year, the cleanup was pushed back to November 18th due to Hurricane Nate.

Volunteers of all ages picked up more than 13 tons of trash along 200 miles of the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Out of all the trash collected, 77% of it was plastic. And the most common item picked up- cigarette butts. Over 48,000 cigarette butts were collected with over 12,000 food wrappers coming in second.

The cleanup is a partnership between the Mississippi State University Extension Service and the Mississippi Debris Task Force. It is a part of the International Coastal Cleanup and is one of the largest volunteer efforts in all of Mississippi. Since 1988, thousands of volunteers gather in the fall to remove millions of pounds of trash from Mississippi’s coastline, waterways, and barrier islands. Additionally, these volunteers help collect data that are used to categorize the major sources of marine debris entering the coastal environment.

Eric Sparks, Assistant Extension Professor at Mississippi State University, says the marine debris problem in our area is pretty bad. “You definitely won’t have a problem going out to our beaches and finding trash”, said Sparks. “We’re working on research trying to figure out how to compare our problem to different areas, but it doesn’t take a hard look to see the issue”, he said. 

However, we can help prevent this problem in a numerous amount of ways. Sparks suggests by first reducing your usage of single-use items such as straws, plastic cups and instead using items like re-usable water bottles. Also, ensuring your items won’t get blown away by the wind can help.

“We’re working on educating young students by going to different schools throughout the year and teaching them to leave the beach the way you found it”, he said. “Our long-term goal is to have these cleanup events and there’s nothing to pick up”, said Sparks. 

Local sponsors have also worked to make the event a success. Chevron, Sparks said, played a huge role in the event by providing a monetary donation for event supplies and by sponsoring its own clean up site. Other sponsors include the U.S. Department of Commerce National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Sea Grant of Mississippi/Alabama, The Shed, Mississippi Department of Marine Resources, Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality and more.

The Mississippi Coastal Cleanup will be hosting a July 5th cleanup to battle all the firework debris that litters our beach and waterways after the night of July 4th festivities. In the long term, Mississippi State University Extension Service aims to sponsor additional smaller cleanups throughout the year. Sparks said this could allow for more people to get involved and will help raise awareness of the impact of trash on the environment. The 30th Annual Mississippi Coastal Cleanup will take place Saturday, October 20th, 2018. More information on the registration of July 5th’s cleanup will be posted at a later time, but interested participants can stay tuned on their site at mscoastalcleanup.org

 

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Audubon’s Master Naturalist Class Now Open for Registration

master-naturalist-class Audubon's Master Naturalist Class Now Open for Registration

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The Pascagoula River Audubon Center is starting 2018 off right with their Audubon Naturalist Volunteer Training program.

The program allows community members to take part in an exciting and insightful class at the Pascagoula River Audubon Center. The Audubon Naturalist Volunteer Training program is designed to expand participants’ understanding of our local environments. The course stays true to the center’s educational mission of connecting people not only to nature, but to our own region’s unique ecology.

Participants in the program are taught about the basic processes that formed and affect the landscape around them, the habitats and organisms that make up and live within the landscape, and the key social and environmental issues affecting the environment. The underlying theme of the Audubon Naturalist program is that habitats exist and function as integrated parts of the overall landscape. As such, the program is habitat-based and focuses attention on the major habitat types in the area where volunteers are trained. The end results are volunteers that are well-versed in local natural history.

The Master Naturalists finish the course ready to teach others about natural history in Mississippi- so they become incredibly helpful and confident volunteers at any number of sites along the Coast. “We can’t run our Center without their time, knowledge, and energy- we utilize their talents for everything from teaching summer camp programs to creating new displays to put on exhibit to planting native plants on our grounds”, said Erin Parker with the Audubon Center. “We offer the course twice a year, once during the winter/early spring and a second in the summer so that teachers can take it for credit during their brief summer vacation!”

“What’s great about the Master Naturalists is that they can help us with all kinds of things, from teaching to native plant landscaping to citizen science projects”, says Parker. “Some of them come weekly, some monthly, some complete projects at home that we incorporate into our exhibits or grounds. And after they’re trained, they might also volunteer at one of the many other sites across the coast- from the Grand Bay NERR to the Mississippi Sandhill Crane Refuge to the Crosby Arboretum”, she said. 

This program is based on the Mississippi Master Naturalist Program, developed by Mark W. LaSalle for the Mississippi State University Extension Service. The program began in coastal Mississippi in 1998 with support from the Chevron Pascagoula Refinery. The Audubon Naturalist program is also supported by Chevron. The program expanded into north Mississippi in 2005 with additional funding provided by a grant from the North Central Mississippi Resource Conservation & Development Council and the Natural Resources Initiative of North Mississippi.

The class costs $250 for non-members of the Center and $225 for members. It includes ten days of teaching, 4 books, and a giant binder of materials, plus all the field trips. “We feel that it’s a great value for people that are interested in really learning about our coastal habitats and ecosystems” said Parker. 

The Naturalist program for winter 2018 will take place on Wednesdays running from January 17th through March 21.Parker mentions how the program is a series, and everything builds on the previous class. While there is a different focus each week, everything is interconnected. Participants get to learn everything from geology to weather to plants to wildlife and get to take field trips to a wide range of ecosystems along the Coast.

To register for the Master Naturalist class, fill out the registration form on their site. Please contact Erin Parker at 228.475.0825 or eparker@audubon.org for more information.

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Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge Offers Winter Crane Tours

26850766_10155359298168215_4994836041240927406_o Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge Offers Winter Crane Tours
Those looking for winter entertainment have the opportunity to scout for local wildlife through a Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge winter crane tour.
 
Melissa Perez from the Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge said that crane tours are typically offered on Wednesdays and Saturdays during the fall and winter months, depending on staffing, weather and other factors, because these are usually the best times to see both the cranes and other local wildlife.
 
“Fall and winter are typically the best times for a few reasons,” Perez said. “We tend to be able to see more wildlife due to the dying back of the thick vegetation; we have the opportunity to view migrating winter bird species; and, most importantly, the fall and winter seasons offer minimal disturbance to the critically endangered Mississippi sandhill crane.”
 
Perez explained that the tour season ends in late winter or early spring, as this coincides with the start of nesting season for the cranes – this minimizes any potential disturbance to the birds during a very important and vulnerable time. 
 
She added that crane sightings are not guaranteed on these tours, as they are critically endangered with only about 120 individuals left in the wild. 
 
“While it’s typical that we do see at least a few cranes on any given tour, we often see other wildlife such as bald eagles, white-tailed deer, rabbits, turkey and many different species of migratory birds that are often difficult to spot in other places,” Perez said. “It’s also a great opportunity to go ‘behind the scenes’ with a staff member and see the pine savanna habitat, which is also rare.” 
 
The tours are suited for all abilities, from the beginning wildlife watcher to the advanced birder. They last about two hours, and the refuge encourages participants to wear layers for comfort. Due to the length of the tour, though, it may not be suitable for very young children. 
 
“A crane tour is a unique opportunity to see one of the most rare species and habitat types on the planet,” Perez said. “They are free of charge and a great way for a family to spend a morning enjoying all of the unique natural wonders the Mississippi Gulf Coast provides.” 
 
All crane tours begin at the Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center located at 7200 Crane Lane in Gautier. The tours depart at 8 a.m., and reservations are required.Crane Tours for the month of January will be held on January 6, 10, 17, 20 and 24th. For more information or to make a reservation, please call 228-497-6322 ext 101. For upcoming tour dates (and other programming at the refuge) visit https://www.fws.gov/refuge/Mississippi_Sandhill_Crane/.
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MDMR Announces Closing of Shrimp Season North of ICW

shrimpboats-620x330 MDMR Announces Closing of Shrimp Season North of ICW

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Officials with the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources announced last week that all waters north of the Intracoastal Waterway are closed effective at 12:01 a.m. Monday, Jan. 1, 2018.

This closure applies to Mississippi territorial waters. All other Mississippi territorial waters will remain open to shrimping.

For more information about this closure, call the Shrimp Information Hotline at 1-866-938-7295.

MDMR officials also announced openings and closings for some recreational and commercial fishing seasons. The recreational fishing season for Greater Amberjack opened in Mississippi territorial waters at 12:01 a.m. local time on Monday, Jan. 1, 2018.

The commercial fishing seasons for Gray Triggerfish and Greater Amberjack also opened in Mississippi territorial waters at 12:01 a.m. Monday, Jan. 1, 2018.

The commercial fishing season for Flounder closed in Mississippi territorial waters at 11:59 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 31, 2017. The season reopened at 12:01 a.m. Monday, Jan. 1, 2018.

The Total Allowable Catch for commercial landings of Flounder will be set at 74,000 pounds. The season will be open through Dec. 31, 2018, or until the quota is met.

The commercial fishing season for Red Drum closed in Mississippi territorial waters at 11:59 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 31, 2017. The season has reopened at 12:01 a.m. Monday, Jan. 1, 2018.

The annual TAC for commercial landings of Red Drum is 60,000 pounds. The season will be divided into three four-month periods: Jan. 1-April 30; May 1-Aug. 31 and Sept. 1-Dec. 31. The quota is 20,000 pounds for each period. If the quota is not met or is exceeded in any of the four-month periods, the pounds shall be added or subtracted to the following period. If the total quota of 60,000 pounds is met in the third period, the season will be closed.

The Mississippi Department of Marine Resources is dedicated to enhancing, protecting and conserving marine interests of the state by managing all marine life, public trust wetlands, adjacent uplands and waterfront areas to provide for the optimal commercial, recreational, educational and economic uses of these resources consistent with environmental concerns and social changes. Visit the DMR online at dmr.ms.gov.

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Pascagoula River Audubon Center Seeks Christmas Tree Donations

IMG_3331 Pascagoula River Audubon Center Seeks Christmas Tree Donations

The site of the tidal marsh restoration project at the Pascagoula River Audubon Center in Moss Point. Photo provided by Mark LaSalle, director of the Center.

If you need to dispose of your live Christmas tree now that the holiday is over, consider donating your tree to restore a local marsh habitat.

The Pascagoula River Audubon Center is seeking donations of live Christmas trees after the holiday season for a project that aims to restore a quarter-acre of tidal marsh in Rhodes Bayou by the Center in Moss Point.

Mark LaSalle, director of the Center, said they have partnered with Jackson County and other agencies to create the restoration project through a five-star urban waters restoration project grant. The tree donations will play a major role in the process.

“Adding the trees will help speed up the process,” LaSalle said. “They will help slow the water down to raise the level of sediment accumulation at the bottom of the marsh.”

Currently, there is a wooden fence outlining the area where the restoration project is taking place, and that is where the donated trees will be placed. The trees will create a barrier to slow down the water to keep it from sediment washing away. The end goal, LaSalle said, is to be able to plant grass in that area within a year or so. 

The restoration project is a result of damage from the area because of saltwater intrusion when historic dredging of the Escatawpa River occurred 50 to 60 years ago. The salt water damaged the fresh-river marsh area and washed the established sediment away. Now, LaSalle said, the Center is helping to restore part of what was lost. 

“We’re happy to honor our wonderful partners and help restore the marsh,” LaSalle Said. “And at the same time we can promote the beautiful tidal marsh habitat.”

LaSalle added that the donated trees need to be as environmentally-friendly as possible – this means they cannot have been flocked, cannot contain ornaments, tinsel or other items and must be live trees (not artificial). The Center hopes to receive anywhere from 50 to 100 trees, but LaSalle said they are happy to take all they can get for the project. Those who would like to donate their trees can drop them off at the Pascagoula River Audubon Center located at 5107 Arthur Street in Moss Point. For more information on the project please call 228-475-0825.

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Learn about Wildlife, Conservation at Crane Fest 2017

23334303_10155200077398215_1353545782970217622_o Learn about Wildlife, Conservation at Crane Fest 2017

Families wanting some outdoor adventure this weekend can participate in the 2017 Crane Fest at the Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge.

From 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 9, Crane Fest will feature a variety of activities ranging from archery and air rifle demos, to meeting live birds of prey, boat tours, traditional Choctaw dance and music and more.

Melissa Perez from the Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge said the event will have something for every member of the family from children to adults.

“It’s a good opportunity for people to get behind the scenes of what we do here at the refuge,” Perez said. “It’s a completely free event and will have a lot of fun activities for everyone.”

Perez said some of the highlights include the live presentations with hawks, owls and falcons from the Environmental Studies Center, as well as insects from all over the world in the Audubon Institute’s BugMobile. In addition, there will be special demonstrations of traditional Choctaw dance and music, guided native plant tours and eco-tours through cruises on the bayou. If weather permits, the afternoon will finish with a prescribed burn demonstration and a discussion about how prescribed burns are used to conserve the habitat.

Running concurrently will be a Festival of Conservation, where 16 conservation-minded partner organizations from around the area will have interactive, hands-on activities and booths to celebrate 42 years of conservation. 

“We can’t do it alone,” Perez said. “This is a chance for visitors to meet our partners and see the work they do, too.”

Perez said the pine savanna habitat at the refuge is extremely unique to the area and the United States, and the festival hopes to create a greater appreciation of it and the conservation efforts through all the different activities and presentations. 

“This will be a great educational open house event,” Perez said. “It also offers the chance for families to get outdoors and have fun.”

For more information about the event visit https://www.fws.gov/refuge/Mississippi_Sandhill_Crane/visitor_activities/40th_Anniversary_Celebration/.

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Mississippi Gulf Coast: How You Can Help People Affected By Hurricane Harvey

Hurricane Harvey continues to strengthen in the western Gulf of Mexico and is expected to land as the nation’s first Category 3 landfall in almost 12 years.

Weather.com predicts the storm to make landfall tonight or Saturday morning in the Texas Gulf Coast. Harvey will then stall or meander for several days, leading to a threat of catastrophic flooding in parts of Texas. Dangerous storm-surge flooding and damaging winds are also threats.

The Gulf Coast has received thousands of helping hands from other states after the impacts of hurricanes from Camille to Katrina. Now, it’s our turn to unite together and extend our resources to help the people of Texas and Louisiana. 

The city of Gautier has already gathered a crew that will be heading out to Texas to help with recovery, clean up and repair efforts after the storm makes landfall. If you would like to make a donation of supplies, (bottled water, canned goods, hygiene supplies, but NOT CLOTHES), then you may drop off at 1512 Highway 90 Gautier, Mississippi. The crew is currently unsure of when they will depart for Texas, so you still have time to drop off some supplies. 

In regards to our local organizations, The American Red Cross of Pascagoula is arranging to help people affected by Hurricane Harvey as well. “We’re in the middle of mobilizing and have over 100 volunteers on standby”, says Tamica Smith Jeuitt, Regional Director of Communications and Marketing Manager. 

The organization is currently on standby mode to see what specific areas Harvey will impact, but will be working closely with their emergency management partners to monitor every step of the way. “We’re refreshing training, fueling trucks, changing tires-preparing all that we can, so we’re ready to go when they call”. 

When asked how the people of Jackson County can help, Jeuitt suggested donating monetary funds to the organization and becoming certified to volunteer for future natural disasters. The American Red Cross of Pascagoula works with multiple, local and state-wide vendors and agencies to ensure there is plenty of food and means of shelter to provide for people, but they are “always in a constant replenish mode”, says Jeuitt. 

There will be a disaster cycle service, ‘Just In Time- Shelter Training’, session held tomorrow from 9:00 a.m. to 2 p.m. at locations in Tupelo, Gulfport, Flowood, Laurel and Hattiesburg. Visit their training and certification page on the website for more details. 

You can make a $10 donation to help those affected from Hurricane Harvey by: texting ‘Harvey’ to 90999, visiting their website at redcross.org or calling the Pascagoula location at 228-762-2455. 

 

 

 

 

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Don’t Have Solar Eclipse Glasses Yet? Make Your Own With a Cereal Box

Be prepared for the total eclipse this afternoon, which will block about 75 percent of the sun on the Mississippi Gulf Coast this afternoon.

The eclipse will last about three hours, from noon to 3 p.m., and will peak for about two or three minutes at about 1:30 p.m., according to TimeAndDate.com, which provides eclipse details for every city in the U.S.

If you haven’t gotten your solar eclipse glasses yet, it’s not too late. NASA has came up with a low-tech and cost-friendly idea to make sure people can still view the eclipse while also preserving their eyesight. Using some items you can find around the house, you can make a pinhole projector, which allows you to see a reflected image of the event.

Materials

Cereal box

Paper

Aluminum foil

Pencil

Tape

Scissors

How to make it

Trace the bottom of a box on paper.

Cut out the rectangle.

Tape paper to inside bottom of box. (If you can’t tape the paper to the bottom of the box, you can just place it there – it should stay securely in place.)

Close the top of the box.

Cut two holes in the top of the box.

Cover one hole with foil.

Poke a small hole in the middle of the foil.

How to use it

Take your pinhole projector outside and face away from the sun so that its light shines into the pinhole.

Look through the hole you did not cover and you will see the sun projected on the white piece of paper inside the box.

 

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