Mississippi Public Universities help protect state’s natural resources

Published 6:00 pm Friday, November 13, 2020

Mississippi Public Universities Communications

Mississippi is rich in natural resources that not only provide beautiful scenery, but fuel Mississippi’s economy through recreational activities, tourism opportunities, and supporting businesses in several sectors. Mississippi Public Universities help protect Mississippi’s waterways, forests, wildlife, fisheries, parks and air quality through programs, research, institutes and conferences focused on these efforts.

University of Mississippi graduate students in the Environmental Toxicology Program researched the impact of excess freshwater in the Mississippi Sound on oyster populations, identifying serious consequences of heavy rainfall in 2019. Along with examining oysters, the graduate students placed sensor platforms around Bay St. Louis to measure indicators of water quality, such as salinity and dissolved oxygen. The students found low oxygen conditions, areas of extremely low salinity and low pH, and damage from pollution, dredging and boat wakes that contributed to very high stress within oyster estuaries. Their research highlights the importance of restoration efforts for oysters, which offer many different ecosystem benefits such as filtering water, providing a buffer against shoreline erosion, and providing habitat for fish species and other animals that live in estuaries.

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The University of Southern Mississippi (USM) is leading marine education and research along the Gulf Coast. USM researchers are conducting a wide range of research – from sea trout migration to oyster restoration – in a number of centers and facilities to better understand and protect the marine ecosystem. USM’s Center for Fisheries Research and Development (CFRD) develops and conducts research that informs resource management, works to advance the understanding of the state’s scientific fishery needs and promotes sustainable fisheries and habitats. USM’s Thad Cochran Marine Aquaculture Center (TCMAC) works with industry, government and nonprofit organizations to advance sustainable aquaculture on land and in coastal and marine environments. TCMAC focuses on encouraging environmentally and economically sustainable offshore aquaculture in the Gulf of Mexico and worldwide.

Alcorn State University’s Mississippi River Research Center’s (MRRC) mission is to advance knowledge of preservation, conservation and improvement of water quality while balancing economic and environmental impact. The MRRC also provides capabilities in sustainable watershed management, soil and water quality laboratory analysis, and watershed assessment and modeling. As an 1890 land-grant institution, an objective of this research is to utilize integrative technology that will enhance nutrient use efficiency and increase crop production for limited-resource farmers.

Research scientists at the center are currently developing science-based information, analytical tools, and decision support systems to enhance the conservation of agricultural ecosystems along the Mississippi River corridor.

Individuals interested in saving wetlands; preserving a forest; improving water, soil, and air quality; protecting wildlife and climate change should consider Delta State University’s Environmental Science Program. DSU is the only state university in Mississippi to offer a Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science degree. The interdisciplinary program embraces biological, chemical and physical aspects of the environment and their effect on organisms and encompasses political, social and geographical components. Delta State’s Outdoor Recreation Education Program, housed in the College of Education and Human Sciences, is the only experiential-based outdoor adventure for-credit academic program in Mississippi. Students choose one of seven outdoor activity courses, from sea-kayaking to rock climbing or backpacking, receive hands-on training in a custom outdoor education laboratory, then participate in a three-to-nine-day wilderness expedition learning lifelong outdoor, technical and philosophical skills.

Jackson State University’s Department of Urban and Regional Planning (DURP) and its research partners are working to preserve natural resources. They’ve produced findings related to environmental change, renewable energy (geothermal), water resources, land resource management and food security in the U.S. and sub-Saharan Africa.

The Forest and Wildlife Research Center at Mississippi State contributes significantly to the state’s economic engine of forests, forest-based products, wildlife and fisheries that generates about $15.4 billion each year. The only natural resources research program in Mississippi, it is the research arm of the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks. While the FWRC works to expand not only fundamental knowledge of these natural resources, it also helps find real-world solutions to issues in the conservation, development and use of forests, forest products, wildlife and fisheries. An example of FWRC scientists’ current research is studying how to produce better, hardier trees that can then be converted to renewable biofuel. FWRC also leads the state’s effort in monitoring wildlife diseases like Chronic Wasting Disease among the state’s deer population.

The Mississippi State University Extension Service offers trustworthy, science-based information to stakeholders, state agency partners, and Mississippians of all ages to explore, study, manage, and conserve natural resources. The Mississippi Master Naturalist Program trains volunteers to help promote conservation and management of Mississippi’s natural resources. In 2019, volunteers contributed 4,716 service hours, valued at $119,928, and educated more than 22,727 people and directly or indirectly improved 12,266 acres through stewardship activities. The Mississippi Coastal Cleanup Program provides state residents an annual opportunity each October to remove litter from the Gulf Coast; in 2019, almost 18 tons of debris were removed. Extension also offers programs and webinars to educate landowners on leasing land for hunting, maintaining fish ponds, and water, soil, and habitat management.

Located in a secluded area high above the old Tombigbee River Channel near Columbus, Mississippi University for Women’s Plymouth Bluff Center is a 190-acre educational and recreational facility. This unique center in the beautiful woodlands of east central Mississippi provides the ideal setting for learning, growth and recreation in a natural setting.