Coastal Conservation and Restoration Projects

Current Projects

End-user derived research to improve the effectiveness, sustainability, and prevalence of coastal restoration projects

Shoreline erosion is a major concern of coastal land managers. To combat erosion, land managers often install nearshore breakwaters to attenuate wave energy. These breakwater projects are often termed living shorelines, due to the perceived increase in secondary productivity around the breakwaters and preservation of natural shorelines. However, evaluations of the effectiveness of breakwaters at preserving and enhancing natural shorelines are limited. To evaluate the effectiveness of large-scale breakwaters at enhancing shoreline vegetation and associated ecosystem services in high wave energy environments, we are engaging with an advisory panel of stakeholders to conduct experimental plantings and a shoreline monitoring program landward of old breakwaters (constructed in 2012), recently constructed breakwaters (constructed in 2017), and reference no breakwater sites along Bon Secour Bay, AL. Information gained from this research and will be combined with pre-existing literature to create publications and user-friendly outreach materials that will be distributed as manuals, workshops, and meetings for private property owners, contractors, and agencies. The research and outreach associated with this project will improve the effectiveness and ease of implementation of coastal restoration projects. This project is funded by the NERRS Science Collaborative Program.


Reducing runoff pollution in coastal waters through marsh restoration: a decision support tool for stakeholders

The main goal of this project is to carry out a cost-effectiveness analysis of how various marsh restoration designs ranging in plant density, platform slope and sediment grain size perform in terms of reducing runoff pollution under current and elevated sea level. With this information we will build a decision support tool to help managers maximize the reduction of runoff nutrient pollution through marsh restoration given their specific time and budget constraints. To accomplish this we are working closely work with an advisory panel comprised of environmental officers and managers representing a wide variety of agencies that deal with issues of coastal pollution and wetland restoration. Through this intense collaboration and training, the Panel are vested in the design, development and applications of the decision support tool. Most importantly, through their professional networks they will disseminate and instruct others how to use the tool, thereby having far-reaching implications for the protection and restoration of wetlands and applications for environmental betterment throughout the Gulf of Mexico and other US coastal areas. This project is funded by the EPA Wetlands Program.


Low-cost wave and flow gage development and application

Measuring waves and currents is critical for understanding coastal processes, such as hydrodynamics, sediment transport, and bio-physical interactions. However, coastal waves and currents are notoriously difficult and expensive to measure because of the harsh environment and variation in both time and space. The objective of this project is to develop and test an affordable wave and current sensor that is capable of measuring both small coastal waves in shallow environments and larger waves for offshore applications. This technology will equip us to better understand estuarine hydrodynamic processes, and as a result improve our management of estuaries and coastlines for conservation, restoration, sustainability, and resiliency. Portions of this project are funded by the NERRS Science Collaborative, EPA Wetlands, and the MSU Special Research Initiative Programs.


Faunal assemblages associated with living shorelines and implications for high-wave energy ecosystems

The primary goal of this study is to evaluate the effectiveness of different shoreline restoration techniques at providing faunal habitat in high wave energy environments. To achieve this goal, we are conducting experiments focused on addressing the three research objectives below.

  • Determine the influence of large-scale breakwaters on infauna, epifauna, and nekton assemblages in high-energy environments.
  • Determine the effect of shoreline state (planted, naturally colonized, or unvegetated) on infauna, epifauna, and nekton assemblages in high-energy environments.
  • Determine if breakwaters and shoreline plants are complementary enhancers of nearshore faunal communities.

This project is funded by the NERRS Science Collaborative Program.


Engaging citizen scientists to assess large scale microplastic distributions

Marine debris is a global issue that significantly reduces the quality of life in coastal environments. However, few education, outreach, and research projects address marine debris and public perception of debris issues has remained relatively unchanged. The masses are hesitant to alter their attitudes toward responsible debris disposal due to the lack of proven links to aspects of coastal life they care about. The primary goal of this project is to increase awareness of marine debris issues by connecting with and involving the public in a citizen science based monitoring project. To do this we are providing sampling gear and training support for participating organizations to train citizen scientists. Across the U.S. Gulf of Mexico, ranging from Corpus Christi, TX to Key Largo, FL, 13 organizations are participating in training local citizen scientists to collect and process beach and ocean water samples for microplastics. The data generated by this project is being used to produce a Gulf-wide microplastics distribution map, accessible online. This project is funded by the Gulf of Mexico Alliance Gulf Star Program.

Citizen Science Microplastic Sampling Map


Engaging the fishing community to remove marine debris and quantify impacts

Mississippi State University, Mississippi Coalition for Vietnamese-American Fisher Folks & Families, Mississippi Commercial Fisheries United, and the Dauphin Island Sea Lab are working together to reduce and characterize the impacts of marine debris in Mississippi Sound. To achieve these goals, we are establishing an incentive program to encourage fishermen to properly dispose of caught marine debris; recruiting and training commercial fishing crews to collect information on marine debris distribution; and conducting an economic impact analysis of marine debris on the commercial fishing industry. This project is funded by the EPA Gulf of Mexico Program.


Plastic Free Gulf Coast

A team led by Mississippi State University is working to stop single-use plastic before it becomes part of the waste stream by raising awareness and creating a larger market for alternative products available to restaurants and consumers. Our program is working with the larger Plastic Free Gulf Coast group to collect data on single-use plastic-use in restaurants, surveying restaurant customers to determine their willingness to pay for environmentally friendly alternatives, perform market feasibility analysis for restaurants to convert to biodegradable packaging alternatives, and raise awareness of the environment impacts of single use plastics on the environment. Components of this project are funded by the Gulf of Mexico Alliance Gulf Star Program and the NOAA Marine Debris Program.


Past Projects

Coming Soon