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NGI and Partners at the 2022 Gulf of Mexico Conference

June 6, 2022

Representatives of the Northern Gulf Institute and its partners at the 2022 Gulf of Mexico Conference
Representatives of the Northern Gulf Institute and its partners at the 2022 Gulf of Mexico Conference (Left to Right): Mia Infante, Kirsten Larsen, Paul Mickle, Lauren Jackson, Cortney Broussard, Ebenezer Nyadjro, Kirstie Francis, Just Cebrian, Errol Ronje, Angela Sallis, Jonathan Jackson, Sharon Mesick, Jennifer Webster, Clint Edrington, Stephen Formel, and Zhankun Wang. Photo and logo used with permission by the Gulf of Mexico Alliance.
More than 800 attendees including scientists, resource managers, government workers, and stakeholders participated in the inaugural Gulf of Mexico Conference (GoMCon) in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, April 25-28, 2022. The GoMCon combined the Gulf of Mexico Alliance All Hands Meeting, the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill and Ecosystems Science Conference, and the State of the Gulf Summit into one event that promotes the integration of science and management into decision-making.

Collaboration was the conference theme and was highlighted throughout the event – from the opening plenary on building inclusive coalitions to a panel discussion on lessons learned on productive partnerships, collaboration barriers, and inclusion.

The Northern Gulf Institute (NGI) along with its partners at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) were active participants at the conference. They presented a variety of scientific research and outreach efforts aimed at improving understanding of the interconnections among Gulf of Mexico environments, resources, and people and improved decision-making based on those interconnections.

Below are presentations given by members of the NGI and its collaborators at NOAA. For more information, go to the GoMCon 2022 website.

Climate Impacts
Zhankun Wang discussed estimations of warming trends in the Gulf of Mexico using data in the World Ocean Database. Zhankun is an Associate Research Professor of Oceanography at MSU and affiliated with NGI and the NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI).

Emily Osborne shared findings from observations collected by Apex biogeochemical Argo floats launched during the 2021 Gulf of Mexico Ecosystems and Carbon Cruise. Emily is a Physical Scientist at the NOAA Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory (AOML) and collaborates with NGI on a Biscayne Bay water quality modeling project

Heidi Stiller presented sea level rise projections and plans from the 2022 NOAA Technical Report for the US and Gulf of Mexico region, including new extrapolations of observation data out to 2050 and examples of planning applications at local and state levels. Heidi is the South Regional Director of the NOAA Office for Coastal Management (OCM), which funds the Regional Geospatial Modeling project at NGI and the NGI monitoring and research efforts that inform hypoxia management strategies.

Emerging Issues
Ebenezer Nyadjro talked about the development of the NOAA global marine microplastic database as a comprehensive archive for studies on microplastic sources, distribution, and impacts. Ebenezer is an Associate Research Professor of Oceanography at MSU affiliated with NGI and NCEI.

Alyssa Rodolfich described a comprehensive data collection program that involved commercial shrimpers to understand the quantity and impacts of marine debris in the Mississippi Sound. Alyssa is an MSU Extension Program Assistant and Coordinator of the Derelict Trap Reward Program. NGI supports research and outreach on the economic costs of environmental stressors.

Science, Management, Practice, and Policy
Stephen Formel described management hurdles and solutions for data storage, data sharing, metadata, and archiving standards for deep-sea coral data with an NRDA restoration project that involves several NOAA line offices and other federal agencies. Stephen is a Physical Scientist and Microbial Ecologist at NOAA NCEI. NGI collaborates with the NCEI to provide enhanced data, products, and services for the NOAA Deep Sea Coral Research and Technology Program (DSCRTP).

Kelly Samek discussed the principles for successful cooperative agreement collaborations and the advancement of national priorities through Sea Grant partnerships using multiple pathways to fund Sea Grant initiatives. Kelly is a Sea Grant Legal Network Liaison, Gulf Regional Lead Program Officer, and National Sea Grant Restoration Lead; Kelly has facilitated research awards to NGI from NCEI.

Hannah Brown described an effort that connects researchers and resource managers for project co-planning and design to produce actionable science that promotes recovery, restoration, and protection of Gulf of Mexico ecosystems and economies. Hannah is the Communications & Engagement Specialist for the NOAA RESTORE Science Program. NGI collaborates with NCEI to provide enhanced data, produces, and services for several RESTORE projects.

Sharon Mesick talked about the use of physical and social science data on Hurricane Ida to tell the human story of that billion-dollar disaster. Sharon is the Director of the NOAA Southern Regional Climate Service and, in her previous role with NCEI, she was the point of contact for several NGI projects.

Jenny Litz talked about new density models for marine mammals using data from the Gulf of Mexico Marine Assessment Program for Protected Species to inform restoration evaluation, recovery planning, and permitting/consultations for energy production and development. Jenny is a Marine Mammal Branch Chief with NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) Southeast Fisheries Science Center (SEFSC). NGI conducts research that supports SEFSC cetacean conservation research.

Kristine Evans explained conservation support for Gulf Coast landscapes using a new dynamic suite of planning tools that integrates priorities in a multi-criteria decision analysis framework and assists in identifying co-benefits of proposed areas for land conservation. Kristine is an MSU Assistant Professor of Conservation Biology, Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Aquaculture. Steve Ashby, NGI's previous Co-Director, was an investigator on the project.

Habitat Management
Melissa Carle explained the use of the Data Integration, Visualization, Exploration, and Reporting (DIVER) system by the Deepwater Horizon Trustee Council to publish its review of restoration project outcomes and monitoring guidance for coastal and marine resources. Melissa leads the Monitoring and Adaptative Management Team with NOAA NMFS Office of Habit Conservation. NGI collaborates with the NCEI to provide enhanced data, products, and services for the DIVER system.

Peter Etnoyer presented innovative deep sea coral restoration techniques using field and lab propagation strategies to better understand benthic communities affected by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and to advance coral management, protection, and restoration. Peter is a Marine Biologist with NOAA National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS). NGI collaborates with the NCEI to provide enhanced data, products, and services for the NOAA Deep Sea Coral Research and Technology Program (DSCRTP).

Water Quality
Vladimir Alarcon presented the use of an artificial neural network salinity model and a hydrodynamic model for Biscayne Bay to estimate salinity concentrations and groundwater contributions to this watershed. Vladimir is an Assistant Professor of Civil Engineering at Universidad Diego Portales and is a research team member on the AOML-NGI South Florida Water Quality Analyses project.

Living Resources
Seong Yun demonstrated the economic impact of hypoxia on blue crab in the Gulf of Mexico, with implications for other Gulf species. Seong is a Resource and Environmental Economist and Assistant Professor at MSU and is affiliated with the NOAA RESTORE Science Program; NGI collaborates with NCEI to support several RESTORE projects.

Marcus Drymon described research on the poorly understood problem of depredation, a form of mortality that can lead to inappropriate harvest recommendations in fish stock assessments. Marcus is an Assistant Extension Professor at MSU and a Marine Fisheries Specialist with the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium, which NGI collaborates with on several research projects.

Attila Karsi discussed the use of genetic variability of bottlenose dolphins stranded on the Mississippi coast to inform preservation, restoration, and recovery efforts. Attila is a Professor in the Department of Comparative Biomedical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine at MSU. NGI conducts research that supports the NMFS cetacean conservation efforts.

Elizabeth Fetherston-Resch shared the opportunities and challenges raised by creating new frameworks for co-designing cetacean restoration, developing sustainable partnerships that will outlive the funded projects themselves, and placing the Deepwater Horizon work in the context of other key Gulf conservation efforts. Elizabeth is the Marine Mammal Restoration Coordinator at NOAA NMFS Southeast Fisheries Science Center (SEFSC). NGI research supports SEFSC cetacean conservation research.

Kristopher Benson presented the science being conducted to fulfill the Deepwater Horizon Trustee restoration goals for deep-sea fish and invertebrate communities and improved understanding of benthic communities using projects to conduct mapping and modeling, habitat characterization, active management, and coral restoration. Kristopher is a Marine Habitat Resource Specialist NOAA NMFS Office of Habitat Conservation. NGI collaborates with NCEI to provide enhanced data, products, and services for NOAA projects that involve video and mapping data of benthic ecosystems.

Brittany Troast talked about the drivers of forage fish and predator community dynamics in two Florida estuaries to better understand long-term trends in species diversity and abundance. Brittney is a Senior Research Associate at the University of Miami affiliated with NOAA AOML. NGI conducts research with AOML on aquatic biodiversity and ocean acidification, which affects processes that drive productivity, biodiversity, and food web dynamics.

Citizen Science
Jonathan Harris talked with many attendees at the 2022 Gulf of Mexico Conference
Jonathan Harris, the NGI Education and Outreach Director, talked with many attendees at the 2022 Gulf of Mexico Conference, as they were enticed to check out the interactive display and maybe pick up a little swag or snack! Photo by Jonathan Harris, Mississippi State University.
Renee Collini described the use of short films by the Resilience to Future Flooding Project to expand the reach of resilience stories across the northern Gulf and inspire other communities to tackle issues with innovative strategies. Renee is a Coastal Climate Resilience Specialist with MSU and Sea Grant and leads the Local Adaptation to Climate Effects Program: Sea-Level Rise. Renee is also the recipient of the 2022 Gulf Guardian Individual Award presented at GoMCon. NGI conducts research that supports more accurate flood forecasts and warnings and rapid response to flooding events.

Angela Sallis explained their use of ESRI Story Maps to bring NOAA scientific data to life in an interactive, visual narrative accessible to many audiences. Angela is a Project Manager for the NOAA NCEI and General Dynamics Information Technology and works closely with NGI.

Kelsey Johnson talked about using community events in Mississippi coastal counties to engage underrepresented populations in environmental planning and education. Kelsey is an Assistant Director/Planner for the MSU Gulf Coast Community Design Studio. NGI outreach supports environmental awareness and education in the Gulf of Mexico region.

Jessi James shared the use of coastal community cleanup events sponsored by the Mississippi Coastal Cleanup Program to spread awareness about and prevention of marine debris. Jessi is an Extension Associate at MSU. Marine debris awareness and education are included in NGI outreach efforts.

By Nilde Maggie Dannreuther, the Northern Gulf Institute, Mississippi State University.