Education

How do we recover from a storm? Students find solutions

Gulf Coast Research Laboratory Marine Education specialist Summer Dorcik examines student projects to determine winners of the Watershed Education and Training Program that Pascagoula and Gautier High School students participated in on Thursday.
Gulf Coast Research Laboratory Marine Education specialist Summer Dorcik examines student projects to determine winners of the Watershed Education and Training Program that Pascagoula and Gautier High School students participated in on Thursday. jvicory@sunherald.com

Hurricane Katrina. The BP oil spill. Coast residents are painfully aware of the consequences disasters or environmental neglect can have on the area.

Now Pascagoula and Gautier high school students have a better understanding of what can be done to prevent or mitigate those problems and others.

It’s part of Amy Clark’s job to steer a younger generation toward a career in environmental science. Clark is the Gulf of Mexico Bay Program manager for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA.

A grant from NOAA helped paved the way for Thursday’s “Watershed Education and Training Program” at the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory’s Marine Education Center. Its goal is to introduce the students to conservation and environmental study projects.

“It’s not just about the environment but about the connection to the environment,” Clark said. “That’s what we want the students to learn.”

It’s not just about the environment but about the connection to the environment. That’s what we want the students to learn.

NOAA Gulf of Mexico Bay Program manager Amy Clark

Students had to come up with solutions — or improvements — to problems affecting the Coast environment and its residents. Among the topics the students ran with included hurricane mitigation and erosion control measures, how non-English speaking residents can have access to communication following a disaster, how to quickly restock and restaff a business following a disaster, or how to prevent saltwater from intruding on nearby freshwater treatment facilities or prevent soil erosion.

Students even thought of ways to prevent storm-related identity theft.

The hardest part was when students had to remember what they’d researched and answer questions from judges. But that’s part of the process, Clark said.

“This is a very hands on set of activities that students go through to learn about watershed issues. It can be tough but at the end the students take ownership of the project. Some of them will become our next scientists,” she said.

A larger FEMA project is underway to build a “more storm resilient” set of educational and research resource facilities on the Ocean Springs property.

“It’s going to have two basic sites,” Marine Education Center director Chris Snyder said. “There’s a public component and then there’s a 2,000 square foot exhibit area with education offices and a science lab. There’ll also be teaching laboratories here as well.”

Snyder said construction should be finished by September 2017.

Justin Vicory: 228-896-2326, @justinvicory

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