In 2008, the Mississippi Master Naturalist Program started on the coast and expanded to create the Coastal and Central Mississippi Chapters. This Coastal Chapter consists of 130 Master Naturalist participants that have volunteered thousands of hours to service and environmental education projects within their local communities. Naturalists are helping to monitor our beaches, forests, and wetlands through conducting bird, amphibian, and terrapin surveys, water quality monitoring, and other citizen science activities.
Established in 2013, the chapter consists of 34 master naturalists primarily consisting of Hinds, Madison, Rankin, and Warren counties. These members come from all walks of life including both retired and working nurses, librarians, accountants, lawyers, farmers, scientists, general contractors, teachers, and homemakers. Our naturalists have contributed hundreds of hours of volunteer service in their communities including volunteering for special events, guiding tours at the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science, bird nest box construction and maintenance, scientific data base entry, public education and much more.
The Mississippi Student Naturalist Program debuted on the coast in 2019 thanks to grant funding from the EPA Gulf of Mexico Program. This program provides environmental education and stewardship opportunities to high school students throughout Mississippi’s coastal counties. Students also receive college and career preparation. Currently, it consists of 10 students from St. Martin, Biloxi, and Ocean Springs High Schools, two of which have graduated to Master Naturalist status. Student Naturalists are helping to clean up and beautify their school campuses, public beaches, and local communities.
Phone: (228) 546-1025
Address: Coastal Research and Extension Center
1815 Popps Ferry Rd.
Biloxi, Mississippi 39532
I was born and raised in Allgood, Alabama and earned my B.S. degree in Marine Biology from Troy University (Troy, Alabama) in 2008. I attended graduate school at the University of South Alabama (Mobile, Alabama) and the Dauphin Island Sea Lab (Dauphin Island, Alabama), where I earned my Ph.D. in Marine Sciences in 2014. During my final years of graduate school and since graduation, I have since worked as a project manager and postdoctoral researcher for the Weeks Bay Foundation (Fairhope, Alabama) and a senior environmental scientist for the Southwest Florida Water Management District (Brooksville, Florida). The focus of my graduate work and employment history has been estuarine ecology with a concentration on coastal restoration design and evaluation.
I was fortunate enough to transition my passions of estuarine ecology and restoration science into my current position as an assistant extension professor for Mississippi State University. My duties for this position include broadening outreach of the benefits of coastal restoration, working with landowners to design and implement restoration projects, developing restoration research programs, and coordinating the Mississippi Master Naturalist Program. In my spare time, I like to fish, hunt, and spend time with my wife, daughter, and 2 dogs.
Phone: (601) 857-2284
Address: Central Mississippi Research and Extension Center
1320 Seven Springs Rd.
Raymond, Mississippi 39154
I was born and raised in Rochester, New York (Western New York). I attended Finger Lakes Community College in Canandaigua, New York receiving an A.S. degree in Environmental Studies and an A.A.S. degree in Natural Resources Conservation in 2001. I received my B.S. in Environmental Forest Biology with an emphasis on Wildlife Biology in 2003 from SUNY Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse, New York (associated with Syracuse University). In 2005, I completed a M.S. degree from The Pennsylvania State University in Wildlife and Fisheries Science working on songbirds and West Nile Virus.
Since 2005, I have been the South MS NRE Extension Associate based out of the Central Mississippi Research and Extension Center in Raymond, Mississippi. My key responsibilities include to assist private landowners in sustainably managing their land for fee-based outdoor recreation opportunities. I also work with homeowners and the general public on general wildlife education including encouraging wildlife use of the back yards and wildlife nuisance issues. Finally, since 2013 I have coordinated the Central Mississippi Master Naturalist Program through the initial training course, advanced trainings, and other program management activities. My hobbies include bird-watching, hiking, camping, hunting, gardening and traveling.
Phone: (228) 546-1020
Originally from Missouri, Mandy graduated with her bachelor’s degree in marine biology and moved to the Mississippi coast to start her career. She obtained a master’s in Wildlife, Fisheries and Aquaculture at Mississippi State University through her research on forest bats at the Grand Bay NERR looking at bat activity across different land management techniques. She is currently an Environmental Stewardship Specialist and Extension Associate at the Mississippi State University Coastal Research and Extension Center. She is also affiliated with Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant and works with enhancing nature-based tourism efforts through wildlife and environmental education. She is passionate about wildlife conservation and assists Dr. Sparks with coordinating the Mississippi Master Naturalist Coastal Chapter.
Many local, state, and federal agencies and non-governmental organizations provide financial, logistical and technical support to the program. In fact, this program would not be possible without their continued support which the Mississippi Master Naturalist Program and its volunteers greatly appreciate.