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Scientific & Field Conservation

We are committed to promoting and enhancing marine conservation education all while showcasing Mississippi’s diverse native wildlife and the many rivers that create this diversity in the Gulf of Mexico and around the world.

Scientific & Field Conservation

Science and Field Conservation pertains to a goal-oriented, direct scientific action with measurable outcomes. Scientific conservation includes research at Mississippi Aquarium and in the field, ecological restoration and protection efforts, policy, advocacy, and sharing of scientific information to the public through publications and outreach.

Species We Focus On:

  • Sharks & Rays
  • Sea Turtles
  • Marine Mammals
  • Monarch Butterfly
  • African Penguins
  • Horseshoe Crabs

Hammerhead Sharks

Hammerhead sharks are apex predators considered at risk, defined with an International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red listing of Near Threatened. There is a critical need to increase our understanding of shark distributions for population sustainability and ecosystem health. This amazing shark species travels through the Mississippi Sound and Northern Gulf of Mexico, but how they utilize this environment is poorly understood. In collaboration with Mississippi State Coastal Extension, Mississippi Aquarium is working to place satellite tags on hammerhead sharks to collect health and natural history data sampling. The satellite tag data will be uploaded to Ocearch so that scientists and the public can monitor the shark movements.

For more information about OCEARCH, visit About - Ocearch

To track sharks, visit OCEARCH Shark Tracker

Sea Turtles

Mississippi Aquarium, Mississippi State University, The University of Southern Mississippi, National Audubon Society, USFWS, MDMR, NOAA, Mississippi Sea Turtle Stranding, and Salvage Network use small, boat-based drones to build capacity to improve sea turtle stranding response and nesting frequency on Cat Island. Utilizing this technology has enabled the development of standardized monitoring to help better understand population trends, nesting frequency, and site fidelity over Cat Island. Additionally, these increased monitoring and outreach efforts will help reduce the year-to-year biases making stranding data more robust and helpful in assessing recovery efforts.

West Indian Manatee

In collaboration with Dauphin Island Sea Lab and USFWS, Mississippi Aquarium aims to increase manatee research in Mississippi. Goals include improving knowledge of movement and occupancy patterns, including identifying individuals, origins, seasonal dispersal and site fidelity, and functional movement of individuals. Annual health assessments and satellite telemetry will be used to understand health, spatial distribution, and movement. Mississippi Aquarium will also assist Dauphin Island Sea Lab with stranding and rescue response.

Bottlenose Dolphin

Dolphins are top-level predators and eat various fish, making them good environmental health indicators. Studying dolphins allows us to monitor the health of their ocean environments, as water pollution can cause disease in the dolphin population. Mississippi Aquarium will coordinate with NOAA and Northern Gulf Partners to utilize standardized research protocols to collect year-round, boat-based dolphin surveys for select geographic regions in the Mississippi Sound. These surveys help answer critical questions about this population, such as estimating and evaluating abundance, survival, spatial and temporal habitat use, reproduction, social grouping, and health.

Monarch Butterfly

Monarch butterflies are essential to our ecosystem. Mississippi Aquarium scientists are trying to understand better the fall migration routes in Coastal Mississippi through citizen science outreach, tagging, nectar plant abundance, and health monitoring. Monarch aggregations will be marked and mapped, preferred nectar plants recorded, then monarchs will be gently captured, tagged, tested for parasites, and released.

Horseshoe Crabs

Mississippi is home to the westernmost habitat in the United States for the American horseshoe crab. This ancient species isn’t a crab but is related to spiders and scorpions. Sometimes called “living fossils,” these creatures were on Earth before the dinosaurs but now are listed as “vulnerable” by the International Union for Conservation Nature (IUCN). There is increasing concern they could become endangered due to overharvesting and habitat degradation, particularly in the Northeast Atlantic states where population density is high. Very little research has been done on the horseshoe crabs of the northcentral Gulf of Mexico. Much work is needed to understand better their population, breeding, and role in the Mississippi Sound ecosystem. Mississippi Aquarium is excited to partner with Dauphin Island Sea Lab in Alabama to help study and save this unique species.

To get involved horseshoe crab conservation, visit horseshoecrab.org and learn more about the Just Flip ‘emTM Program.

Fun Facts About Horseshoe Crabs:

  • Horseshoe crabs have copper-based blue blood that is used by the biomedical industry to detect harmful bacteria when manufacturing human drugs and vaccines.
  • Horseshoe crabs nest on beaches where they lay thousands of eggs. These eggs provide nutrition and energy for migrating shorebirds.
  • Horseshoe crabs are completely harmless despite their somewhat menacing appearance. They cruise the sea floor with their 10 legs feeding on worms and clams. Their sharp looking tail is used as a rudder and cannot sting.
  • Horseshoe crabs aren’t mature until they are 10 years of age and can live over 20 years.

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