Sea Grant Grad Student to Serve at Masters


John Shackelford

When the likes of Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy tee it up on the first hole at Augusta National Golf Club for the 2013 Masters Golf Tournament, David Toms won’t be the only one representing Louisiana among golf’s most notable players. John Shackelford, a Louisiana State University Food Science graduate student, will work as a lead chef manning the kitchen that serves some of the tournament’s corporate sponsors. To read more, click here.

Wright named nature tourism specialist

Chandra Wright

Chandra Wright is a nature tourism specialist for Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant.

Chandra Wright has joined the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium, Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism and the Auburn University Marine Extension and Research Center as a nature tourism specialist.

She will provide technical training to improve business management practices and increase profits. She also will conduct training and certification programs, presentations, workshops and face-to-face consultations with people interested in developing or expanding nature tourism operations in such areas as sustainable charter fishing and dolphin and nature tours.

While her office is located in Gulf Shores, Ala., she will be working with nature-tourism businesses on the Alabama and Mississippi coasts.

“We are so happy to have Chandra in this position,” said Colette Boehm, special projects director for Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism. “She’s been involved in many of the nature-based activities along the coast for years, so her experience, along with her professional knowledge base, is an excellent combination. She’ll be a great asset to the nature tourism industry.”

Wright holds a Juris Doctor from The University of Alabama School of Law and a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Alabama. Before working as a nature tourism specialist, she practiced civil law.

“As a direct result of witnessing the Deepwater Horizon oil spill’s negative effects on the coastal environment, I felt called to channel my time and skills into better stewardship of our natural resources,” she said.

Boehm said Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism’s partnership with Sea Grant offers the opportunity to support nature tourism efforts along the coast and help entrepreneurs meet both their business goals and the tourism market demand. “Of course, those businesses depend on our natural resources, so the focus on offering responsible, sustainable business practices is the basis for the entire program,” she said.

Wright, an avid scuba diver and nature photographer, can be reached at 251-974-4634 or

O’Keefe to facilitate Alabama Working Waterfront Coalition, coordinate exhibit

Kristen O'Keefe

Kristen O’Keefe has joined the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Team.

The Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium and Auburn University Marine Extension and Research Center welcome Kristen O’Keefe in her new role as a coastal community development specialist.

Working with the Alabama Working Waterfront Coalition, O’Keefe will help facilitate coalition meetings as the group works to support recreational and commercial water access and businesses that rely on water access for survival.

O’Keefe also is coordinating the first Alabama Working Waterfront Exhibit, which will take place May 4-5 in Bayou La Batre in conjunction with the Blessing of the Fleet. The exhibit will be a community event that celebrates the culture and importance of Alabama’s waterfront communities.

“We are looking forward to highlighting Alabama waterfront history and culture at this event, which we hope continues annually,” said LaDon Swann, director of the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium and the Auburn University Marine Programs. “Kristen already has 13 organizations and businesses committed to taking part in the working waterfront exhibit.”

O’Keefe also will work to help facilitate cooperation between waterfront users and elected officials, on such topics as water access and user conflicts. She will support of the Alabama Waterfronts Access Study Committee’s recommendations, spreading public awareness of the importance of a working waterfront and enhancing the coordination efforts of the Alabama Working Waterfront Coalition.

“I believe having a balanced, healthy working waterfront is necessary to ensure a sustainable future for the coastal counties of Alabama, as well as the entire state,” O’Keefe said.

O’Keefe has a bachelor’s degree in political science from the Florida State University. She also is a part-time contract employee with the Mobile Bay National Estuary Program, where she works as a project coordinator on the review and revision effort of the Alabama Gulf Ecological Management Sites program and facilitator of the Coastal Marine Spatial Planning steering committee.

O’Keefe can be reached at 251-438-5690 or

Red Swamp Crawfish

For centuries, human commerce has played a role in distributing plant and animal species around the globe. But not every species can claim the title of circumnavigator. Ari Daniel Shapiro journeys to the Gulf Coast of the U.S. to meet a tiny Magellan, the star of an unlikely story that has come full circle. Click here to listen.