Innovative partnership to strengthen local communities against storms, floods

Hank Hodde Head_shot 03-2017.jpg

(MOBILE, Ala.) – The Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium and Smart Home America are pleased to announce a new, first-of-its-kind partnership to increase wind and flood resilience across coastal Alabama and Mississippi. This agreement aligns the common missions of both organizations through a shared staff position

Both organizations agreed to hire Henry (Hank) Hodde, a certified floodplain manager, as the planning and policy manager at Smart Home America. In this role, Hodde is supporting and leading community and policy planning for Smart Home America while he serves as the liaison for Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium focused on building resilient coastal communities and economies.

“I’m excited for the opportunity to take on this unique role and apply my experience to build bridges between the public and private sectors,” he said. “It’s really a win-win. I get to work with two successful organizations making a difference in the lives of people along the Mississippi and Alabama coasts.” Read more

Register now for Bays and Bayous

Registration is now open for the 2016 Mississippi-Alabama Bays and Bayous Symposium.



Submit an abstract for Bays and Bayous


The deadline for submitting abstracts has been extended to 5 P.M. Central Time on Friday, Sept. 16. View the call for abstracts.

The 2016 Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Bays and Bayous Symposium’s program committee welcomes and encourages the participation of scientists, natural resource professionals, students, business people, educators, outreach specialists, policy and decision makers, consultants and individuals from governmental or non-governmental organizations to submit a presentation abstract.

Presenters are encouraged to discuss current research results that are relevant to Gulf of Mexico environmental issues and how this research is used to support the economy, the environment and society by informing the decision-making process or increasing marine science literacy.

Session topics include:

  • Climate and hazard resilience
  • Oil spill impacts
  • Habitat management and restoration
  • Living resources
  • Water quality and quantity

Abstracts can be submitted for both oral and poster presentations. The oral presentations will be 15 minutes with a 5-minute question-and-answer session following each presentation. Individuals wishing to present must submit an abstract no later than 5 p.m., Friday, Sept. 16, 2016. Abstracts will be limited to 250 words.

Ready to move your community toward resilience? Join us.

Are you experiencing saltwater intrusion to your aging infrastructure?

Do you have low-lying roads that are susceptible to flooding? Finding it problematic to secure funding for projects to mitigate for hazardous events? Is it difficult to communicate the risks associated with some of these impacts?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then you are not alone. A recent survey revealed that coastal flooding, saltwater intrusion and risk communication are still among the most challenging issues communities in our area are facing.

So what can communities do to “move the needle” on these complex issues? Well, one way is to learn from each other. On April 19-21, 2016, the Gulf of Mexico Climate Outreach Community of Practice will be hosting its 7th Annual Meeting in Biloxi, Miss.

This year, participants will work together on the above issues in small groups to develop creative solutions and plans for taking action in their local communities. Teams of experts in science, adaptation, extension, and communication will be ready to “roll up their sleeves” and get to work brainstorming what resources can be brought to the table, what tools can be used to visualize options, and what costs are associated with various adaptation actions.

New at this year’s meeting will be a poster session and awards program that will offer an opportunity for participants to showcase best practices and current research for topics, such as climate resilient communities, clean energy future and impacts of sea level rise on coastal and estuarine systems.

Participants will go on a field trip and learn how the City of Biloxi is tackling climate issues with new ordinances, high water mark initiatives and a commitment to the Community Rating System. Of course you don’t want to miss the Spirit of Community Awards, which recognize excellence in the field of climate communication and adaptation. To top it all off, a down-home fish fry will give participants an opportunity to network while enjoying the sights and sounds of Old Biloxi.

Why attend a gathering of this kind? Because you can make the difference in moving the needle toward a more resilient future. This year, decide to take action, commit to pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and make plans to join us for an experience that will be well worth your time and energy. Registration will open in early February.

Learn more about the meeting here.

Webinar announcement: Climate change, community resilience and restoration in the Gulf of Mexico

climate and restoration webinar graphic announcement

Many restoration planning documents and programs in the Gulf of Mexico highlight the need to address climate change impacts as part of the restoration framework. While precedent exists on how to integrate climate change into restoration decision-making, many post-Deepwater Horizon restoration projects fail to adequately address climate change impacts.

At the same time, coastal communities in the Gulf of Mexico region are both on the front line of climate impacts, as well as the ones hit hardest by the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster.

This webinar will bring together a panel of experts to discuss the complex intersection of climate change, community resilience and Gulf of Mexico restoration, focusing on the challenges of and opportunities for creating restoration projects that both incorporate climate change considerations and are responsive to the needs of coastal communities.

The webinar will take place from 1-3 p.m. (Central Time), on Friday, April 10.

Webinar details – View speaker list and topics.

Register for free webinar – Register to join the webinar.

Hanisko recognized for leadership in climate field

The Gulf of Mexico Climate Outreach Community of Practice has awarded the 2014 Gulf of Mexico Spirit of Community Award to Marian Hanisko, a coastal management specialist on contract with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Gulf Coast Services Center and an Ocean Springs, Miss., resident. Her peers in this professional group selected her as the colleague most deserving of recognition for leadership in climate issues. Hanisko organizes climate-related webinars that allow for distance learning training, helps users explore climate-related tools, and facilitates meetings across the region.

award presentation

Niki Pace, right, research counsel for the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Legal Program presents Marian Hanisko, left, with the Spirit of Community Award on April 9 in Orange Beach, Ala.

The Gulf of Mexico Climate Community of Practice is made up of more than 400 education, outreach and extension professionals, as well as community leaders and planners, whose work includes contributing to the resilience of coastal communities.

The Gulf of Mexico Climate Community of Practice brings together extension, outreach and education professionals and community officials in the Gulf to learn how coastal communities can adapt to sea-level rise, precipitation changes and other climate-related issues. Members work together so that they can be better equipped with reliable information and science-based guidance regarding the level of risk to their communities and strategies they can use to adapt to climate change.

The award has special meaning because recipients must be nominated by their colleagues and voting is open to all members of the Climate Community of Practice in the entire Gulf of Mexico.

“Marian works well with others, and as a Mississippi resident and former Coastal Training Program Coordinator with the Grand Bay NERR, she understands the attitudes, perceptions and beliefs of local Gulf communities,” said Niki Pace, research counsel for the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant.

Hanisko was applauded for her climate-change outreach efforts during the annual meeting April 9 in Orange Beach, Ala.

Floodplain managers come together to plan for flood insurance challenges

Image(BILOXI, Miss.) — Changes to the National Flood Insurance Program are raising many questions about how much flood insurance premium will increase, when those increases will take place, and what communities must do to retain discounts for residents through a program called the Community Rating System.

Professionals who work closely with flood management issues in Mississippi’s coastal counties attended a workshop Aug. 14 to learn about the National Flood Insurance Program Reform Act of 2012, also known as the Biggert-Waters Act, and what it will mean for property owners.

Representatives from the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Insurance Services Office, and the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Legal Program met at the Mississippi State University Coastal Research and Extension Center to talk with local floodplain managers and Community Rating System coordinators about changes to the National Flood Insurance Program. During the workshop, speakers identified ways communities can maintain their status in the Community Rating System, explained what the new law means for flood insurance premiums in local communities and discussed pending legislation that would make changes to the Biggert-Waters Act.

It was clear that information about the changes hadn’t yet trickled down to the local level, and even FEMA was waiting for more details from the federal government.

Kristin Greger, Biloxi’s CRS coordinator, is in charge of identifying and implementing ways that Biloxi can earn points in the CRS program. Those points affect the rating that determines what level of discounts, if any, are offered to flood insurance policy holders.

One way communities earn points is to have a team of floodplain managers from different cities and counties that works together to inform residents about ways to reduce flooding hazards and how to protect their property.

The Coast has an active group called C-HOST, which stands for Coastal Hazards Outreach Strategy Team. Communities receive points in the CRS program for outreach activities. Under the new guidelines, they will have to modify their team into a Program for Public Information and make some changes. At the workshop, Greger learned how they can transition the group.

“We can keep a lot of the points we already get for Community Rating System credits, and earn additional ones because the new guidelines help create an outreach program that is a lot more influential,” she said.

Josh Hayes, Bay St. Louis floodplain manager and building inspector, said the workshop included frank discussion about the hot topic of flood insurance.

“All the cards were on the table,” he said. “This is where questions got answered.”

Workshop participants identified challenges they face trying to deliver information about flood insurance and flood risks to residents and community leaders.

“We know what we want to accomplish through communication and outreach,” Hayes said. “Floodplain management is a mystery to most residents. Homeowners don’t know about it.”

Realtors, insurance agents, lenders, homeowners, floodplain managers and community leaders are all groups that are on the front lines with residents, and the C-HOST organization would like to work with all of those groups to make everyone more informed about risks and ways to reduce them.

The Grand Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, the NOAA Coastal Services Center and the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium organized and facilitated the workshop.

Training to explore community strategies for changing climate

A climate adaptation training course for coastal communities will take place Wednesday-Friday, Feb. 27-March 1, at the Mississippi State University Coastal Research and Extension Center, 1815 Popps Ferry Road, in Biloxi. The interactive, three-day training course will offer climate adaptation toolkits that will help identify and address planning priorities. The training is for land-use planners, coastal managers, public works staff, floodplain managers, hazard mitigation planners, emergency managers, local officials, municipal boards, community groups and environmental organizations.

Upon completion, attendees will be able to recognize the changes and variability in climate and climate’s influence on coastal communities; understand key elements to consider for a vulnerability assessment; evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of adaptation strategies; and identify existing plans (hazard mitigation plan, comprehensive plan) where adaptation strategies may be incorporated.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Coastal Services Center training staff and local partners will teach the course. Continuing Education Credits have been applied for through the American Planning Association and the Association of State Floodplain Managers.

The fee for the course is $30. To register, contact Michael Shelton of the Weeks Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve at or 251-928-9792 or Gwen Shaughnessy of the NOAA Coastal Services Center at

The training is offered through a partnership among the NOAA Coastal Services Center, Southern Climate Impacts Planning Program, Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant, Mississippi Department of Marine Resources, Grand Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, Alabama Department of Coastal and Natural Resources State Lands Division and Weeks Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve.