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.

Tarpon Springs Business Links its Success to Florida Sea Grant

Jim Cantonis is president of Acme Sponge and Chamois of Tarpon Springs, Fla., a successful processor and wholesaler of marine sponges and sheepskin chamois products sold around the world. Florida Sea Grant contributes to the company’s success by conducting research in the biology of marine sponges that helps ensure the sustainability of the commercial fishery.

Q: Tell us about the sponge industry in Florida.

Cantonis: The natural sponge industry in Florida has had its ups and downs over the last few decades. It surged in the ’80s when there was blight in the Mediterranean. Mediterranean sponges have come back, so it’s leveled off the industry activity here. We still maintain a higher level of fishing than we had prior to that boom in the late ’80s, but not close to what we used to see in the 1920s and ’30s.

Q: Where does most of the sponge activity take place in Florida today?

Cantonis: Most of the activity in Florida now, 70%, is occurring in the Keys. But sponges are also fished off the west coast of Florida, primarily from Tarpon Springs north to Cedar Key.

Q: Tell us about Acme Sponge and Chamois.

Cantonis: I’m the fourth generation of the family business going back to the Mediterranean, a little island in Greece called Symi. That was the roots of our company,  but we actually started in the U.S., in NewYork City, when my dad at the age of 21 borrowed a thousand dollars and went there and started peddling Mediterranean sponges out of his trunk. Subsequently we moved to Chicago, then moved the whole operation down here in 1977. The new building we’re in today we built in 1985 to help us process sponges at a higher rate.

Q: What accounts for the 30% growth your business has seen over each of the last two years?

Cantonis: There’s been a real surge in using natural product, and of course there’s nothing more natural than a sponge picked out of the ocean. The biggest increase is for bath sponges, especially for bathing babies. Sponges have a natural antibacterial property to them. It’s amazing how many times we hear, ‘If it’s good enough for my baby it’s good enough for me.’

Q: How does sponge fishing relate to Florida Sea Grant?

Cantonis: Without Florida Sea Grant there would be no sponge fishery in Florida. The research done by Sea Grant and other researchers tells a wonderful story. At current harvest levels, sponges are truly a renewable resource. Sponge tissue left behind after harvesting can actually regenerate to produce a new sponge. No other fishery resource that I know of can tell the same story. This is why it is important to rely on objective scientific evidence in evaluating the management of our fishery resources. These are facts, not just conjecture by well-intentioned folks that don’t have all the information in front of them.

Q: In what ways are you engaged with Florida Sea Grant?

Cantonis: I’m involved on the Sea Grant advisory board now as vice chairman, and I value the time. It has given me the opportunity to work with all of the various constituencies concerned with the health of our coastlines from commercial fishermen to sport fishermen, from environmentalists to research scientists, to other industries unrelated to the fisheries that are directly involved in wanting quality waterways and a healthy Florida ecology.

Q: How can other business leaders become involved?

Cantonis: Call me. Or better yet, contact Florida Sea Grant at the University of Florida and tell them you’d like to get involved. It’s wonderful on two levels. Number one, it’s great for the health of our state. But it’s also a benefit for business owners that have anything to do with the fisheries and our coastline, to get involved and truly be able to make a positive difference. The program is about developing partnerships with businesses to support the work needed to solve practical problems.”

Q: How does Sea Grant ensure its relevance to Floridians?

Cantonis: It’s applied science,so it is science to me at its best. It’s not just the fisheries. It has impact on every aspect of our lives in Florida. Eighty percent of the population of Florida is within 20 miles of the coast. So we’re all directly impacted by the threats of hurricanes — by the threats of sea-level rise. And all of those things are concerns of Sea Grant.

Visit these links to learn more about Florida’s marine sponges:


Innovative national conference to explore how communities solve waterfront challenges

photo of sailboats in biscayne bay

Situated on Biscayne Bay, the city of Miami experiences many of the issues that waterfront communities face each day. (Florida Sea Grant photo)

As urban, commercial, and rural waterfronts across the U.S. face challenges to their continued existence and development, community leaders are increasingly finding solutions by listening, learning and interacting with each other.

That’s the impetus behind the National Working Waterfronts and Waterways Symposium, which runs this year from Nov.16-19 in Tampa, Fla.

It’s the only conference of its kind to bring together planners, property developers, researchers, elected officials, attorneys, and other stakeholders from waterfront communities to learn about local, state and national initiatives, management approaches and tools to address issues of water access and water-dependent industries.

Attendees will hear about new approaches that increase the capacity of coastal communities to balance competing uses and plan for the future of working waterfronts and waterways, according to conference organizer Bob Swett, a specialist in boating issues and waterways planning for Florida Sea Grant.

“They are dedicated champions of local working waterfronts, and they come from throughout the U.S. to share ideas and solutions, and to learn about new approaches,” he said. “Being in the company of hundreds of such like-minded souls can be quite transformative.”

This year’s conference includes sessions on redevelopment of waterfront communities, marine industry sustainability, surviving commercial fishing declines, land-use issues related to waterway management, and preserving maritime culture and heritage.

Registration for the symposium is $425 until Oct. 19. For commercials entities and organizations wishing to engage with attendees, sponsorships that include display space are available through a range of packages on a first-come, first-served basis.

Complete symposium details are available at the conference website,

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.

Handbook Shows Homeowners How to Prepare for Hazards

With hurricane season only a few weeks away, now is the time homeowners should start making necessary preparations to protect their homes and loved ones. Through the new Louisiana Homeowners Handbook to Prepare for Natural Hazards, residents of Louisiana have a useful resource at their fingertips as they begin readying their families for natural disasters.

The handbook is available in PDF format at as a free download. Free hard copies will be available at various locations throughout coastal parishes, or the book can be ordered for $5 – to cover postage and handling – by emailing Jessica Schexnayder at 

Louisiana Homeowners Handbook

Louisiana Homeowners Handbook

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

Ecotourism Workshop March 12 at Stella Plantation

Coastal landowners, farmers, charter fishermen, marina owners, swamp tour operators and others interested in income opportunities from nature-based tourism are invited to attend the Coastal Ecotourism Workshop, sponsored by Louisiana Sea Grant and the LSU AgCenter. The workshop will be from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on March 12, at the Stella Plantation, 4881 LA 39, Braithwaite. Registration is $20 before March 6 and $25 at the door. For more information, or to register, contact Twyla Herrington, Louisiana Sea Grant and AgCenter fisheries agent, at (504) 858-9826 or Or, contact Dora Ann Hatch, AgCenter agritourism coordinator, at (318) 927-9654 or

Bays and Bayous brings 364 people to Biloxi


Bays and Bayous

The 2012 Mississippi-Alabama Bays and Bayous Symposium attracted 364 people for two days of presentations about current coastal research and outreach. People from 10 states attended the event, where 185 presenters shared information in five different sessions.