OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - It's a biology class like no other, and one you might not want to skip. In place of diagrams and complex equations are hands-on experiments, games and an important message of stewardship.
"What we're trying to do today is give some people some help in being good stewards for their coastal environment," said Chris Snyder of the Gulf Coast Research Lab. "As coastal residents we all have a responsibility to do what we can to both understand and to manage the use and the quality of our environment."
Scientists say little things we do, like fertilizing a garden or changing oil in our car, if not done carefully and conscientiously, can take a huge toll on the health of the water and the marine life living here.
"If you look at the map of the United States, we are downstream of most of the country," Snyder said. "We are in the north central Gulf. Thirty-five states drain into this part of the country. Everything that drains all over the United States ultimately ends up in watershed, flowing down into the Gulf of Mexico."
What could be draining into the Mississippi Sound concerns scientists in South Mississippi. Contamination from fertilizers, motor oil and other pollutants all have a big impact on marine life, according to scientists. That includes the health of seafood.
Contamination from fertilizer has been blamed for what's called a "dead zone" at the mouth of the Mississippi River off the coast of Louisiana. Scientists are concerned about the possibility of one forming in the Mississippi Sound.
"There's a lot of concern with nutrient runoff and creating something called a 'dead zone,' which is an area with very low oxygen," said Charles Foster of the Gulf Coast Research Lab. "It's something called hypoxia."
Foster hastened to say a "dead zone" like the one off the coast of Louisiana doesn't exist in the sound, but he said there have been areas with low oxygen levels at different times.
"There's been some speculation and some evidence of smaller areas of hypoxia forming out here in the Mississippi Sound," Foster said. "So at the lab we are doing some research to learn just how big that area is and possibly some of the causes."
It's one of the many reasons researchers are urging you to take care of the environment and the coastal water, even when you're far away.