Grand Bay Reserve combines education and research - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Grand Bay Reserve combines education and research

JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) -

It's just two miles south of the busy interstate. But the Grand Bay reserve seems worlds away for those who enjoy the beauty of nature.

"We're one of 28 reserves, very similar to this around the country, that work to protect our coastal resources," said reserve manager David Ruple.

Education about our environment is a significant aspect of helping protect it. The Grand Bay Coastal Resource Center features an array of hands on exhibits, teaching children and adults about things like saltwater wetlands. This unique center balances education with research.

"What we try to stress is that our research basically provides information for the education and training programs. So it's not just research to do research. But we try to structure our education program to utilize the research we do," said Ruple.

The reserve's 18,000 acres offer a unique blend of coastal and upland environments.

"Fire is definitely a necessary component of maintaining those habitats," said Will Underwood, who's preparing the reserve for a prescribed burn project.

"It's one of the only places in Mississippi where we have a natural transition from open water through the marsh to the upland. And so we have kind of an unbroken tract of habitat here where we're able to transition through a variety of plant species and see the natural movement," he explained.

Brenna Ehmen began working at the reserve in 2009. She's studied the impact of development on bayous and done some research on oyster growth and mortality. What she loves best, is working outdoors.

"Just have to kind of take a step back from work, work, work and all the science stuff. And really just say, this is why I'm out here. The nature and the wildlife. It's just a really nice, beautiful place to work," she said.

And it's a beautiful place to visit.

Copyright 2012 WLOX. All rights reserved.

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