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Analyzing the Impact of Environmental Disturbances on Oyster Reef Health in the Mississippi Sound Using NASA Earth Observations

Oysters are vital to the environmental health of the Mississippi Sound and a critical part of Mississippi's economy. Environmental disturbances, such as Hurricane Katrina, major flooding events, and the Bonnet Carré spillway openings, have caused oyster populations to decline and have has negatively affected the water quality and economy of the Sound. Oysters purify water via filter feeding and a decline in their population could lead to increased levels of dissolved solids in the waterways. In collaboration with the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources (MDMR), the team focused on specific case studies of significant disturbances by combining data gathered in the Spring 2017 Term with data on the degradation of marshlands in the area. The team investigated the relationships between extreme weather events, salinity, freshwater discharge and diversion, chlorophyll-a, and oyster reef health. These case studies will help inform MDMR about how these factors are interdependent and impact the overall health of the Sound. This information will assist the MDMR in making better-informed decisions in preparing for and managing ecological stressors.