There's much more to Hancock County's John C. Stennis Space Center than high-tech laboratories and giant rocket engine test stands. The latest in space-age technology exists along with virtually every species of wildlife represented in South Mississippi.
The almost 16,000 acres—about 25 square miles—that encompass the National Aeronautics and Space Administration facility on the Pearl River "is very rich in natural resources,” said Don Grebner, assistant professor of forestry at Mississippi State University.
With a grant totaling nearly $100,000, Grebner has begun directing a new project to provide NASA with resource management information. He and other scientists in MSU's departments of forestry and wildlife and fisheries will develop plans to integrate timber harvest and production with wildlife conservation.
"The space center is interested both in producing timber and conserving wildlife, including species with declining regional populations,” Grebner said. "Because of the abundance of diverse forest habitats and proximity to New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast, it's an important natural resource that should be managed for multiple uses.”
Over the next two years, MSU's Forest and Wildlife Research Center personnel will collect data on Stennis' wildlife and plant populations. Bobwhite quail, white-tailed deer, wild hogs, toads, and plants that indicate wetland habitats will be studied.
The resulting data then will be used to enhance the space center's management planning for the forests and wetlands.
"The information we present will provide for healthy and productive tree stands, vegetative diversity, forage production for wildlife and a wetland mitigation strategy,” Grebner said. "It also may provide potential opportunities for recreational uses.”
For additional information on the project, contact Grebner at (662) 325-0928 or email@example.com.