What's Happening at GCRL

Two GCRL researchers asking for help to win national crowdfunding contest

Two researchers from The University of Southern Mississippi Gulf Coast Research Laboratory (GCRL) are hoping for support from South Mississippi to help them win a national contest with thousands of dollars at stake.

Christopher Butler, fisheries research associate, and Justin Lewis, fisheries research technician, entered their project in a national challenge on the crowd funding website www.experiment.com with the winner receiving a $1,500 grant towards their project. The duo is currently in 3rd place and just 20 backers away from 1st place.

A team receiving the highest numbers of “backers” towards their project’s financial goal by 5 p.m. May 3 wins the contest. A backer is anyone who pledges any amount towards the project. The team has 55 backers with a total donation of $1,549 towards their project regarding the diet of spotted seatrout.

“They are the most important recreational species on the Coast,” Butler said. “Our project will give local anglers vital information that currently just isn’t available.”

Butler said although we have a general understanding about what spotted seatrout eat, stomach contents of fish collected during the day are often too digested to identify beyond broad categories like fish or shrimp.

“We will sample spotted seatrout from the late evening to early morning, a time believed to be their most active feeding period,” Butler said. “Knowing what they eat during certain times of the year is crucial to local anglers.”

The study is designed to fill knowledge gaps that will provide a better understanding of the ecological role of spotted seatrout in Mississippi’s coastal waters. The information can be used to help identify how natural and human-induced changes to the environment will affect spotted seatrout and their prey.

“This project will address a critical need for quantitative information on the nighttime diet of spotted seatrout,” said Jim Franks, senior research scientist at GCRL. “This study will provide a clearer understanding of the ecological role of this species in local estuaries and enable development of consumption estimates for consumed prey groups that support important local fisheries.

Lewis and Butler have set a total goal for the fundraising effort at $4,700 by May 10, which is separate than the competition deadline.

If the project does not meet its goal by the deadline, the project will be delayed by at least a year.

“Other options would be applying for grants through different organizations,” Lewis said. “Unfortunately, that would be much further down the road.”

Anyone interested in making a donation of any size can find more information at https://experiment.com/projects/identifying-predator-prey-relationships-of-spotted-seatrout-in-mississippi-s-coastal-waters.