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2021 Pascagoula River Basin Ambassador Awards Announced

The Pascagoula River Basin Alliance recognized two new River Ambassadors at its fall meeting in October 2021. These awardees join two inaugural recipients, recognized in 2020. By design the Pascagoula River Basin Ambassador Awards program celebrates the dedication of individuals, groups and businesses that are devoted to celebrating the unique nature of the Pascagoula River through their conservation and outreach actions.

The 2021 awardees included Dr. Janet Wright, a member of the Mississippi Coast Audubon Society and Mississippi Habitat Stewards, and Michael Murphy, long-time member of the Pascagoula River Basin Alliance. These two dedicated conservationists join the ranks of inaugural awardees, Dr. Tom Singley of Moss Point and Becky Stowe of The Nature Conservancy.

Janet Wright is a tireless practitioner and promoter of a number of Citizen Science activities in support of research and public outreach, much of it focused within the Pascagoula River basin. Her experience as a researcher and educator has been invaluable toward ensuring the quality of data collected by these programs. She is a regional expert on the iNaturalist platform that has revolutionized Citizen Science and promotes its use by anyone interested in learning about nature. “I love helping folks learn about the Pascagoula River as a magical center of biodiversity. Others among us have been so effective at actively preserving the Basin and its lands, and I’m in awe of them because I don’t have those skills. I’m just a nerd. But I was humbled and delighted with this award as it means that the Alliance sees worth in spreading knowledge and appreciation.  We can’t value what we don’t know.” – Janet Wright.

Mike Murphy spent his career focused on research and conservation of fish and shellfish across the coast while employed by Mississippi State University, the Gulf Coast Community College, and The Nature Conservancy. His efforts included work to propagate native fish, restoration of oyster reefs, and the acquisition of thousands of acres of upland and wetland habitat, now in long-term conservation. In retirement, Mike continues to support Citizen Science efforts of the Alliance focused on documenting the biodiversity of the river. “I am humbled to learn that my colleagues in the PRBA thought me worthy of this award. I am particularly honored to stand next to previous awardees, Becky Stowe and Tom Singly, and Janet Wright” – Mike Murphy.

Recipients received a river themed fine art print from Mississippi artist Robin Whitfield of Grenada, Mississippi and a $200 donation to be made to a conservation organization or project of their choice. Janet’s contribution will benefit the upgrade to the Judy Toups Trail at the Ward Bayou Wildlife Management Area near Vancleave. Mike’s contribution will support The Nature Conservancy of Mississippi.

More information about the Pascagoula River Basin Alliance is available here.


Written by Mark W. LaSalle, Ph.D.

Mark is a naturalist and wetland ecologist, providing expertise on wetlands, water quality and environmental impacts of humans. He has also developed and conducted a number of environmental education programs and workshops for youth, teachers, realtors, and the general public on a variety of subjects including wetlands, natural history, and environmental landscaping. Mark is a graduate of the University of Southwestern Louisiana (B.S. and M.S. degrees) and Mississippi State University (Ph.D.). Mark is the recipient of the Chevron Conservation Award, the Mississippi Wildlife Federation Conservation Educator Award, the Gulf Guardian Award, and the Boy Scouts of America Silver Beaver Award.


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