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BILOXI, Miss. (April 27, 2022) – Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Gulf of Mexico Division (GMD) announced the Gulf Guardian Winners for several recipients in Biloxi. The projects focus on sea level rise (SLR) and resiliency, and the recipients are: Renee Collini (Individual award), Resilience to Future Flooding (Partnership award) and Sea Level Rise in the Classroom (Youth Environmental Education award.)

EPA is very excited to recognize the Gulf Guardian Partnership winners for this for this year,” said EPA Region 4 Administrator Daniel Blackman. “The Gulf of Mexico is a precious resource and protecting it requires innovation and creative approaches, which these projects all embody.”

“The Gulf of Mexico is a vulnerable ecosystem that requires innovative approaches and proactive measures to protect this national resource. Over the past two years, the Gulf Guardian award winners have continued to think “outside of the box” during challenging circumstances due to COVID-19. These Gulf Guardian Awards are an important way to recognize the valuable efforts of all their hard work to protect the environmental health of the Gulf of Mexico,” said Marc Wyatt, Director, Gulf of Mexico Division.

“Our program and our partners have undertaken creative and exciting efforts and as a result they have expanded the capacity of individuals, municipalities, states, and federal agencies to undertake sea-level rise resilience activities. It is wonderful to see everyone’s hard work recognized through the Gulf Guardian Awards,said Renee Collini, Director, Program to Local Adaption to Climate Effects, SLR.

Biloxi Area Gulf Guardian Winners

Individual: Renee Collini, 1st place – Renee Collini is the Coordinator for the Program for Local Adaptation to Climate Effects: Sea-Level Rise (PLACE: SLR). Her focus on actionable science and stakeholder engagement have made a significant positive impact on sea-level rise resilience in MS, AL, and northwest FL. Under her guidance, PLACE: SLR has helped to advance and communicate storm surge and marsh modeling, develop a sea-level rise curriculum, fund community and ecosystem resilience projects, and integrate sea-level rise into municipal-level planning. Renee’s genuine commitment to the people of the northern Gulf and unparalleled work ethic make her an asset to the Gulf community.

Partnership: Resilience to Future Flooding, 2nd place – The Resilience to Future Flooding project addresses communication and financial barriers to sea-level rise (SLR) resilience in the northern Gulf of Mexico by providing 1) videos describing the science and impacts of SLR and case studies on SLR resilience, and 2) funding for five community resilience projects. The project engaged both professional and non-technical audiences, resulting in better understanding of SLR impacts and increased knowledge of adaptation opportunities. It also increased how often SLR is discussed and directly enhanced future flood resilience across the region. Further, this project has added innovative and novel examples of SLR resilience across the Gulf.

Youth Environmental Education: Sea Level Rise in the Classroom, 2nd place -The Sea-Level Rise in the Classroom curriculum is the first comprehensive sea-level rise curriculum in Mississippi and Alabama. The curriculum, which was born of a need voiced by local educators, integrates science and civics to provide students with a holistic understanding of the causes, impacts, and approaches for resilience to sea-level rise. The curriculum was co-developed by a team of subject matter experts and educators and refined through rounds of iterative testing. After engaging with the curriculum, both educators and students have demonstrated knowledge gain and behavior change, helping to achieve the goal of an empowered and informed coastal citizenry.

SLR is a partnership between Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium, Florida Sea Grant, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Sea Grant, and Mississippi State University Extension to support and enhance sea-level rise resilience in the northern Gulf of Mexico.

The Gulf of Mexico Division initiated the Gulf Guardian awards in 2000 to recognize and honor the businesses, community groups, individuals and agencies that are taking positive steps to keep the gulf healthy, beautiful, and productive. Awards were given in 2019 in five categories: individual, business/industry, youth environmental education, civic/nonprofit organizations, and partnership.

The Gulf of Mexico Division is a non-regulatory program of EPA founded to facilitate collaborative actions to protect, maintain and restore the health and productivity of the Gulf of Mexico in ways consistent with the economic well-being of the region. To carry out its mission, the Gulf of Mexico Division continues to maintain and expand partnerships with state and federal agencies, federally recognized tribes, local governments and authorities, academia, regional business and industry, agricultural and environmental organizations, and individual citizens and communities.

For more information about the U.S. EPA Gulf of Mexico Division go to: https://www.epa.gov/gulfofmexico.

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