Project Summary

Title: The Mississippi Coastal Birding trailUSM

Partner: University of Southern Mississippi

Duration of Project: August 2007-April 2010

Project Description: Of little surprise to those of us living along the coast, leisurely pursuits play an important role in boosting a community’s economy.  True, bird watching is a favorite pastime among wildlife enthusiasts.  But, have you ever stopped to wonder just how big of an economic impact “thosepeople with the binoculars” have on your community?

To determine the impact nature based tourism has on our communities, we asked Sheri Glowinski at the University of Southern Mississippi to use her expertise in studying rural communities located along birding trails in South America, and apply her theory regarding nature-based tourism’s role in economic development to our rural communities along the Northern Gulf. 

Objectives: There are several goals and objectives for the overall project:

  • To conduct a socio-economic impact analysis of the existing sites of the Coastal Birding Trail to the local economies in the six coastal counties of Mississippi. This will include development and use of methodology for tracking visitors to the sites on the trail and the associated local economic impact.  A specific emphasis will be made on comparing sites in the three most coastal counties to those sites in the more northerly tier of coastal counties.
  • To assess existing infrastructure at established sites along the trail and the impact varying levels of infrastructure might have on visitor use and subsequent economic benefit.
  • At to-be-determined sites, to specifically examine the relationship between level of infrastructure and its effectiveness for increasing visitor use and associated economic benefit. This will be done by implementing a pre-/post-treatment study design where the treatment would be infrastructure improvement.
  • With the results of the three above-stated goals in mind, identify, promote and develop access to sites located in more inland counties.  Identification of these locations may include tools such as on-site surveys, Geographic Information Systems, and radar ornithology and may additionally involve other parties (e.g., local school groups, non-governmental organizations) in the process.
  • To develop educational materials geared towards local businesses and schools promoting the trail and biological and socio-economic importance of avifauna and natural lands. This may include website enhancements to improve the on-line advertisement of the trail.
  • To provide informed recommendations to the Mississippi Audubon Society and other non-governmental organizations and local policymakers to improve use and impact of the trail
  • To serve as a case study for future implementations of Birding Trails.

Reports and Publications:
1. Presentation: 2008. The Mississippi Coastal Birding Trail: Economics, Education, Communication and Conservation (AKA: Birding Trails…not just for birders anymore!). Presented at the 2008 MSU-CURIS Partners Annual Meeting, MSU-Coastal Research and Extension Center, Biloxi, MS on May 7. PDF, 1.97MB