Projects and Research

Prescribed Fire

Prescribed fire supports new nutrient-rich grasses and restores historical habitat conditions for longleaf pine forests in the refuge’s upland areas. We use prescribed fire at the refuge to provide foraging habitat for the threatened gopher tortoise. The tortoise needs low grassy ground cover to thrive - prescribed burning fosters this type of vegetation. The gopher tortoise is considered a “keystone species,” as its burrows provide shelter for many other species. It’s found in the dryer upland pine forests of the refuge. Historically, southeast gopher tortoises roamed the once common, fire-maintained, longleaf pine forests of this region. The refuge manages about 1000 acres of upland habitat by using controlled fire to maintain this now uncommon grassy pine forest habitat and the tortoise.

Gulf Sturgeon Research 

This “living dinosaur” can reach lengths of up to nine feet and weigh up to 300 lbs. The Gulf sturgeon spends much of its life in freshwater, but adult sturgeon typically migrate to feed in rich saltwater bays and estuaries in the fall, returning to their home river system in the spring to spawn. The Gulf sturgeon is listed as a federally endangered species and efforts are underway to understand this animal and conserve its habitat. We collaborate with Louisiana Department of Fish and Wildlife to study the population and movements of Gulf sturgeon in the Pearl River.