Ayesha Gray, Ph.D.

Dr. Gray is a research scientist who studies aquatic ecosystem function and the effectiveness of habitat restoration projects. She develops and conducts ecological research with her colleagues to better understand how fisheries are supported by wetlands, what mechanisms are most important, and how to develop cutting-edge tools and experimental designs to determine ecosystem function and recovery trajectories. She received her Ph.D. working with Charles “Si” Simenstad and the Wetland Ecosystem Team at the University of Washington’s School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, and she also has a B.S. in Zoology from the University of Texas at Austin.


Mark Woodrey, Ph.D.

Research Coordinator
Mark is a research biologist at the Mississippi State University Coastal Research and Extension Center and serves as the Research Coordinator at the Grand Bay NERR. Trained as an ornithologist, he is currently studying ecology of tidal marsh birds. In addition, his collaborative research efforts focus on human impacts on coastal habitats, the effects of global climate change on coastal plants and animals, ecosystem effects of mercury, and the role of terrestrial vertebrates in tidal marshes. Ultimately, Mark’s goal is to better understand coastal ecosystems to allow natural resource managers to make more informed conservation decisions.


Avery Sward

Education Coordinator
Avery serves as Grand Bay NERR’s Education Coordinator, who is responsible for overseeing the education and outreach programs such as the K-12 On-the-Road Programs and teacher workshops. She collaborates with the different sectors at Grand Bay NERR to integrate research and training into educational programs to build a community of environmental stewards. Avery holds a Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Biology and a Master’s degree in Biology Science Education, both from the University of Southern Mississippi.                                                                                                                                


Jonathan Pitchford, Ph.D.

Stewardship Coordinator/Natural Resource Scientist
Jonathan is a Natural Resource Scientist working as the Stewardship Coordinator for Grand Bay NERR. He received his Ph.D. in natural resources science from West Virginia University in 2012. Jonathan has been involved in a variety of research projects during his career including development of spatial distribution models for bottlenose dolphin in the Mississippi Sound, developing spatial models of erosion potential in the Cacapon River watershed in West Virginia, examining the effects of climate change on wetlands in the Mid-Atlantic Highlands, and examining the bottom-up effects of metal pollution in high elevation tributaries in North Carolina. He has a continued interest in answering questions related to habitat restoration, wildlife ecology, and climate change using geographic information science.


Margo Posten

Coastal Training Program Coordinator
As the CTP Coordinator, Margo organizes and administers various trainings and workshops to provide coastal decision-makers with the knowledge and tools they need to address critical resource management issues that are of concern to local communities. The primary audiences for these trainings are local officials and staff, natural resource managers, and coastal scientists who work in coastal Mississippi. Margo holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Marine Biology from the University of West Florida and a Master of Marine Affairs from the University of Washington.


Kim Cressman

SWMP Coordinator
Kim is experienced in analyzing the water quality of both freshwater and coastal ecosystems. At Grand Bay NERR, she coordinates sampling for the System-Wide Monitoring Program (SWMP). Through SWMP, the nation’s 28 NERRs each use the same standard protocols to collect water quality, nutrient, and meteorological data. This allows consistently high-quality data to be accumulated over long periods of time, compared within and across regions, and used to inform coastal resource management decisions.


Cher Griffin

Resource Specialist/SWMP
Cher’s position with GBNERR is assisting in the implementation of SWMP program by working closely with the SWMP Coordinator to collect water quality data. Cher’s activities include collection and maintenance of water quality data loggers, use and maintenance of hand-held water quality instruments, nutrient and chlorophyll sampling and analysis, weather station maintenance, and other tasks as needed.


Rick Ranew

Education Specialist K-12
Rick works with other staff members to design and implement programs that address current coastal issues on the school level from kindergarten to twelfth grade. Rick works with the Education Coordinator to prioritize a list of topics that can be developed into teacher workshops and activities for students, encouraging stewardship and knowledge of our diverse coastal habitats. He makes a concerted effort to collaborate with other sector staff at Grand Bay NERR and partners such as: DMR, NOAA, USFWS, MEC and other agencies. Ultimately, his goal is to inspire future generations to become good and knowledgeable stewards of our fragile coastal environments.


Dennis McGrury

Resource Specialist/CTP and Education
Dennis supports the implementation of our training and education programs by assisting with K12 education activities, training workshops, managing the Reserve’s social networking and website updates, helping coordinate and track volunteer activities, providing help with a variety of field work, and other tasks as needed. Dennis also promotes active stewardship, enhanced awareness, and educated science-based decision making through his position at the NERR. His pastimes include hiking, kayaking, fishing, and SCUBA.


Jay McIlwain

Stewardship Associate / Natural Resource Specialist
As part of the Stewardship Sector, Jay coordinates and assists with research and stewardship efforts at the Grand Bay NERR. His duties also include integrating with university researchers and government agencies on a variety of natural resource management projects. Prescribed fire and invasive species control are among the top of his resource management interests. Some of Jay’s other research and personal interests include: submerged aquatic vegetation monitoring, a dendrochronological study of local pine savannas and flatwoods, wildlife and landscape photography, and music.


Mike Archer

Coastal Ecologist
Mike conducts extensive field sampling with the Stewardship team as part of our Sentinel Site program, and provides other field assistance as needed. He recently started working with the prescribed fire team in controlling the field burns set by reserves and other organizations.


Sandra Huynh

Administrative Assistant
As administrative assistant, Sandra organizes, coordinates, plans, and schedules all administrative activities. She performs organizational, planning and time management skills that helps keep daily operations at the Reserve functioning. She also assists with the Reserve’s outreach events. Sandra holds a Master of Science degree in Marine Resource Management with a Marine Education and Engagement focus from Oregon State University and has a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from the University of South Alabama.


Caitlin Sanderson

Grand Bay NERR Apprenticeship
Caitlin graduated from the University of South Alabama in December of 2016 with a Bachelor’s degree in Biology with a concentration in Environmental Science. While interning at the NERR, she will be working with the Stewardship team, studying GIS systems, learning about our SWMP sites, assisting with field work, and learning a little about the inner-workings of the education and outreach programs. She hopes to go back to school to continue education towards a Master’s Degree. While mostly undecided on what field to study, she has a strong interest in birds and Ornithology. Outside of work, she likes to stay active doing things such as exercising and kayaking, as well as reading and spending time with her pets.


Brian Hurst

Building Manager
As building manager, Brian maintains the Grand Bay NERR facility and grounds, as well as our dormitories and outdoors facilities. He assures that all equipment is in working order, cleaned, and properly maintained.


Recent News

  • Grand Bay NERR’s Newsletter: Bayou Buzz
    April 28, 2017

    Hot Off the Press!   See what all the Buzz is about with our brand new newsletter Bayou Buzz! Inside you’ll find all sorts of fun articles from what’s happening here at the Reserve to research being done, and even learn about featured plants and animals! Check it out! Bayou […]

  • March Adventure Quencher: Art Workshop
    March 28, 2017

    In mid-March, the Grand Bay NERR held a three-day art workshop as part of the Reserve’s monthly community education “Adventure Quenchers,” where we bring guests from the public to visit the NERR for a fun, educational activity. While many Grand Bay NERR guests are local birders, travelers passing by from […]

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