LUMCON researchers receive $4.8M grant

Funds extend Coastal Waters Consortium research

LUMCON scientists will continue to study the effects of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on southeastern Louisiana marsh ecosystems under the umbrella of the Coastal Waters Consortium (CWC). The Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI) recently awarded $4.8 million in funding to sustain the CWC for two years beginning in January 2018. Principal Investigator Dr. Nancy Rabalais, Distinguished Research Professor at LUMCON and Professor and Shell Endowed Chair at Louisiana State University, coordinates and directs CWC research by co-principal investigators from LUMCON, Louisiana State University, and around the United States. Dr. Brian Roberts, associate professor and associate director of science at LUMCON, leads the biogeochemical components of the CWC, investigating how carbon and nutrients move between marsh ecosystems and the organisms living in them.

The project, entitled “Oil Spills as Stressors in Coastal Marshes: The Legacy and the Future,” is one of eight consortium research programs to receive funding during this round of awards . The multidisciplinary CWC group has been working together for seven years and will use these additional two years to complete aspects of ecosystem experiments and synthesize the impacts of the Deepwater Horizon on coastal Louisiana communities, including topics such as:

  • possible linkages between oil contaminants and shoreline erosion,
  • changes to coastal vegetation,
  • differences in greenhouse gas emissions from coastal ecosystems,
  • changes in carbon flows through wetland food webs,
  • constructing computer models of how post-spill oil moved through localized sections of the Gulf Coast, and
  • testing the impacts of oil on Gulf Coast marshes using controlled experiments (using LUMCON’s marsh mesocosm facility) in addition to natural observations.

The CWC has amassed over 60 peer-reviewed publications and has many more to produce on the effects of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on nearshore coastal waters and marsh ecosystems. CWC also contributed to synthesis papers in BioScience in 2014 and an article for Oceanography in 2016.

A large contingent of Louisiana scientists will participate in the Coastal Consortium’s work, including Dr. R. Eugene Turner, Dr. Edward B. Overton, Dr. Michael Polito, Dr. Guilio Mariotti, Dr. Dubravko Justić, and Dr. Haosheng Huang from the College of the Coast and Environment at Louisiana State University and Dr. Sabrina Taylor and Dr. Phillip Stouffer of the LSU Agricultural Center.

Other CWC Co-Principal Investigators and collaborators come from across the academic community, including: Florida Gulf Coast University; the Ecosystems Center of the Marine Biological Laboratory; Rutgers; the University of Florida; Austin Pea State University; the University of Maryland at College Park; the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; California State Polytechnic University, Pomona; Sea Consulting, Inc.; Michigan Technological University; Connecticut College; the Center for Loon Research; Texas A&M, Corpus Christi; and the University of Tennessee at Knoxville.

Further information is available on the GoMRI website.