Looking Back and Looking Forward
As 2018 comes to a close, so does the 50th anniversary of the Louisiana Sea Grant (LSG) College Program.
“A lot of people ask me what is a Sea Grant college? I like to say that Sea Grant is to the coast what a Land Grant college is to agriculture. That is what Sea Grant was modeled after,” said Robert Twilley, executive director of LSG. “It’s about getting university research into the field and getting it to work for our coastal communities.”
Since 1968, Louisiana Sea Grant has funded nearly 1,000 applied research projects focused on marine and coastal issues, while at the same time supporting hundreds of graduate students. LSG’s Extension program has aided the state’s fisheries industries – shrimp, crawfish, oyster and alligator – by providing training and information to improve those businesses’ bottom-line. The program’s coastal Law and Policy program provides legal information and services to the myriad of coastal land and water users, including state and local government, coastal businesses and the general public. And LSG’s K-12 Education program fills a need for science education as it pertains to the stewardship of the coastal environment and natural resources.
“We serve more than two million people in our coastal parishes – more than half the population of the State of Louisiana,” noted Twilley.
Throughout 2018, LSG Extension agents hosted anniversary coffees for stakeholders and partners in their coastal territories. In early November, a golden anniversary celebration was held in Baton Rouge at the Water Campus.
Among those attending some of the events included Ted Falgout.
“I was actually the first Marine Advisory Agent with the Sea Grant Program in conjunction with the Extension Service. That was way back in 1973 with a starting salary of $7,800 a year, but it was actually more money than Wildlife and Fisheries would pay,” said Falgout.
“It was a rewarding and challenging experience from the start – to be groundbreaking, so to speak, and working with the fishing industry. Luckily, most people were familiar with the county agent and agriculture in 4-H. So, it was a little easy to explain that we were moving into the fisheries, trying to be the liaison between research and education,” he added.
Falgout served as an Extension agent for five years, before becoming director of Port Fourchon.
“We’ve had a wonderful relationship with Sea Grant over the last eight years,” noted Chris Haines with the Meraux Foundation. “We do a program called AG Magic on the River where Sea Grant has helped us build a demonstration crawfish pond that we let 3,500 kids visit throughout the week in guided field trips and discover all the wonders of Louisiana’s AG and forestry and fisheries. Another program we thoroughly enjoy working with them on is Working on the Water. It’s about workforce development for fishers, to pivot into other opportunities in the off-seasons,” he added.
“Sea Grant has been a really good partner with the city,” said Eric Lundin, a planner with the City of Slidell. “Every year we do flood outreach, but there’s always a challenge to make sure it is innovative and engaging to our public. This year we contacted Louisiana Sea Grant and they brought in a whole team of experts and products to our antique fair that we hold. It really helped us to engage the public and inform them about the risk of flooding and how they prepare for it.”
For a program that’s celebrating a half-century of service, Louisiana Sea Grant continues to innovate and be a leader in bridging our state’s academic expertise with the needs of those who manage, conserve, enjoy and make their living on the coast. LSG has demonstrated that it is prepared to help coastal communities meet immediate and future challenges, noted Twilley.
“Granted, many of the issues have changed in 50 years, but the research we fund today is no less important,” said Twilley. “Louisiana’s coastal communities are experiencing accelerated environmental changes driven by the highest rates of coastal land loss and relative sea level rise, more than any other coastal region in the United States.
“In response, Louisiana Sea Grant is creating more focus on strategic adaptations for communities and industry,” he added. “We continue to improve our ability to communicate knowledge with strong engagement and outreach efforts.”