The Director’s Blog
Thoughts and notes from Louisiana Sea Grant College Program’s executive director, Robert R. Twilley, Ph.D.
A Coastal View
There’s no disputing that 2020 has been a challenging year. Despite COVID and hurricanes, there’s an exciting opportunity for Louisiana on the horizon – the designation of a National Estuarine Research Reserve (NERR).
Currently, the NERR network is made up of 29 coastal sites designed to protect and study estuarine systems. The reserves represent a partnership between the federal government and coastal states. For decades, the idea of siting a NERR in Louisiana has been a point of discussion; and last year the first step toward establishment was taken when the governor’s office requested the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to advance the initiative.
Establishing a NERR site is a detailed process that would have tremendous benefit to our state by providing a location for long-term research, education, community involvement, stewardship and become a center to share coastal management issues with the public. It is also a great opportunity for coastal Louisiana to tell its story through a network of national NERR sites. And we have quite a story to tell because of the uniqueness of the Mississippi River delta and the uniqueness of the challenges that we have here in coastal Louisiana.
If we establish a NERR site in Louisiana, which we refer to as LaNERR, it’s important to know that there would be no additional federal regulations imposed on the site. Existing state and local rules would be maintained, but those regulations have already been established and already are being enforced.
A site development committee, comprised of 80 people representing state, federal, non-profit and university institutions, has started evaluating the merits of six proposed estuarine zones. At the request of the governor’s office, Louisiana Sea Grant has taken the leadership role in the pre-designation process. Soon, the site development committee will be reaching out to various stakeholder groups asking for their feedback on candidate site proposals to narrow the field of possible NERR locations. Sometime in the spring, town hall meetings will take place in communities located near the most desirable sites.
The process doesn’t end there. Typically, it takes up to six years to establish a NERR site, and we’re just completing the first year of Louisiana’s pursuit. That said, it’s exciting to be on the cusp of something that can have such a profound impact on our coast, coastal communities and coastal residents.
I encourage you to learn more about LaNERR (www.laseagrant.org/deltanerr) and participate in the process.
No one needs reminding that 2020 has been a year of unprecedented challenges. A global pandemic has taken more than 150,000 lives in the United States and wreaked havoc on the economy. And society has renewed a commitment to inclusion, diversity and equity as part of an experiment in building a democracy. In this newsletter we want to share with you our commitment at Louisiana Sea Grant to respond to these national challenges as they impact our local communities and economies.
The Marine Extension Program along with Law & Policy Program at Louisiana Sea Grant have dedicated resources to assisting fishing communities navigate the challenges created by COVID-19. We’ve helped fishermen, docks and wholesalers establish alternative marketing opportunities to deal with disruptions with supply chains in the seafood industry. We’ve provided processors and retailers with sound scientific advice on how to protect their employees and customers from the virus. Many of these innovations to deal with COVID-19 impacts come from years of investing in creative ideas to help the seafood industry.
COVID-19 has also disrupted how we provide education in our society. The education program at Louisiana Sea Grant has partnered with educators around the state to create online lessons focused on science and coastal stewardship that school-aged children can complete at home with their parents.
And again, many of these innovations in marine education come from creative programs that Sea Grant has helped to develop over the last several decades. Ten years ago, Louisiana Sea Grant helped establish the LSU EnvironMentors chapter, a project we continue to support. EnvironMentors brings students from Scotlandville High School, a predominately African American school, to LSU weekly for education, research and career mentorship with graduate students and faculty. Scotlandville students learn how to plan research projects, take STEM-related field trips and then conduct their own research – getting their first exposure to higher education.
Several students from the LSU chapter have gone on to earn national college scholarships. And the LSU chapter is now looking at expanding to other high schools with underserved student populations.
For more than 20 years, Ocean Commotion has provided K-8th graders access to the wonders of Louisiana’s coast through the one-day coastal educational event. Many students – a large percentage from underserved backgrounds – have never been to the coast. Through exhibits and hands-on displays, they experience live alligators and other coastal inhabitants, learn about hurricane impacts and potential options for mitigation, and discover how to care for their local and state environment.
And as the event moves online this year due to COVID, we hope to expand our reach to classrooms well beyond the Greater Baton Rouge area and include an even more diverse groups of students.
Diversity is also an important commitment in our extension work in coastal zone communities. Our Extension agents work closely with commercial fishermen and processors of both European and Asian descent and literally speak their languages – English, French, Spanish and Vietnamese. And by hiring the best candidates for the job, Louisiana Sea Grant embraces diversity, equity and inclusion in our staff.
Creating new ideas in assisting our coastal communities to adapt to a dynamic environment has different impacts no matter what the circumstances. We continue to innovate our programs in research, education and extension with a commitment to inclusion, diversity and equity to address issues today and in the future.
Although Louisiana Sea Grant (LSG) is well-known for providing speedy assistance – whether its Extension agents responding to natural disasters or providing academics with researchsupport for emerging challenges – there are certain aspects of our program that require playing the long game. A few good examples are highlighted in this newsletter.
As you will read, 14 years ago, LSG sponsored students created waterfront development concepts for the Bucktown area of New Orleans. Their work was exceptional. So much so, that after more than a decade of piecing together funding and logistics by community leaders, those plans serve as the foundation of work that is currently underway.
Similarly, Sea Grant personnel have been working with the Pointe-au-Chien Indian Tribe (PACIT) for a decade. The long-term partnership developed between LSG and PACIT helped the tribe in determining, applying for and executing a grant to build a new dock and bulkhead across from its community center. They plan to use the new infrastructure to promote ecotourism, which could in-turn be economically beneficial.
And for 12 years, LSG and the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) have partnered for the Coastal Science Assistantship Program (CSAP). Through the program, master’s students work on research relevant to protecting our state’s coast while interning at CPRA. Most of these students stay in Louisiana after graduation and many have taken jobs with CPRA – providing the workforce necessary for protecting and restoring our coast.
These are just three brief examples in Louisiana Sea Grant’s 52-year history of looking strategically at the needs of our coastal communities and yielding incredible impacts.
I want to thank everyone who took part in our Louisiana seafood industry regional meetings, discussions and questionnaires as part of the Louisiana Seafood Future (LSF) project. We appreciate you taking the time to tell us about the challenges facing the seafood businesses.
In rounds of meetings throughout the coast, we asked industry members to share ideas of how they have adapted to our changing fisheries over time, and what to consider when thinking about innovations for the industry in the future. You’ve helped identify some of the tools required to keep our state’s seafood industry going strong – taking into account both long-term and short-term ecosystems, economic and community needs.
Our goal with the LSF outreach effort was to be inclusive. We gave members of Louisiana’s commercial fishing industry – crabbers, shrimpers, fin fishers, oyster fishermen, dock workers and processors – multiple ways to tell us what they thought. Surveys were completed at regional meetings, 10,000 hard-copy questionnaires were mailed, and industry members also could take part in an online survey.
In total, we collected more than 1,000 pages of information about what the Louisiana seafood industry is thinking about, worried about and planning for. Highlights of what we learned are available in a summary report recently presented to the governor. Every comment – as well as the report – is available on the LSF website (www.laseafoodfuture.com).
Again, I thank everyone who participated in LSF. Your input will help the state as it moves forward in dealing with habitat loss, water quality, coastal protection and restoration issues.
The words below were penned by Louisiana Sea Grant’s first director, Jack Van Lopik, as he reflected on the first 25 years of our program’s accomplishment. Now, looking back on 50 years of achievements, it is fascinating to see how LSG continues to be at the forefront of addressing so many ongoing and new issues facing Louisiana and its coastal communities. We are proud to have been a resource to our state for the past half century and plan to be here for 50 years more.
Highlighting (Louisiana Sea Grant) selected accomplishments of the past, it is convenient to think in terms of contributions to higher education, human resources development, government and the private sector.
Sea Grant was instrumental in establishment and development of LSU’s M.S. and Ph.D. programs in marine science, and also played a key role in the creating and nurturing of LSU research groups (such as) the Coastal Ecology Institute, the National Ports and Waterways Institute, the Coastal Fisheries Institute and the Wetland Biogeochemistry Institute.… Every Sea Grant dollar invested in their development has brought a three-for-one return to the university – and to the State of Louisiana.
Sea Grant actively participated in the formation of the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium … and has funded LUMCON researchers in a variety of projects to elucidate the scientific understanding of complex coastal and marine processes. Besides research at LSU and LUMCON, Sea Grant has also supported studies by faculty members at the University of Southwestern Louisiana, the University of New Orleans, Nicholls State University, Southeastern Louisiana University, Northwestern State University, Southern University
and Tulane University.
The results of Sea Grant research contributed significantly to the development of Louisiana’s initial Coastal Zone Management Plan; the environmental protection plan for Louisiana Offshore Oil Port; the Breaux-Johnson Coastal Planning, Protection and Restoration Act; and the Louisiana Rigs-to-Reefs Program.
Sea Grant’s Marine Advisory Service has worked with seafood processors to improve plant sanitation and insure good product quality. In other Sea Grant advisory projects, coastal communities were assisted in developing their recreation and tourism potential as a means of economic diversification and growth, and the Ports Association of
Louisiana was formed for mutual economic benefit.
Former Louisiana Sea Grant employees and students have served as secretaries of the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality and the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, and as directors of Sea Grant programs in South Carolina and Puerto Rico.
Louisiana Sea Grant will continue as a mechanism for marshaling university resources to address the changing environmental and economic needs of the state’s coast. It is and will continue to be a window to the academic community, a developer of academic resources, a facilitator, an educator, a funding source for researchers and a catalyst for economic development – functions designed to connect universities to the real world.
Jack Van Lopik
Louisiana Sea Grant Executive Director
Excerpts from a column written by Van Lopik for the 25th anniversary of Louisiana Sea Grant – Coast & Sea magazine, winter/spring 1994. Louisiana Sea Grant celebrates its
50th anniversary in 2018.
If you’ve been keeping track, it’s been a whirlwind of anniversaries for Sea Grant.
In 2016, the National Sea Grant Program celebrated its 50th anniversary. As you’ll discover in the pages of this newsletter, Ocean Commotion – Louisiana Sea Grant’s principal K-12 education event – celebrated its 20th anniversary in October. This summer Marsh Maneuvers – a coastal stewardship program for high school students sponsored by LSG – will mark 30 years. And come fall of 2018, Louisiana Sea Grant (LSG) will commemorate its own golden anniversary.
All these milestones seem like an opportunity for a grand celebration – something we excel at in Louisiana. But the reality is Louisiana Sea Grant’s work isn’t done even after
Students in kindergarten through graduate school still benefit from LSG programming from education and outreach to research support. Sea Grant outreach personnel continue to provide our seafood industry and coastal communities with training and solutions to the challenges they face. And the research Louisiana Sea Grant funds answers real-world issues in our state. It seems that these core values to our mission never grow old.
Our research portfolio that begins Feb. 1 – also written about in this issue – features a number of Integrated Research and Engagement projects.
This is a new approach for LSG, funding research teams that build integrated approaches across social, engineering, design and ecological disciplines to address the complex environmental and social issues affecting coastal Louisiana. A more integrated approach to discovery will also help us improve the impact of our outreach.
With the highest rates of relative sea level rise in the nation, our research solutions today will guide coastal communities in planning for tomorrow by shaping adaptation strategies. At Louisiana Sea Grant, we not only want to challenge our university research community to develop creative strategies that promote adaptation to changing environmental, economic and social systems, but also to lead the nation in the application of theory into practice. We plan on celebrating this integrated approach to research and outreach in the future as well.
First and foremost, I want to thank everyone who voiced support to Congress for continued funding of Louisiana Sea Grant and the National Sea Grant College program. The dozens of letters from our diverse stakeholders impressed our congressional delegation, and it impressed upon them the importance of Sea Grant to our coastal communities and economies.
But the effort to ensure Sea Grant’s continued existence isn’t over until the Fiscal Year 2018 federal budget is approved. Anyone who still wishes to share their support for Sea Grant with Congress can send their support using our letter templates and other resources available on our website at www.laseagrant.org/about/did-you-know/. We also have some of our key stakeholders providing testimonials on ‘Why Louisiana Sea Grant Matters’ that can be found on our Facebook, Twitter and YouTube social media channels.
Secondly, I’d like to say that 2017 is turning into a historic year for Louisiana Sea Grant.
It was recently announced that LSG has four Knauss finalists for 2018. That is a record number for our program. In the past, we’ve consistently had one or two Knauss Fellows representing Louisiana Sea Grant in Washington, DC – but to have four is unprecedented. I can’t tell you how exciting it is to have these four young professionals represent Louisiana in federal administrative and legislative offices learning how science can be used to support good public policy.
We also have our largest class of LaDIA Fellows this year. Fourteen tenure-track faculty have already participated in one of three workshops where they will develop their communication, outreach and leadership skills. These university researchers come from campuses across the state – LSU, LUMCON, Southeastern, Nicholls State, UNO, UL and Tulane.
Including the 2 017-18 class, 40 university faculty have become LaDIA Fellows. And LaDIA’s success has other Sea Grant programs around the country looking at using our model to implement similar fellowships in their states to encourage faculty engagement in coastal issues. We continue to develop the mission of Sea Grant as a leader in coastal research, education and outreach, and
look forward to working with each of you, and our many partners across the state, to address the challenges of our coastal communities.
A Special Message from the Director of Louisiana Sea Grant
We are asking you to help Louisiana Sea Grant tell our story in response to threats in Washington, D.C. to eliminate the Sea Grant program. In March, the President sent Congress a request for drastic cuts to federal investments related to everything from the environment to health and human services and education.
One of the programs slated to be cut by $30 million in Fiscal Year 2017 (FY17) is the National Sea Grant College Program. In addition, the Fiscal Year 2018 (FY18) budget proposal would also eliminate funding for Sea Grant. The FY17 proposed cut wipes out the remaining budget for Sea Grant this year and would terminate the National Sea Grant Office the day such a budget cut became effective. If Congress approves this cut, we and the services we provide our state could be gone in a matter of months.
This cut would immediately eliminate funding dedicated to providing scholarships and fellowships to Louisiana college students, immediately stop us from funding research projects addressing critical issues affecting Louisiana’s economy and environment, and immediately end our ability to provide huge benefits to the state as summarized in the attached “Putting Science to Work” document. The same would happen in each of the other 32 Sea Grant programs around the nation.
Sea Grant is lauded for its ability to use federal dollars, leveraged with private, local and state dollars, to address coastal issues identified as most important by our state constituents. Here in Louisiana, our coastal issues need every investment from the federal government that we can secure in order to deal with the significant threats to the seventh largest delta ecosystem in the world – the Mississippi River Delta – which brings wealth to our nation.
I want you to know that there is strong bipartisan support for Sea Grant in Congress. There has been for 50 years. I’m optimistic that this proposed FY17 budget cut, nor the proposed elimination in the FY18 budget, will not happen to Sea Grant because of our strong support in Congress.
This is where we need your help. It takes your support to tell our story to Congress about our value to the nation.
The President only makes requests for the federal budget — it is Congress that takes action when it comes to developing the budget. While the strong bipartisan support for Sea Grant by members of Congress has not changed, the services in research and outreach to coastal communities are facing drastic cuts in FY17 and FY18. If members of Congress receive a huge number of supportive letters and emails from people who deeply value our Sea Grant program, it will make a significant difference with regard to the outcome.
If you want to contact members of Congress about Sea Grant, we have letter templates with sample wording at www.laseagrant.org/about/did-you-know/ that you can download and personalize.
Please note that hard copy letters take months to arrive in Congressional offices. And because of that, Louisiana Sea Grant has made arrangements to have letters of support that are mailed, emailed or faxed to our offices hand-delivered to Congress. Simply send them to the address below my signature.
If you want to contact your representatives in Washington, D.C., directly, you can search for House of Representatives members email addresses at www.house.gov/representatives and Senate members at www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm. Some Congressional offices have online forms for receiving comments.
Robert Twilley, Ph.D.
Louisiana Sea Grant College Program Executive Director
237 Sea Grant Building
Louisiana State University
Baton Rouge, LA 70803
(225) 578-6331 – fax
Please email letters to [email protected]
Louisiana Sea Grant spends half of its NOAA funding on university research projects to solve issues in our coastal communities. To improve our effectiveness in generating impacts from these research investments, we will be supporting a new type of project. “Integrated Research and Engagement” (IR&E) projects will promote interdisciplinary approaches to solving some of the “wicked issues” we face.
Our traditional tactic was to individually address issues in Sea Grant’s focus areas. But to have more substantial research impacts, a paradigm shift is needed. Research groups need to approach topics – such as how wetlands may reduce storm surge and improve coastal resilience; how adaptation strategies in fisheries might be linked to seafood processing, habitat evaluation and market analysis can develop underutilized species; and how engineering techniques across all major industry sectors of the coast should consider a changing climate – from a different direction. These are all wicked issues that require groups of scientists working together as research teams to connect science, engineering, economics and design for creative solutions that communities can consider through effective outreach.
The engagement part of these proposals is critical when determining funding of IR&E projects. They must include proven techniques that allow findings to be shared with decision makers, industry and coastal residents.
Traditional Core Research (CR) projects will also be considered in our solicitation for research proposals. These will involve one or two researchers on issues that are concentrated in three of our four focus areas: Resilient Communities and Economies, Healthy Coastal Ecosystems, and Sustainable Fisheries and Aquaculture. CR proposals also must clearly define outreach strategies to share findings.
Our hope is that this change will result in new, crossdisciplinary collaborations from which creative solutions positively impact our coastal communities. Louisiana faces unique coastal challenges and an innovative approach is necessary to address them – along with strong engagement and outreach efforts.
In the upcoming weeks, we will seek Statements of Interest (SOI). That announcement will be posted on our website – www.laseagrant.org – and distributed to our listservs. To ensure you received the SOI announcement, contact our research director Matt Bethel at [email protected].
Funded projects will begin Feb. 1, 2018
August’s slow-moving storm system – fueled by warm, moist air – dumped four trillion gallons of rain over two days to the east and west of the Atchafalaya River Basin. As many as 145,000 structures sustained flood damage. Thirty-thousand people were evacuated by boat and helicopter from their homes and cars due to flash flooding.
The initial flurry of emergency flood response has subsided. Now it is time for the upper regions of the Mississippi River Delta to give thought as to how we move forward.
We need to diagnose how this volume of water behaved along the flat, highly-developed landscape. This will provide insight into effective, long-term recovery efforts. Additionally, we should take lessons learned in coastal communities with regard to storm surge flooding and apply that traditional community knowledge to areas impacted by backwater flooding. This information can help protect all residents and communities from the future threats of an everchanging climate.
Now, more than ever, we need to think comprehensively about water in both the coastal and upper delta plain. Thanks to some rapid response funds from the National Sea Grant Office, Louisiana Sea Grant will integrate our present research and outreach programs to address efforts and provide guidance during the rebuilding process. We will work with partners among the university research community to assist government agencies from the federal to parish level, as well as others, in rebuilding safer communities.
Louisiana Sea Grant will continue to assist our region, from the coastal fringes to the upper floodplains, on mitigating the hazards of flooding in a changing climate.
Challenges create an opportunity for change.
Over the course of the past 48 years, Louisiana Sea Grant has demonstrated that it is prepared to help coastal communities meet immediate and future challenges. Unlike coastal communities in other states that are undergoing significant change associated with growth in population, Louisiana’s coastal communities are experiencing accelerated environmental changes driven by some of the highest rates in relative sea level rise, causing unique social and economic conditions compared to any other coast of the United States (with the exception of Alaska). The issues of coastal community resiliency and sustainability, along with the preservation of distinctive coastal cultures, are critical to our working coast.
Guiding Louisiana Sea Grant’s efforts to support coastal communities is our four-year strategic plan. It provides the framework for our program’s merit reviewed research, communications, education, extension and legal projects – all designed to address the specific needs and priorities of Louisiana’s coastal stakeholders and communities.
I mention this because the process of developing our next strategic plan has begun. We’ve started by talking with community leaders and collaborators to get their opinions as to what issues we should address in our 2018-2021 plan. Over the course of the next few months, there will be more meetings with diverse individuals and groups to hear their thoughts on what our focus should be through the beginning of the next decade – a decade of serious considerations of our adaptation strategies for a changing coast.
All ideas are welcome. All viewpoints are valuable in establishing our priorities and ensuring they reflect the needs of a future coastal Louisiana.
Our oceans serve as a source of food for billions of people. They are the principal means of transport for international trade; supply oil, gas and other energy sources; and are an immense reservoir of other natural resources. Our oceans also produce violent storms, hurricanes and tsunamis that threaten our coastal communities.
While meeting with the American Fisheries Society in 1963, visionary Athelstan Spilhaus first proposed the creation of Sea Grant Colleges to foster research, education and community outreach so our nation could better utilize the bounty of the oceans and develop better tactics of protecting our shores from its dangers. Two years later, Sen. Claiborne Pell of Rhode Island introduced legislation to establish Sea Grant colleges, and the University of Rhode Island’s Dean of Oceanography – John Knauss – convened a national conference on the concept.
In 1966, these ideas became reality when President Lyndon Johnson signed the Sea Grant Colleges and Program Act. In the half-century since its founding, Sea Grant programs now cover every coastal and Great Lakes state, as well as Puerto Rico, Guam and Lake Champlain. Louisiana Sea Grant was the thirteenth college program to join, with a grant to LSU that was funded in 1968. Today, this national network connects more than 300 universities and more than 3,000 scientists, engineers, educators, students and outreach experts – not to mention private and public sector partners.
The achievements of Sea Grant are many and varied. And I’m proud of Louisiana Sea Grant’s contributions to the national network and to solving problems here in coastal Louisiana. Join us in celebrating 50 years of Sea Grant in 2016.
“Sea Grant builds no great monuments or citadels. It has no bridges, dams, interstate highways or moon rockets. It is not that kind of program. It has numerous accomplishments, but none of their dimensions is either large or neatly discrete. Rather, Sea Grant is thousands of small actions – individuals responding to individuals, small groups interacting, problems identified and solved, information sought out and transferred, small solution-oriented research projects, subtle changes in educational processes, new perceptions of university roles and missions, and a better informed public.” — from The First Ten Years, National Sea Grant College Program
It was the 1960s and America was excited about science and the possibilities it offered. A child of that time, Sea Grant will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2016. First envisioned by the oceanographer Athelstan Spilhaus, the notion of Sea Grant colleges went from concept in 1963 to execution in 1966 when Congress adopted the National Sea Grant College Act. Not long after, LSU tapped a former doctoral graduate – Jack Van Lopik – to establish Louisiana Sea Grant. Our program launched in 1968 as a “project” – the first rung on the ladder to being designated a Sea Grant College. And in 1978, LSU achieved the Sea Grant College status.
I can’t express how excited I am about Sea Grant’s golden anniversary and how we continue the mission that originated five decades ago. Granted, many of the issues have changed in 50 years, but the research we fund today is no less important. You can see that from the list of projects on the facing page that will launch in February.
To help us remain true to our charge, Louisiana Sea Grant will adopt a new strategic plan in 2016. That new plan – written with input from a myriad of stakeholders that range from commercial fishermen to policy makers – will guide us in addressing the needs of our coastal communities for the next four years and help us launch our second half-century of century of research, outreach and education.
It’s a time of new beginnings.
Students recently arrived on college and university campuses to start a fresh academic year, including our four new Coastal Science Assistantship graduate students. Another class of LaDIA (Discovery-Integration-Application) Faculty Fellows has started meeting to learn how to bolster their science communication skills and to be more engaged in solving challenges in coastal communities. And a recent Louisiana Sea Grant Law & Policy Program intern will soon travel to Washington, D.C., to initiate a yearlong study as a Knauss Fellow.
This fall we’ll begin developing a new four-year strategic plan (2018-22) that will guide our research and outreach efforts. And in the next few weeks we’ll announce a new group of competitive research projects to be funded in the 2016-18 omnibus cycle.
On Grand Isle, the ribbon has been cut and we’ve moved into a state-of-the-art oyster research and hatchery facility in partnership with Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. Hurricane Katrina destroyed the old Sea Grant hatchery. Although it has been a decade since both Katrina and Rita devastated our state, Louisiana Sea Grant continues to rise to the challenge of making our coast better prepared for and more resilient to the next storm. ‘Coastal Crisis Management’ will always be a hallmark of our strategic planning process. We’re accomplishing this through new as well as established research, outreach and education initiatives.
For a program that will celebrate a half-century of service in 2016, 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 our coast.
And as we look forward to the challenges of a changing future, we also reflect and celebrate the accomplishments and vision of two Sea Grant leaders who have passed in the last six months. Dr. Jack Van Lopik and Ron Becker served as Director and Associate Director, respectively, of Louisiana Sea Grant from its beginnings in 1968. Our program and the coastal research community are forever grateful to the more than three decades of leadership these men provided to establish and sustain the Sea Grant mission.
We mark three solemn events in 2015 that forever changed the way we live in the Mississippi River Deltaic Plain. This summer it will be 10 years since Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. And this spring it will be five years since the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
Natural and manmade catastrophes such as these have had a profound influence on our coast, our citizens and Louisiana Sea Grant’s (LSG) mission. Without a doubt, LSG is the leading program within the Sea Grant network when it comes to responding to, recovering from and preparing for devastating disasters.
In the past two years we have distributed more than 15,000 copies of the Homeowners Handbook to Prepare for Natural Disasters. Those who need a free copy in advance of hurricane season can order one from Louisiana Sea Grant, or download it from our website. The book is a valuable resource to help mitigate your risks.
Our new Sea Grant Laborde Chair – Scott Hagen – brings invaluable experience in modeling flooding during tropical storms and hurricanes that will help our state become more “weather ready.” Our outreach specialists are spearheading efforts to identify safe harbors for the commercial fishing fleet, as well as working with our coastal communities to make them more resilient following a storm. Additionally, Louisiana Sea Grant’s recently funded resilient communities projects will help local governments better prepare financially for natural disaster cleanup and explore non-structural methods to cope with flooding risks.
As we look back on all the hurricanes, flooding and other calamities of the past decade, Louisiana Sea Grant also is looking forward and strengthening our ability to withstand and rebound from similar hazardous events.
1.the act of putting to a special use or purpose
2.the special use or purpose to which something is put
3.the quality of being usable for a particular purpose or in a special way; relevance
Over the past year, I’ve used this forum to discuss LaDIA (Discovery-Integration-Application). The program’s objective is to create stronger connections, primarily through better communication, among university researchers and residents of Louisiana’s coastal communities.
We’ve talked previously about the Discovery and Integration aspects of LaDIA. This column I want to talk about Application, which you can see demonstrated in-part, in the cover story about how researchers are using traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) in their work to enrich feedback from local communities.
Moreover, one of the pillars of Sea Grant is applied research – seeking solutions to real-world issues faced by our state, our communities and our citizens. Examples include the recent research synthesis projects Louisiana Sea Grant funded, as well as future omnibus projects we’re currently soliciting.
But application isn’t limited to research and researchers. Business owners are applying what they learn at Sea Grant-sponsored ecotourism workshops to boost their bottom line. Fishermen are improving their revenue stream by using best practices and new technologies they discover through Sea Grant Extension efforts. And middle school pupils are teaching fellow students about coastal stewardship and species at events like Ocean Commotion.
Throughout its history, Louisiana Sea Grant has funded research, conducted outreach and extended knowledge relevant to our state’s needs – building the application we need for a sustainable future. We pledge to continue that mission in application, and enhance it with LaDIA.
in•te•gra•tion (ɪn tɪˈgreɪ ʃən)
1. an act or instance of incorporating or combining into a whole
2. behavior that is in harmony with the environment
Scientists make amazing discoveries every day. But often those findings remain trapped in an isolated discipline and the potential impact can become confined to the utility of very few select users, thus having limited value to society. This leads to university research being perceived as only relevant to academic interests. As problems in society become more complex, university research has a tendency to become more specialized. This isolation and limited impact of university research relative to solving society’s problems has lead to challenges to programs that are focused on how to build more effective university outreach capacity to solve real-world problems.
To break that mold, Louisiana Sea Grant encourages researchers to embrace the fundamentals of integration and apply their knowledge to solving coastal problems. One advantage that Sea Grant offers researchers is to work with our program’s Extension personnel to connect academic concepts with the community. The objective is to think about their discoveries from the perspective of how to integrate knowledge into the whole of the problem. The idea is not only to develop scholarship among the different disciplines needed to build knowledge necessary to tackle complex problems in society; but also to communicate that knowledge at its most basic level to fit the needs of policy and resource management.
This summer Sea Grant took that concept one step further by, for the first time, pairing graduate students and post docs with Extension agent mentors. Along with enhanced communications training, these young scholars are learning how to weave their work into the real-life fabric of our coastal communities. They’re embracing how to provide societal context to discoveries that is integrated across different disciplines – from physics, biology and chemistry to engineering, economics and landscape architecture
Providing that societal context of university-based research is what Louisiana Sea Grant has done for 46 years through its Extension, Education, Law & Policy and Communications efforts. We offer our stakeholders – be they commercial fishermen working the coast, small business leaders and homeowners, or policy makers in government – insights from university discoveries that bring diverse breakthroughs and technology to achieve their goals and ensure the future of our coast
Sea Grant is often referred to as the “boots on the ground.” But I like to think of us as a linkage that brings our universities to the dock and the waterfront to campus. This integration to make complex research results real is one of the pillars of our mission.
1. the act or an instance of discovering
2. something discovered
The first three words in the Sea Grant lexicon are research, outreach and education. But as imperative as those three terms are to our mission, the word discovery is equally important. A hint of discovery lives in each of those three Sea Grant pillars.
It’s easy to draw the correlation between research and discovery. You can see it in the work of the students at LSU, UL Lafayette, Tulane, Nicholls, McNeese and Loyola who are receiving Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) funding from Louisiana Sea Grant. It’s also apparent in the research by graduate students funded through the Coastal Science Assistantship Program (CSAP).
But there’s also an element of discovery in education when a commonly held misconception is invalidated and then replaced by proven, scientific fact. Regardless if it is a child or an adult, you can see it in the person’s eyes when they begin connecting the dots and truly understand how a system works.
Discovery is also an essential part of outreach when new products and knowledge assist in accomplishing traditional tasks or solving problems. Sometimes it’s a fisherman acquiring a new technique that results in a business becoming more profitable. At a recent fishery summit, Sea Grant provided several examples of discovery for an industry that can be more competitive by embracing innovation. Other times, it is Extension personnel absorbing valuable information from colleagues in a distant Sea Grant program across the nation that provides new knowledge that can be used at home. Discovery is an essential part of our outreach program to make these accomplishments happen.
Discovery has been and will be an enduring part of the Sea Grant legacy. And we are proud to help foster “something being discovered” as part of our mission of Research-Education-Outreach.
Discovery * Integration * Application – Louisiana Sea Grant
“It” – whatever that “it” may be for the future of coastal Louisiana –also needs to be relevant now.
We often talk about what our coastal communities will look like 100 years from now, 50 years from now, 20 years from now. Although that is essential, that discussion also needs to engage the needs of how our communities will transition “now.”
Sea Grant’s goal for 2014 is to participate in that dialogue. We are going to encourage synthesis of what we learned yesterday to form discoveries for tomorrow; integrate that discovery into what we’re doing today; and apply that integration so our stakeholders can utilize it. This will be a challenge, but I can’t over-emphasize the need to make our university-based research relevant to our coastal citizens not only for the future “it,” but also for the present “now.” The transition of communities to a future coast requires thought on how to connect Discovery-Integration-Application so that we nurture our cultural instincts to be more resilient in a dynamic coastal environment.
One of the first steps will be teaching our young researchers how to describe their work to nearly anyone they meet – and make clear why their research is important – in the time it takes to checkout at the grocery store. Another component will be synthesizing the research already done into tools that can be used by ordinary people and small businesses – not just elected officials and policy makers. We need to make sure we keep our discoveries and integrated solutions focused on “now” as an instrument to transition our communities for the “future.”
As this year progresses, you will learn more about what we’re doing here at Sea Grant to build these connections between research and outreach. And I hope you will join us in this effort to strengthen our coast – not only for the 50-year horizon, but also for solutions that can benefit communities now.
The year is coming to close – as is an omnibus cycle for Louisiana Sea Grant. On Feb. 1, 2014, we begin a new funding phase from NOAA and supporting a new slate of university-based research projects and Sea Grant initiatives.
At any given time, Louisiana Sea Grant manages or participates in more than 50 research, extension, education and communications projects across our state’s coastal landscape. Research supported by Sea Grant and our partners have bolstered the understanding of important commercial and recreational marine species, identified and refined critical coastal restoration processes, and helped communities deal with challenges of adapting to a dynamic and threatened coast.
Our education programs support graduate students who work directly with Sea Grant-funded scientists, provide undergraduates with their first university-level research experience, and introduce K-12 students to the importance of coastal stewardship. In our communities, Louisiana Sea Grant Extension agents and specialists are recognized as unbiased brokers of credible science-based information, providing policy makers, local officials and residents with the facts they need to make decisions. We have one of the only legal research groups in the state that helps construct effective policies for the coastal zone.
All those efforts will continue – and grow – during the next four-year funding cycle.
New research will address topics from commercial fisheries issues to better understanding climate change. As Restore Act funding becomes available, Sea Grant Extension will help facilitate the discussions concerning large-scale coastal restoration strategies and possible economic impacts. The Law and Policy Program will work with state officials in developing water security policies for Louisiana. Classroom materials will be updated to meet Common Core and state science standards by our Education program.
The list is long and wide-ranging, but one thing is clear. Louisiana Sea Grant is hard at work for our state.
Until recently, anyone with a question about Louisiana Sea Grant’s 45 year history could wander down the hall and knock on the door of Jack Van Lopik – who served as the program’s first executive director from 1968 to 2005. Jack came into the office daily after he retired, until climbing the stairs of our World War II-era building became too challenging.
Literally here since the beginning, Jack could share stories of how in the 1960s Sea Grant was something never seen before at LSU, or in higher education in the state. Louisiana Sea Grant took an interdisciplinary approach to research and problem solving, involving science and engineering as well as law and social sciences. It was something novel, to develop university research with a social impact.
Over the course of nearly a half-century, Louisiana Sea Grant has continued to innovate. We’re a far cry from the early days when LSG was referred to as “fish grant.” Today, we not only work with fishermen and seafood processors to build a sustainable fishery (the largest in the Gulf of Mexico), we aid small business development by creating new ideas in marketing and more efficient gear technology. In addition, we aid local and state decision makers with interpreting and developing public policy from coastal restoration to community resiliency. We provide K-12 teachers with lessons on marine species and coastal stewardship, and the public on how a delta works. We respond to and assist with recovery from natural and man-made disasters, which has been our focus since 2005 given four hurricanes, two floods and largest oil spill in North America. We’re on the front lines of helping the public adapt today for a vision of what our coast will look like tomorrow. This will require us to expand our horizons in this period of transition to a changing climate and a dynamic coast.
As the needs of our stakeholders have changed, Louisiana Sea Grant has pioneered new courses to meet the challenges. That will remain true for our next 45 years.
The 1st of June is a notable date. On that day in 1812, President James Madison asked Congress to declare war on Great Britain. The Battle of Fairfax Court House – the first land battle of the Civil War – took place on that date in 1861. And on June 1, 1939, the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory first proposed using atomic energy to power submarines. The 1st of June also marks a tense time for residents of the Gulf coast – the start of hurricane season.
Since its founding in 1968, Louisiana Sea Grant has been involved in hurricane preparation and recovery. That involvement expanded in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina made landfall and devastated much of our state’s eastern coast. A few weeks later, Hurricane Rita hammered our western coast. We relived those scenarios again in 2008 with Hurricanes Gustav and Ike. A stark reminder of how different hurricanes can be came with Isaac in 2012.
Working with private industry, other Sea Grant programs and communities across the country, Louisiana Sea Grant helped get our commercial fishing industry back on its feet following the storms by establishing new ice houses, acquiring new boat lifts and physically removing debris from docks and waterways. In communities that avoided the wrath of the four hurricanes, Sea Grant personnel held workshops that demonstrated what could have happened had storm landfall been a few miles east or west. Those presentations, titled The Next Storm Surge, prompted many businesses to keep copies of vital operation records further inland and encouraged residents to better fortify their homes.
Armed with the Louisiana Coastal Hazards Mitigation Guidebook, produced by Louisiana Sea Grant in 2008, coastal communities began rethinking how they develop and what actions collectively they can take to lessen the effects of tropical storms. This spring, Louisiana Sea Grant published the Homeowners Handbook to Prepare for Natural Hazards. The book provides property owners with the information they need to secure their homes and to protect their lives and the lives of loved ones during hurricanes and flooding.
Sea Grant also is involved in a range of research focused on protecting our coastal communities from hurricanes – from wetland and barrier island restoration to developing better storm surge models.
Our coast is where we work, where we live and where we recreate. Louisiana Sea Grant is committed to a sustainable way of life in this unique place.
When speaking of Sea Grant, we traditionally talk about the three pillars of the organization – research, outreach and education.
No one is too young or too old to learn. And Louisiana Sea Grant (LSG) is always there to help feed the hunger for knowledge. Each year, Louisiana Sea Grant reaches thousands of kindergarten through high school students through environmental education seminars for teachers, marine and coastal science lesson plans, and events like Ocean Commotion and Earth Day celebrations.
Undergraduate students across the state – as you read in our cover story – expand their horizons and are involved in their own hands-on research through LSG’s Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP). Other Louisiana Sea Grant-funded research supports as many as 20 graduate students and up to 100 additional undergraduate students annually.
In fact, since 1971, LSG has invested in educating and training more than 800 graduate students – from natural sciences and engineering to resource economics and law. But our educational investment isn’t limited to the classroom or lab. LSG extension personnel lead workshops on seafood safety, ecotourism, aquaculture opportunities, coastal hazards mitigation, and commercial fishing best practices, to name a few, in order to promote coastal literacy among our businesses, elected officials and neighbors.
Take a look around local schools, where you buy groceries, and the coastal outdoors where you recreate. Louisiana Sea Grant education is there, providing unbiased, science-based information that helps make our coast, our communities and our economy stronger.
Just as the tides have a cycle, so does Sea Grant.
Every few years, programs evaluate their recent past and adjust their course. This is one of those times for Louisiana Sea Grant. After many months of public input and internal review, we are launching a new strategic plan with a retooling of our four focus areas.
We’re not jettisoning any part of our mission. But, rather, we’re consolidating some “like” efforts and taking aim at some areas that require more attention since our last strategic plan was adopted. We will still be addressing the need for healthy coastal ecosystems and habitats. Sustainable fisheries remain a priority, as well as the need for resilient coastal communities and economies. And we will continue our emphasis in outreach (education, communication and extension) along with a legal program that is instrumental in developing policy for coastal conservation, restoration and protection.
What is new, in one sense, is an environmental education and workforce development focus area. Environmental literacy and workforce development have always been part of the Sea Grant lexicon. We work with teachers year-in and year-out and expose thousands of students to the concepts of coastal stewardship. Louisiana Sea Grant also provides training to our seafood industry and supports undergraduate and graduate students studying our coast and waters. The coastal challenges facing Louisiana, also seen recently in the northeast and other regions of our nation, place increased emphasis in developing an environmentally literate population. In addition, we need to place more emphasis on synthesis of information that can be digested by the science community and our outreach program to solve problems facing coastal communities.
Launching alongside Louisiana Sea Grant’s new strategic plan is our biennial research proposal competition. Researchers from any state or private university or institution are encouraged to submit funding proposals for applied research that dovetails into our strategic objectives. Our unique structure at Sea Grant is a university-based organization that can support and communicate research to provide guidance to our coastal communities. By partnering with innovative researchers from across the state, we move a step closer to solving many important coastal issues.
For those interested, our new strategic plan and information on the funding competition can be found at LSG’s website – www.laseagrant.org.
And … finally … Happy Holidays from everyone at Louisiana Sea Grant to all our constituents and stakeholders.