Coastal Science Assistantship Program (CSAP)
Current Student Bios
While many in Louisiana understand the problem of coastal wetland loss, many do not fully understand the efforts being undertaken to combat the loss. Cadigan seeks to address this with his research. Marsh creation projects are one of the ways Louisiana is trying to combat the coastal wetland loss problem. As marsh elevation dictates both biological productivity and the volume of dredged fill required by a marsh creation project, his research aims to optimize marsh creation design by developing guidelines for estimating the hydraulic efficiency and cut to fill ratio of dredged sediments for marsh creation projects. He then hopes to communicate how the marsh creation process works to locals and get feedback from them regarding who would be affected by the success or failure of these projects.
Harris’s research group has seen the severity of coastal erosion and degradation first hand. Motivated by this, he is examining the geotechnical uncertainties of marsh creation and beach restoration sites throughout coastal Louisiana. Coastal regions, especially Louisiana, have highly unique soils. The soils in one basin can be drastically different to adjacent areas due to varying depositional environments altering plasticity, organic content, and compressibility. For this reason, accurately estimating the soil properties across the state is critical in ensuring the longevity of the project.
Mates has viewed Louisiana’s wetland loss first hand, which has helped motivate perspective his research. Over the next few years, he will be analyzing the physical properties and phosphorus cycling of wetland soil and estuary sediments near the mid-Barataria sediment diversion. Excess phosphorus is a concern as it can lead to harmful algal blooms, which are a risk to human health and coastal fisheries. Mates wishes to pursue a career in coastal management and work to combat Louisiana’s degrading wetlands.
Mathews will focus on Louisiana’s salt marshes and coastal restoration techniques being implemented across the state to protect these habitats. Specifically, she investigates the placement and performance of marsh terraces, which are designed to trap sediment and reduce erosion along marsh edges. If these terraces are as productive and beneficial as hoped, then resources can be more effectively devoted to their implementation and other projects can be improved by incorporating successful aspects of these terraces into their designs.
Growing up near the Jersey Shore, she has always valued beaches and life along the coast. After researching and experiencing Louisiana’s coastal land loss firsthand, she wants to devote her abilities – mentally and physically – to the restoration and protection of these environments.
Sakib hopes to evaluate the shore face transport trends for both the short-term (event scale), near-term (~decadal scale, and longer-term (>20 year) time scales. He will do this by using coupled wave models with the flow module (within Delft3D Modeling Suite) and add sediment (multiple classes ranging from mud to sand using LASARD and BICM sediment samples distribution). This will create an assessment of key bypassing mechanisms of sediment along the shoreface, which is dominated by fine-grain sediments. This will also evaluate the fate of those sediments and provide insight into regional sediment budgets along the central coast of Louisiana. Moreover, assessing event-scale sediment transport, Sakib will figure out the additional implications on how sediment in exchanged between the shoreface and interior bays. Following graduate school, he plans to build a career in the field of coastal engineering.
The gulf coast of Louisiana has been subjected to shoreline erosion, a natural process that threatens marsh sustainability. Winter storm activity is particularly important to the northern Gulf of Mexico region; as cold fronts are frequent, high energy events accounting for increased erosion rates along the marsh edge. Waves generated by wind act as one of the main drivers of erosion; however, sediment lost by wave attack can be deposited on the marsh platform through the resuspension and reworking of materials. Villers aims to investigate how various restoration methods used for shore stabilization may influence water and sediment exchange compared to their natural counterparts, providing insight on both the long-term and short-term effects that restoration methods have on marsh sustainability. This research will identify regional trends in shoreline dynamics providing the framework to inform restoration efforts and decisions in south Louisiana and help prioritize future locations for restoration.