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Adaptive Management Research Projects Funded

Large investments in the water economy, associated with a changing coastline from restoration and protection efforts to innovations in the fishing industry, requires research in how to adaptively manage those endeavors. A fundamental aspect of making smart, effective project investments is how monitoring information is converted into improved designs and policies. This could be for restoration, management, protection or other coastal industries. Louisiana Sea Grant has initiated a pilot project training graduate students in “adaptive management” to create a workforce that can apply these techniques and enhance agency and private sector capacity in the water economy.

“If anything, 2020 is the posterchild for the need of adaptive management,” said Robert Twilley, Louisiana Sea Grant College Program executive director. “The effects of six major storms and a pandemic on our coastal communities and industries have made us think about innovation along our working coast. We need students who can research new technologies, transform monitoring information from ecosystem response to supply chain management and innovate in a changing environment.”

“The pilot projects that have been selected will inform innovation and designs that protect our coast and enhance a commercial fishing industry. The students will gain invaluable experience on how to address challenges that inform alternative solutions to some wicked issues.”

Two students will be funded through the pilot program. Their projects are described below:

Photo: Katelyn KellerKatelyn Keller, Tulane University
Advisor: Ehab Meselhe
Title: Development of a Decision Support Tool and Data Management System to Identify Relevant Monitoring Metrics for Evaluation and Comparison of Effective Coastal Restoration Activities

In 2006, the Coastwide Reference Monitoring System (CRMS) was established to provide regular observations of wetland conditions at almost 400 sites. Since the first Coastal Master Plan (CMP) in 2007, many projects have been implemented across Louisiana’s coast. However, the CRMS and CMP programs haven’t been systematically coupled to understand how the various projects are performing. In connecting these two pieces, Keller will determine new ecosystem and restoration metrics and indices that study the effectiveness of select Coastal Wetlands Planning Protection and Restoration Act sites. While numerous decision support tools exist, this project links data, models and stakeholders more seamlessly, allowing management to determine whether their multiple objectives were met and make more adaptive decisions. In developing comprehensive, quantifiable decision support tools, Keller hopes to improve the design and implementation of future projects throughout the state.

Photo: Olivia FloydOlivia Floyd, University of Louisiana at Lafayette
Advisor: Kelly Robinson
Title: Optimizing the use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) to Identify and Track Finfish Schools for the Commercial Fishing Industry

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs or drones) are tools that are increasingly being used by management and the private sector. However, there are some complications when what needs to be surveyed is both underwater and moving. Floyd hopes to address this problem in the menhaden industry by combining technologies: drones to detect the fish and computer algorithms to track and estimate school biomass. Historically, the menhaden industry has used spotter plans to locate menhaden, but they can be expensive and can’t adaptively assess the school’s movements. UAVs coupled with the image analysis algorithm will provide more robust data for the fishing fleets to use at a much lower cost. Floyd will be partnering with the Omega Protein Inc., a key menhaden industry stakeholder with a processing facility in Abbeville. This collaboration will hopefully yield more data-driven management and harvest decisions that are more cost effective and efficient.