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Four CSAP Projects Announced

The Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) is continuing its commitment to the Coastal Science Assistantship Program (CSAP). This program provides support for master’s students involved in research relevant to Louisiana coastal protection efforts. This collaboration offers the dual benefit of engaging students in CPRA activities while providing for potential recruitment of qualified personnel.

Louisiana Sea Grant administers these assistantships — available to all Louisiana university faculty — to recruit outstanding students to coastal restoration-related research. Up to four new projects are funded annually with an award of $25,000 each for up to three years. The newest projects are:

Sedimentary Aspects of Land-building in the Fort St. Phillip Crevasse Complex
PI: Mead Allison, Tulane University

As more river diversions are planned for Louisiana, predicting their functionality is difficult. To better advise the future, Tulane researchers hope to learn from the past. In 1978, the Mississippi River breached its banks at Fort St. Phillip providing a natural classroom to study. By examining these crevasse splays, Allison’s team will better understand sediment evolution and land growth in receiving basins. Allison seeks to collect scientific data from this historical event to understand flood deposits, sediment trapping efficiency, controls on splay formation and recommendations for low-cost green engineering practices.

Mud Settling Velocity in Barataria Bay: A Crucial (Yet Neglected) Parameter for Marsh Evolution
PI: Giulio Mariotti, Louisiana State University (LSU)

Mud is abundant in the Mississippi River, but it is uncertain where it will be deposited. One factor affecting settlement patterns is salinity, which causes mud particles to clump together and settle faster. River diversions will have salinity gradients, so it is important to know how mud settles under different conditions. Mariotti’s team will collect data along a salinity gradient in Barataria Bay and the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway to quantify mud settling velocity rates. This project will increase understanding of sediment dynamics, specifically where (and how much) mud will settle onto marsh platforms.

Factors Influencing Subsurface Wetland Dynamics in Coastal Louisiana: Implications for Wetland Response to Sea-level Rise and Restoration
PI: Tracy Quirk, LSU

Wetlands feature prominently in the Coastal Master Plan; therefore, it is important to know how they respond to environmental changes like sea-level and restoration strategies such as river diversions. While much attention has focused on aboveground changes, it is also important to examine beneath the surface. These subsurface processes can play a large role in determining whether wetlands drown or remain above sea-level. Quirk and her team will study the variability in wetland subsurface changes across Louisiana to see how they impact elevation change including examining the underlying processes that may be influencing subsurface changes.

Time-varying Rates of Organic and Inorganic Mass Accumulation in Louisiana Marshes and Relation to Sea-level Change
PI: Carol Wilson, LSU

Flooding and waterlogged soils can stress plants, having negative impacts on both aboveground and belowground growth. With more river diversions planned, it is important to know how marshes in the spillways will respond to increased inundation and sediment delivery. Using soil cores, Wilson will study organic and inorganic mass accumulation and vertical accretion rates in Barataria Bay’s brackish and salt marshes. This will provide insight into how these marshes have responded to sea-level fluctuations over the past 50 years and how they could continue to do so in the future.

For more information, visit Coastal Science Assistantship Program.