Communications banner image

First GIRAF Project Selected

Photo: Lydia DiPaola

The first Graduate Interjurisdictional Research Fellowship (GIRAF) project has been awarded.

GIRAF is a joint effort of Louisiana Sea Grant and Louisiana Space Grant, along with the North Carolina Sea and Space Grant Programs. The transregional aspect of the program is to promote a greater understanding of the issues researched and create professional development opportunities for the funded graduate students. Fellowship recipients use data from a variety of archives and the remote sensing capabilities available through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to address high priority needs within Louisiana’s nearshore environment. Each fellow is awarded $10,000 for a one-year research project.

The program’s first fellow is Lydia DiPaola, a master’s student in biological sciences at the University of New Orleans. Her faculty advisor is Nicola Anthony. DiPaola’s project is titled Monitoring Biotic and Abiotic Responses to a Shoreline Protection Barrier Project in Jean Lafitte National Park.

To restore 50 acres of submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) lost since the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill in 2010, the Jean Lafitte National Park and Historic Preserve (JELA) is building a 2.2-mile-long shoreline protection barrier along Lake Salvador. Completion is expected in summer 2024. SAV beds are important wetland features that provide food and shelter for local aquatic species, stabilize sediments, filter water of contaminants and directly reduce erosion and wave action.

The barrier’s construction is expected to have short-term adverse impacts on water quality in the area, specifically turbidity and dissolved oxygen levels, and consequently have negative effects on SAV development. DiPaola will monitor SAV diversity and coverage, fish community assemblages, water quality and shoreline erosion and/or accretion for one year following the barrier’s construction. Her immediate post-construction monitoring will help managers respond effectively to interim environmental impacts in order to address longer-term environmental injuries caused by the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

For more information about GIRAF, visit