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CSAP: Current Students

Coastal Science Assistantship Program (CSAP)

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Current Students

Photo: Omar AlawnehOmar Alawneh

Louisiana State University

Major Professor: Navid H. Jafari
Project Title: Quantifying Geotechnical Properties and Processes in the Fort St. Phillip Crevasse Complex: Implications to Sediment Diversions

Sediment diversions are a beneficial way to help address Louisiana’s rapid coastal land loss. Diversions uniquely restore natural water flow, encourage land-building sediment and cultivate marshes. Alawneh’s project investigates the effectiveness of diversions in both the Barataria and Breton Sound basins using the Fort St. Phillip crevasse as a natural surrogate. Alawneh aims to develop and validate models predicting accuracy in sediment compressibility and erodibility and measure the newly-formed wetland amount. He plans to contribute the findings to a growing database regarding erosional and consolidation processes before newly formed wetlands occur. Alawneh is interested in innovative technologies within the geotechnical field and hopes to gain skills to solve engineering problems in this industry.


Photo: Omar Shahrear ApuOmar Shahrear Apu

Louisiana Tech University

Major Professor: Jay Wang
Project Title: Development of a standardized (American Society for Testing and Materials, ASTM), repeatable, and consistent geotechnical laboratory testing procedure for the Low Stress Consolidation Test for the Marsh Fill

Marsh creation projects make up a large part of the 2017 Coastal Master Plan; however, there can be high subsidence of fine-grained soils dredged from inland riversides. To better understand how these sediments will settle and consolidate, Apu will develop a standardized, consistent geotechnical laboratory testing procedure for low stress consolidation of marsh fill. Since regular, soft clay differs from exceedingly soft dredged fill, different transportation and pumping processing procedures may need to be considered. The purpose of Apu’s research will be to determine where conventional procedures should be modified to handle extremely soft dredged fill material, recommend tests specific to dredged material and interpret data. Special attention will be paid to the seating load, sample preparation, settlement measurement and loading schedule. To fully develop his research potential, Apu wants to deploy research accomplishments to solve practical problems, with aspirations of becoming someone who works on technically extensive scale demanding projects. This specialization is appealing due to its multidisciplinary nature, which will broaden horizons and give flexibility in professional practice. Apu hopes to continue working in research by pursuing a doctoral degree.


Photo: Adam GartelmanAdam Gartelman

Louisiana State University

Major professor: Kehui Xu
Project Title: Quantifying Erosional Process in Sediment Diversion Receiving Basins

The diversion of sediment-laden river water into adjacent basins is often recommended as a coastal restoration method, but the erosional processes occurring in those basins is not well studied. Current predictions for diversion effectiveness need stratigraphy and erodibility data to be robust and accurate. Gartelmen will work to better understand the super shallow water stratigraphy, the marsh edge erodibility and the marsh edge morphology in middle Barataria Bay and middle Breton Sound, both near and farther from the diversion site. This work will add to a growing volume of valuable data on the erosional processes that must occur before the new lands are built in Barataria Bay. Gartelman hopes to continue researching erosional processes that are threatening coastlines, wetlands and barrier islands. While continuing to perform valuable research, he wishes to impart his knowledge onto future generations of scientists who would be able to build on this valuable research. After receiving his master’s degree, Gartelman hopes to complete a PhD in Oceanography and Coastal Sciences and hopefully move into the academic realm.


Photo: Robert FederRobert Feder

Louisiana State University

Major Professor: John R. White
Project Title: The Effect of ‘Freshening’ by Sediment Diversion Flow on the Porewater Salinity, Nutrient Availability and Water Quality Improvement Functions of Barataria Bay Marsh Soil

Coastal restoration efforts in Louisiana rely on river re-connection with the coastal basins to deliver sediment to these subsiding (sinking) systems. Previous models show surface water salinity will be lower after the Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion. The question remains, how will this change affect the wetland plants and the microbial pool (all of which control important processes within coastal wetlands) present within the basin’s soil? Feder will be investigating how river reconnection and ultimately freshwater reconnection alters porewater salinity and other biogeochemical processes in a range of coastal systems (i.e., freshwater marsh, brackish marsh and salt marsh). He hopes to expand his quantitative skillset and understanding of coastal processes so that he can pursue a career in designing and implementing wetland restoration projects. Ultimately, Feder hopes to collaborate with scientists, engineers, and policymakers on safeguarding the ecosystem services that our wetland systems provide.


Photo: Katrina GinsbergKatrina Ginsberg

Tulane University, Earth and Environmental Science

Major Professor: Mead Allison
Project Title: Sedimentary Aspects of Land-building in the Fort St. Phillip Crevasse Complex

My research will focus on marshland that is building around the Fort St. Philip crevasse area. I am interested in the type and distribution of vegetation, the sediment trapping efficiency of the vegetation, rates of sedimentation, and patterns of succession. The goal is to help to answer questions about the planned Mid-Breton sediment diversion, particularly how pulses of sediment will impact existent marsh and contribute to land aggradation.

I hope to become a research scientist working on coastal restoration around South Louisiana and other large deltas across the world.


Photo: Elizabeth HarrisElizabeth Harris

Louisiana State University, Department of Oceanography and Coastal Sciences

Major Professor: Tracy Quirk
Project Title: Factors Influencing Subsurface Wetland Dynamics in Coastal Louisiana: Implications for Wetland Response to Sea-level Rise and Restoration

Wetlands across the state of Louisiana are influenced by a variety of factors, and it is important to understand how different wetland types respond to both environmental changes and restoration strategies. Dr. Quirk and I will focus our research primarily on the subsurface dynamics of different wetlands across the state in order to examine the impact these dynamics have on the elevation of wetlands. We are also seeking to learn more about what other processes may be influencing subsurface changes in our wetland ecosystems

Growing up in southeastern Louisiana has equipped me with a deep admiration for the beauty of our wetland ecosystems, as well as a desire to learn more about them. I am interested in continuing to pursue research after my master’s with the addition of outreach and education. I am very passionate about science, but I also love to engage with people and share what I have learned. I want people to know that although it is important to study the science behind wetland processes, we must come together as a community to truly make a positive impact on our ecosystems. I desire to become both a researcher and an advocate for the conservation and restoration of our wetlands, and I am hopeful that the research I conduct will provide insights into how we can accomplish this goal for future Louisianans to enjoy.


Photo: Sukari IvesterSukari Ivester

The University of New Orleans

Major professor: Marla Nelson
Project Title: Planning for Population Loss in Coastal Louisiana

In coastal communities across south Louisiana, land loss and environmental change have accelerated migration away from coastal communities (largely among the most advantaged permanent residents). This decrease in permanent residents, however, has been accompanied by a substantial increase in second homes for recreational fishers. The proliferation of recreational fishing camps in these formerly isolated bayou communities has potentially paradoxical effects, representative of what could be dubbed “climate gentrification”. The replacement of permanent residents with a part-time leisure-based population could threaten the rich tribal and Cajun heritage of these communities, increase need for infrastructure maintenance and encourage denser development in environmental sensitive, hazard prone ecosystems. My research will examine population dynamics in bayou communities and their physical, social and fiscal impacts. My plan is to focus my academic research on social justice, socio-ecological resilience, and climate change in Louisiana’s coastal communities.


Photo: Skylar LinerSkylar Liner

Louisiana State University

Major Professor: Brian Roberts
Project Title: Can Ribbed Mussels Augment Coastal Restoration Projects in a World of Rising Seas?

Sea level rise (SLR) has been an increasing threat to critical coastal wetlands across the world. Louisiana’s coastal wetlands are experiencing the highest SLR impacts, requiring intervention efforts in the form of coastal restoration projects. Examples of coastal restoration projects most prominently used are sediment diversions and living shorelines. Liner’s research will focus on understanding the potential of the ribbed mussel (Geukensia spp.) for augmenting living shoreline creation and productivity with the increasing impacts of SLR. The research takes place in two parts: part one utilizing a marsh organ to evaluate the ribbed mussels’ resilience to differing inundation periods projected with SLR; part two will observe the plant responses to low and high densities ribbed mussels. Liner hopes to contribute to the preservation of Louisiana’s coastal ecosystems and the communities within them. Her family’s strong ties to coastal Louisiana’s bayous and fishing communities inspire her efforts. Ultimately, she plans to use her master’s degree to create a career in the government sector by participating in large-scale restoration projects and outreach efforts across the Louisiana coast.


Photo: Michael McDonellMichael McDonell

Louisiana State University, Department of Oceanography and Coastal Sciences

Major Professor: Giulio Mariotti
Project Title: Mud Settling Velocity in Barataria Bay: A Crucial (Yet Neglected) Parameter for Marsh Evolution

My research will focus on the mud settling velocity in Barataria Bay. Examining this settling velocity and its relationship to salinity will help to determine crucial marsh development strategies that will benefit the Louisiana coast. During the CSAP internship I plan to analyze existing databases of suspended sediment in Barataria Bay, including databases from Louisiana’s System-Wide Assessment and Monitoring Program, the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and data collected by Professor Gene Turner of LSU.

I aspire to find and implement plans of action that will save the Louisiana coast and preserve the ocean. Through research and working on restoration or preventative projects I want to ensure future generations have access to the ocean. It is critical to study oceanography as everyone directly relies on it, so by studying one small component it will help me continue on saving the coast. I hope to work in the public or private sector after graduation.



Photo: Nick SchulerNick Schuler

Louisiana State University

Major professor: Karen Luttrell
Project Title: Quantifying variability in subsidence patterns related to seasonal surface loads across coastal Louisiana

Subsidence rates are not uniform across Louisiana. Variations in sedimentation, erosion, compaction, changing hydrologic load and tectonic processes can result in regional and temporal differences in subsidence rates. Schuler will identify and quantify the sources of this geologic patchiness by analyzing variables like uplift, sediment loading and seasonal flooding in an effort to better understand subsidence rates across the state. These results will help reduce uncertainty regarding the geologic components of subsidence, which will result in more effective implementation of Louisiana Coastal Master Plan projects helping current and future efforts to sustain coastal ecosystems, safeguard coastal populations and protect vital economic and cultural resources. Schuler’s career goal is to build a long-term career in the oil and gas or environmental services industry. One of the main reasons he enjoys geoscience, particularly geophysics, is that there is a wide array of jobs to pursue when exiting the academic world. Throughout his career, he hopes to be able to solve complex problems and continue to learn new ideas each day in order to better develop his professional skill set.


Photo: Sophie VincentSophie Vincent

Louisiana State University, Department of Geology & Geophysics

Major Professor: Carol Wilson
Project Title: Time-varying Rates of Organic and Inorganic Mass Accumulation in Louisiana Marshes and Relation to Sea-level Change

I will be testing the hypothesis that organic mass accumulation rates in Louisiana marshes are related to sea-level fluctuations in Louisiana. This will be accomplished by quantifying organic and inorganic mass accumulation rates from radiochemically-dated cores extracted from key marsh locations in Barataria Bay. The findings from this research will provide information on how the marshes in the receiving basin of the Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion may respond to increased inundation and sediment delivery expected during spillway operation.

In the future, I hope to work for a company that focuses on coastal restoration or the oil and gas industry.