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CSAP: Current Students

Coastal Science Assistantship Program (CSAP)

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Current Students


Photo: Sherif Mostafa AhmedSherif Mostafa Ahmed

Tulane University

Major professor: Ehab Meselhe
Project Title: Quantifying Sediment Retention and Morphologic Evolution in the Fort St. Phillip Crevasse Complex: Implications to Sediment Diversions

The success of sediment diversions is predicated on not only land building but also creating healthy wetland habitat. The overall goal of Ahmed’s project is to reduce uncertainty in three geotechnical processes – sediment compaction, redeposition, and vegetation productivity – that could determine the ultimate efficacy of both the Barataria and Brenton Sound diversions. Based on data collected in the field, Ahmed will develop numerical models using those three dynamics to provide insight into the possible net gain in marsh elevations for various sediment diversions. Ahmed’s professional goals are to gain further understanding of hydrodynamic and morphodynamic processes and behaviors in marine coastal areas. After completing his master’s, he plans to pursue a Ph.D.


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: Rory EscobedoRory Elizabeth Escobedo

Tulane University

Major Professor: Mead Allison
Project Title: Quantifying Land Subsidence in the Mississippi Delta Region Through Sentinel-1 InSAR Time-Series Analysis

Escobedo’s research focus is geology, specifically subsidence rates within the Mississippi Delta region. The Mississippi River Delta (MRD) has seen a gradual loss of land, intensified by rising sea levels. Escobedo will use a radar technique, Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar (InSAR), to map ground elevation change in the MRD. She also plans to use satellite data to examine where InSAR might provide subsidence data in wetland-dominated settings. She hopes total subsidence maps for the MRD can be derived from the research. After completing her master’s degree, she plans to work in the private industry, preferably one with a large community outreach.


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: Santosh GhimireSantosh Ghimire

Major Professor: Sabarethinam Kameshwar
Project Title: Hurricane Vulnerability of Aboveground Storage Tanks in Coastal Louisiana

The Louisiana coast contains multiple ports, oil and gas installations and petrochemical facilities. Aboveground storage tanks (ASTs) are used within these industrial environments to store substances, such as crude oil, petrochemicals and other hazardous materials. Ghimire will calculate and evaluate ASTs’ vulnerability to natural disasters like hurricanes. This knowledge will fill in gaps and help determine how effective regional hurricane risk mitigation measures are in preventing AST failure. Ultimately, this project will help preserve working coastal communities by reducing the likelihood of AST failures. After obtaining his master’s, Ghimire intends to work as a structural engineer, analyzing and designing infrastructures so communities will be more resilient against various hazards.


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: 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: Bonnie SlatonBonnie J. Slaton

University of Louisiana at Lafayette

Major Professor: Paul Leberg
Project Title: Assessing Resiliency of Coastal Seabird Communities Following Coastal Restoration and Hurricane Disturbance

Coastal islands in the Terrebonne and Barataria basins are critical habitats for several threatened species facing range-wide impacts due to climate change. Slaton will study the effects of storms and restoration on successional processes that control avian populations. She will compare extensive pre-storm and current island conditions, assessing restored and unrestored islands and the wildlife that inhabit them, such as brown pelicans (Pelicanus occidentalis). Ultimately, this project will help inform future restoration practices. After obtaining her master’s, Slaton plans to work as a non-game avian biologist on the Louisiana coast, protecting bird species and their habitats.


Abhishek TiwariAbhishek Tiwari

Louisiana Tech University

Major Professor: Jay Wang
Project Title: Development of Design Criteria for the use of Articulating Concrete Mats and Geosynthetic Separator Fabric as Protective Features for Earthen Containment Dikes Exposed to Localized Wave Forces 

Coastal wetland loss in Louisiana is a complex issue. Solutions include constructing containment dikes to restore and protect coastal habitats. Earthen dikes along the shoreline are typically built on soft clay, silts or fine sands and are different from levees because the dikes are subjected to continued damaging high current, wave and pore water pressure conditions. This project involves developing construction criteria for earthen dikes – using geosynthetic separator fabric and concrete mats as protective features – for coastal marsh creation. Ultimately, the project aims to deliver detailed step-by-step procedures for earthen dike construction. After completing his master’s and doctorate degrees, Tiwari hopes to join the faculty at a prestigious research institution and continue research that benefits communities, while also mentoring upcoming generation of scholars.


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.