Intern researches effects of streamside management zones

Sarah LeBlanc conducts research

Sarah Catherine LeBlanc wades into a stream with tools to measure water quality as part of research she did interning with A. Wilbert’s Sons. Former LSU research associate Laura Keys looks on from the bank. Photo provided by LeBlanc 

In the course of two semesters, Sarah Catherine LeBlanc often found herself in deep water. The senior studying natural resource ecology and management was waist deep in streams observing water quality and other issues as part of an internship with land management company A. Wilbert’s Sons LLC.
LeBlanc’s research focused on the effect of streamside management zones — areas near waterways that are managed to protect the stream from forestry operations — on land managed by A. Wilbert’s Sons. She was looking at the effect these zones have on the aquatic ecology in Louisiana bottomland hardwood forests.
“I have always been fascinated with how different ecosystems work and how we as environmental specialists, researchers and students are able to manage and learn about how certain systems work,” LeBlanc said.
Dr. William Kelso, professor in the School of Renewable Natural Resources, served as LeBlanc’s faculty advisor and said the project was a great opportunity to prepare LeBlanc for scientific research later in her career.
Under Kelso’s guidance, she set out to determine if SMZs are effective in the preservation of water quality.
“It made me realize I had a lot to learn about the specific parameters that take place in these ecosystems,” LeBlanc said about the project.
She focused on four sites near Ramah, Louisiana. Two of the sites were SMZs and two were used as controls. She worked in the side channels of the area until decreased water levels forced her to move to the main channel.
In four- to five-week intervals, LeBlanc collected her data using instruments that measured basic water parameters such as pH and dissolved oxygen levels, the light available to reach the surface of the stream and the canopy density over the stream.
Leblanc concluded that the SMZs do not differ significantly from the controlled sites and that A. Wilbert’s Sons is doing an effective job of managing their land.Sara LeBlanc conducts streamside research
LeBlanc presented her results to managers of A. Wilbert’s Sons and LSU College of Agriculture faculty members.
Klein Kirby, president and chairman of A. Wilbert’s Sons, was impressed by the depth and caliber of LeBlanc’s research.
“The purpose of this internship is to support the undergraduate program and show what students are doing and what they get out of it,” Kirby said.
LeBlanc and Kirby both see potential in continuing the research through future internship opportunities.
LeBlanc said through the work she learned to embrace her mistakes and learn from them.
“If you make them now, you won’t make them later,” she said.


Writer: Amari Baker

Communications Intern