Four CC&E Research Projects Receive Summer and Fall Discover Grants

October 07, 2021



This fall and summer, five LSU students from Coastal Environmental Science, Biological Sciences, and Biochemistry have received grants from LSU Discover to perform research with mentors from the LSU College of the Coast & Environment, or CC&E. These collaborations provide them with multiple approaches to address coastal and environmental challenges in Louisiana and beyond.

Fall 2021 Recipients

Louisiana’s Cancer Alley: The Fight Against Formosa

Mentor: Linda M. Hooper-Bùi, Professor, Department of Environmental Sciences

Mentees: Claire Sullivan (Southbury, CT), Sophomore, Coastal Environmental Science

Ria Salway (Katy, TX), Junior, Biological Sciences

Starting in the 1950s, as industrial development greatly expanded around Baton Rouge and New Orleans, large petrochemical plants were constructed along the Mississippi River, creating the region known as Cancer Alley. This area is primarily home to low-income communities of color who are facing the environmental and health consequences of living near these plants. Dr. Hooper-Bùi, Claire, and Ria have begun a film project that will document the ongoing methods used by local activists to stop a Formosa Plastics plant from being built in St. James Parish, Louisiana. Formosa Plastics has a history of having lawsuits brought against them for breaking federal pollution guidelines. While national coverage of Cancer Alley primarily focuses on quantitative data that defines cancer risk in the region, this film seeks to capture the personal stories of these communities, told by the residents themselves. They plan to use the film to raise awareness of these issues via film festivals, a screening at LSU, and by providing it for use in classrooms around Louisiana.

Wind-driven water level variability in Barataria Bay

Mentor: Matt Hiatt, Assistant Professor, Department of Oceanography and Coastal Sciences

Mentee: Jacob Reinhardt (Plaquemine, LA), Senior, Coastal Environmental Science

While the original project intended to analyze how the winds produced by regular winter cold fronts moving across the Louisiana coastline would disrupt water circulation patterns in Barataria Bay, the researchers’ measuring stations were destroyed by Hurricane Ida. As a result, Dr. Hiatt and Jacob have pivoted to analyzing water level variability in Barataria Bay and how tropical storms and hurricanes in 2020 and 2021 (pre-Ida) caused changes in water level in different locations throughout the bay. This work has implications for better understanding how, where, and when wind events can cause disruptions to water levels and potentially cause flooding in coastal Louisiana.

Sexual Reproduction and Recruitment Potential Following Phragmites australis Die-back in the Mississippi River Delta

Mentor: Austin Lynn, Postdoctoral Researcher, Department of Oceanography & Coastal Sciences

Mentee: Olivia Hurley (Sterlington, LA), Senior, Coastal Environmental Science

Dr. Lynn and Olivia are researching Roseau Cane, a tall reed growing along coastal marshes in Louisiana that is dying in some areas of the Mississippi River Delta. They are looking at the sexual reproduction of the cane, specifically its production of pollen and seeds, and comparing the pollen and seed production between three different Roseau cane varieties growing in the delta to discover which varieties can be best used for marsh restoration following dieback. Additionally, they are testing how each variety differs in seed germination rate when planted into different soil types found in the marsh. This will help elucidate if soil conditions contribute to Roseau Cane regeneration efficacy following dieback.

This research is a continuation of their Summer 2021 LSU Discover grant project. 


Summer 2021 Recipients

Investigating Unique Viral Communities Within Diverse Marine ‘Dead Zones’

Mentor: Jennifer Brum, Assistant Professor, Department of Oceanography & Coastal Sciences

Mentee: Parker Lawrence (Houma, LA), Senior, Biochemistry

Microbial communities are found in the guts of all large organisms where they perform many functions, including assisting in digestion. These gut microbes have been studied in humans, with many implications found for human health, but limited research has been conducted to investigate these gut communities in fish. Parker and Dr. Brum are conducting research to understand whether Gulf Killifish have different gut microbiota when they are associated with natural versus created wetlands in coastal Louisiana, which may affect the diet of these fish. Also, they are investigating whether the microbial communities change with the life stage of the fish and whether there is an observed difference between the stomach and intestinal communities. This work is being conducted as part of a larger project, led by Michael Polito, assistant professor in the Department of Oceanography & Coastal Sciences, to understand the effects of created marshes on the organisms that are associated with them.

This research is a continuation of their Spring 2020 LSU Discover grant project. 


Congratulations to the recipients of Summer and Fall 2021 LSU Discover Grants! CC&E is proud to empower these students with world-class research and education.