Alumni Spotlight: Bren Haase
M.S., Oceanography & Coastal Sciences, 2000
LSU’s College of the Coast & Environment, or CC&E, serves as a critical knowledge base for coastal restoration initiatives in Louisiana and throughout the world. CC&E’s influence is especially notable to alumnus Bren Haase, deputy executive director of Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, or CPRA.
With 20 years of experience in coastal wetlands ecology, restoration, and regulation, Haase has made coastal restoration his life’s work. He has built a successful career in Louisiana that began at LSU’s Coastal Fisheries Institute, what is now part of LSU CC&E.
“I always had a passion for the coast. That’s why I went to grad school at LSU…I knew I wanted to be a part of the growing understanding of the issues affecting our coast and our state and I wanted to be a part of the solution,” Haase said.
Haase has prior experience working in the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration but has worked at CPRA since its inception. Prior to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, ecosystem restoration and storm damage risk reduction were treated as two separate issues and handled by separate state departments. But, in the wake of these destructive storms, the state legislature formed CPRA and mandated that CPRA develop a long-term plan that would integrate restoration and risk reduction—a plan that ultimately became the Louisiana Coastal Master Plan.
The Master Plan has generated a lot of press because of its scale and its unique approach to coastal management.
“I think other states are catching up and starting to think along these lines but, to my knowledge, it’s the only integrated plan that deals with ecosystem restoration, hurricane risk reduction, and really is an overall resilience and adaptation plan for a coastal state. Other states have coastal plans or they might have resilience plans or they might have risk-reduction plans, but very few integrate all of those into one way of thinking and one set of priorities,” Haase said.
According to Haase, CC&E’s research informs how CPRA measures the success of the Master Plan and adapts to the changing environment at every step of its implementation. CC&E faculty are able to provide critical data to CPRA via research grants received from the RESTORE Act Center of Excellence for Louisiana. As of last year, the center has awarded five of 13 research grants to six LSU CC&E faculty.
In addition, CC&E students and alumni have opportunities to work at CPRA. Several current and former CPRA employees hold degrees from the college. And, since CPRA’s Coastal Science Assistantship Program began 10 years ago, 13 of the interns have come from CC&E, including current participant Peter Mates, who is a graduate student in the Department of Oceanography and Coastal Sciences.
When asked about what advice he had for future coastal and environmental science graduates, Haase said diversifying their knowledge base and being able to adapt quickly to changing environmental conditions were at the top of his list. He considers the Master Plan to be a coastal adaptation plan that will respond to the changing conditions along the coast as they arise and he believes those working on the plan will need to be flexible too.
“I think the predictive abilities and assessment abilities of the students who are at the College of the Coast & Environment now are going to be tremendously important [in their future careers],” Haase said.
During his time at CC&E, Haase said he learned the meaning of independence and determination and that those are the lessons that have been the most valuable to his career.
For more information on CC&E’s academic programs, check out https://www.lsu.edu/cce/undergraduate/recruitment/applyindex.php
For more information about CPRA and the Louisiana Coastal Master Plan, check out http://coastal.la.gov.
For a full list of RESTORE Act Center of Excellence Awardees and summaries of their research, click here: http://coastal.la.gov/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/List-of-Awardees.pdf