CC&E Postdoc Researcher One of Nine to Receive NASEM Science Policy Fellowship

  • Lauris Hollis, Post-Doctoral Researcher, Department of Oceanography & Coastal SciencesLauris Hollis in ankle-high mud in a forest.
  • Degree: PhD, Oceanography & Coastal Sciences, 2018
  • Hometown: Silsbee, Texas
  • High School: Silsbee High

Outstanding scientists are curious about their world and driven by the need to understand what makes everything work. That is certainly the case with Lauris Hollis. His determination to pursue answers continues to serve him beyond his time as a student at LSU’s College of the Coast & Environment, or CC&E.

As a doctoral student, Hollis received both the 2018 Ted Ford Memorial Fellowship, which recognizes full-time graduate students studying and researching marine fisheries with a 3.0 GPA, and CC&E’s Outstanding Student Dissertation Award for his research on the tensile root strength of coastal wetland plants and how stressors weakening their roots contributes to erosion. In spring of 2018, he graduated with CC&E’s largest graduating class, to date, as the first African American man to receive a PhD in Oceanography & Coastal Sciences from LSU.

Hollis credits his success, in part, to CC&E’s unique location near the Mississippi River Delta and Gulf Coast and to its world-renowned faculty who prepare students for the workforce by providing an exceptional scientific education.

“CC&E produces faculty who have and may become recognized global authorities on various aspects of oceanography and coastal sciences. The expertise of CC&E’s faculty facilitates the availability of a curriculum that covers a variety of coastal ecosystems, habitats, processes, and pressing challenges such as climate change, coastal land loss, eutrophication, hypoxia zones, and future sustainability. Therefore, it is not surprising that the CC&E can produce exceptional graduates who are highly desirable in various research programs and employment sectors,” he said.

After graduation, Hollis continued at CC&E as a postdoctoral researcher and, this year, he received a Gulf Research Program Science Policy Fellowship from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, or NASEM. 2019 marks the second year in a row that NASEM has recognized and rewarded an outstanding doctoral student from the college with this fellowship. Last year, recent alumna Elizabeth Robinson was recognized.

Hollis first became attracted to the NASEM fellowship because of its particular focus on scientific policy. According to him, “There seems to be a disconnection between knowledge obtained by scientific research and the policies that are ultimately enacted by government. Our scientific knowledge, which is obtained at great cost and effort, does not always seem to survive the policy-making process and generate improved on-the-ground results. Therefore, I am very interested in finding out how science does or does not become policy.”

Hollis is one of nine fellows to earn this prestigious opportunity in which scientists gain more first-hand experience in scientific policy by spending one year on the staff of a federal or state environmental, natural resources, oil and gas, or public health agency in the Gulf of Mexico region. Hollis’ fellowship will take place at the Texas General Land Office under the guidance of a mentor, Deputy Director of Coastal Resources David Green. There, his activities will focus on improving projects and project planning in the Texas Coastal Resiliency Master Plan and infusing scientific knowledge into the policy-making and adaptive management processes.

Additionally, Hollis’ LSU dissertation research could be extremely useful to the Healthy Ecosystems Initiative of the Gulf Research Program. The loss of wetland plants, a natural defense against large natural disturbances such as tropical cyclones, could magnify storm damage to coastal human communities, as in the case of communities in southeast Texas during Hurricane Harvey. Because of this, Hollis’ research provides a new diagnostic tool for assessing the health of coastal wetland ecosystems and evaluating ongoing restoration projects. Hollis’ intrinsic determination, hard work and curiosity, as well as the critical skills he honed at LSU CC&E, have propelled him to new heights where he can apply his science effectively.

Published August 20, 2019