Coastal Environmental Science Student Awarded LSU Discover Fall Research Grant

LSU’s College of the Coast & Environment prides itself on providing undergraduates with opportunities to perform valuable lab and field research as early as their first year of college. One such undergraduate, Callie Snow, a coastal environmental science senior, is one of 16 winners of the 2019 LSU Discover Fall Research Grant. This grant awards undergraduates at LSU with a minimum 3.0 GPA.Callie Snow, in sunglasses, smiles and poses on a boat. A man can be seen in the background.

Under the guidance of her mentor, Sibel Bargu, associate dean of academics and professor of oceanography and coastal sciences, Snow will use this grant to fund research focusing on cyanobacteria harmful algal blooms, or CyanoHABs, that occurred in Lake Pontchartrain this summer. CyanoHABs negatively impact fisheries, wildlife, and the general public and, in Louisiana, they pose a potential threat to the health of the connected estuaries that support Louisiana’s people and recreation.

"Callie took on a big responsibility this summer and become one of the key investigators looking into toxin variability in Lake Pontchartrain. It was a very steep learning curve, and she took to the challenge successfully. I am so proud of her and all our CES undergraduate researchers’ accomplishments," Bargu said.

Snow is studying the environmental factors that may have influenced the bloom’s development and toxicity levels. Specifically, she will investigate whether the timing and duration of the Bonnet Carré Spillway opening may have influenced the nutrient dynamics of the lake and increased CyanoHAB’s toxicity and prevalence.

“The Bonnet Carre Spillway opened twice this year for the first time in history. The combined two openings resulted in the longest duration that the spillway has historically been opened as well. The duration of the spillway being opened resulted in a large amount of nutrients being fed into Lake Pontchartrain which supported the proliferation of the bloom,” Snow said.

According to Bargu, "Callie's research will help the scientific community to better understand these complicated CyanoHAB dynamics in our estuarine and lake systems. The results will also inform state agencies like the Louisiana Department of Health and Department of Environmental Quality as these toxins can become a potential public health hazard.”