LSU Professor Awarded Prestigious Sloan Research Fellowship

Morgan Kelly

LSU biologist Morgan Kelly conducts research at an oyster hatchery in Grand Isle, La.Photo Credit: Cody Willhite, LSU.

BATON ROUGE – LSU Department of Biological Sciences Assistant Professor Morgan Kelly has been awarded a prestigious 2017 Sloan Research Fellowship. The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation selects 126 outstanding U.S. and Canadian researchers as recipients of this award each year. The honor is awarded to early-career scholars whose achievements mark them as the next generation of scientific leaders.

“The Sloan Research Fellows are the rising stars of the academic community,” said Paul L. Joskow, president of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. “Through their achievements and ambition, these young scholars are transforming their fields and opening up entirely new research horizons. We are proud to support them at this crucial stage of their careers.”

Sloan Research Fellows are scholars from eight scientific and technical fields—chemistry, computer science, economics, mathematics, computational and evolutionary molecular biology, neuroscience, ocean sciences and physics—nominated by fellow scientists. The fellows are selected by independent panels of senior scholars on the basis of each candidate’s independent research accomplishments, creativity and potential to become a leader in his or her field.  

Kelly is a marine biologist who studies how oysters adapt to changes in their environment. Louisiana’s oyster fishery is the largest in the country—roughly a $85 million industry. Oysters also play an important role in the ecosystem by filtering and cleaning the water. Oyster beds further help stabilize the shoreline to prevent coastal erosion and land loss. Yet, oysters in the Gulf of Mexico face warming temperatures and a rise in fresh water from heavy rainfall and fresh water diversions. Kelly studies how these changes impact oysters.

“In our research, we put oysters from different populations out into the environment to study how they react to various levels of salinity and temperature,” she said. “We want to know which oyster populations can best adapt genetically to a changing environment.”

She identifies the strains of oysters that can survive best in low saline conditions. She hopes managers will be able to use those strains to repopulate oyster breeding grounds where salinity levels fluctuate most. Kelly and her graduate students conduct research on Grand Isle, La., at the Michael C. Voisin Oyster Hatchery as well as in the lab at LSU.

The 2017 Sloan Research Fellows represent top researchers from 60 colleges and universities in the U.S. and Canada. LSU is one of three universities in the Southeastern Conference to have a faculty member awarded this fellowship. Faculty members from the University of South Carolina and Vanderbilt University are also recipients. The fellowship includes a $60,000 award to support the fellow’s research. Kelly will apply her fellowship towards building upon her research and possibly bringing a new graduate student on to the project.



LSU has a video uplink studio with live broadcast capabilities. Contact us to set up an interview.





Contact Alison Satake
LSU Media Relations


Casey Muller
LSU Department of Biological Sciences