National Academies of Sciences and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Fund $10M for Critical Gulf Research

LSU researchers awarded two of the four grants

Baton Rouge map

A perspective map of the Greater Baton Rouge area rendered by the LSU Coastal Sustainbility Studio, one of the two LSU recipients of the National Academies of Sciences' Gulf Research Program and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation grants to improve inland and coastal resilience.

Photo Credit: LSU Coastal Sustainbility Studio

BATON ROUGE – LSU researchers lead two of the four projects awarded funding today from the National Academies of Sciences’ Gulf Research Program and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. All four projects aim to enhance the science and practice of resilience in coastal communities located in the Gulf of Mexico region.

LSU Coastal Sustainability Studio Director and Associate Professor in the LSU School of Architecture Jeff Carney leads a multidisciplinary research team that seeks to improve understanding of inland-coastal environmental conditions and vulnerabilities; determine indicators of community health and wellbeing; and develop design and planning best practices for reducing risk and increasing adaptive capacity. The LSU Coastal Sustainability Studio is a university-based research, design and outreach organization that brings together disciplines that frequently work separately to intensively study and respond to issues of settlement, coastal restoration, flood protection and the economy.

“Risks from sea level rise, land subsidence and extreme weather are not limited to coastal areas but threaten entire regions from the coast inland,” Carney said. “Helping the Greater Baton Rouge region emerge more resilient from last year’s devastating floods will not only increase local health and wellbeing, but the resulting framework will be applicable to communities across the Gulf Coast and beyond.”

This project brings together faculty from 10 departments at Louisiana Sea Grant, University of New Orleans and LSU including the Coastal Sustainability Studio, Center for Coastal Resiliency, the Life Course and Aging Center and the Center for River Studies. Research findings will be put into practice through local partnerships with professional architects, engineers, landscape architects, planners, policy-makers and community members.

“The LSU Center for River Studies is in an ideal spot to lead the modeling efforts on this important project. The combination of our modeling expertise and collaboration with the LSU Center for Coastal Resiliency to integrate coastal surge hydrodynamics in river flood modeling and our location on the Baton Rouge campus will ensure that our research and products are integrated into regional design and used to educate planners, engineers, decision-makers and the general public,” said project collaborator Clint Willson, LSU Center for River Studies director and the Mike N. Dooley Professor in the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering.

Gulf Coast communities face a variety of unique environmental stressors stemming from from climate change and both natural- and human-caused disasters. In recent years, such events have included floods, droughts, hurricanes, sinking coastal areas and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. While adverse events are a major challenge for any community, the degree to which communities effectively respond and recover can differ significantly.

“From previous research in the wake of the 2005 Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, we know that many people who live in coastal Louisiana are incredibly resilient and resourceful. However, resilience in the face of severe weather and its aftermath in the years after catastrophic environmental events is a complex phenomenon. We still have much to learn about the psychosocial variables within communities that have enabled generations to survive and thrive in this dynamic environment,” said project collaborator Katie Cherry, the director of the LSU Life Course and Aging Center and psychology professor.

The project, titled “Inland from the Coast: A Multi-Scalar Approach to Regional Climate Change Responses,” has been awarded $2,936,000.

“We are working with diverse Gulf communities to better understand their capacity to prepare for, withstand and recover from acute and chronic adversity,” said Brian Quinn, associate vice president of Research-Evaluation-Learning at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “For too many of us, our prospects for good health are limited by where we live.  Whether it is vulnerability to environmental disasters or chronic poverty, we know that the confluence of the diverse factors that impact resilience are closely tied to health equity.  Ultimately, we hope to uncover what nurtures resilience in our communities, which is essential to building a Culture of Health. We all benefit when we all have a fair shot to live the healthiest lives possible.”

LSU has also received funding for the project, titled “Community Resilience Learning Collaborative and Research Network.” This project has been awarded $2,522,000.

LSU Health Sciences Center New Orleans Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine Benjamin Springgate leads this project’s team, which aims to improve resilience and mental health outcomes in six communities in southern Louisiana that are vulnerable to poor health outcomes and the impacts of disasters. The research team will establish a community-partnered learning collaborative and research network to build capacity to test and promote practices that can strengthen resilience.


About the funders

For more than 40 years the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, or RWJF, has worked to improve health and health care. The RWJF is working with others to build a national Culture of Health enabling everyone in America to live longer, healthier lives. For more information, visit Follow the Foundation on Twitter at or on Facebook at

The Gulf Research Program, a program of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, was established in 2013 as a result of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and seeks to improve understanding of the interconnecting human, environmental and energy systems of the Gulf of Mexico and other U.S. outer continental shelf areas. The program funds grants, fellowships and other activities using three broad approaches: research and development, education and training, and environmental monitoring.  For more information, visit

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine are private, nonprofit institutions that provide independent, objective analysis and advice to the nation to solve complex problems and inform public policy decisions related to science, technology and medicine. The Academies operate under an 1863 congressional charter to the National Academy of Sciences, signed by President Lincoln. For more information, visit


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Additional Link:

The list of the four funded projects:

LSU Health Sciences Center New Orleans Research to Improve Resilience to Disasters in LA:





Contact Alison Satake
LSU Media Relations


Molly Galvin
National Academies of Sciences Office of News and Public Information