National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine Selects LSU Faculty and Graduates for Prestigious Gulf Research Program Fellowships
BATON ROUGE – The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine’s Gulf Research Program has selected two LSU faculty for its Early-Career Research Fellowships and two LSU graduates for its Science Policy Fellowships. LSU Department of Environmental Sciences Assistant Professor Rebeca de Jesus Crespo and LSU School of Architecture Assistant Professor and LSU Coastal Sustainability Studio Managing Director Traci Birch are among the 20 Early-Career Research fellows selected for 2019. With nearly 70 fellowships awarded since 2015, the program supports emerging young scientists working at the intersections of environmental health, community health and resilience and offshore energy system safety in the Gulf of Mexico and other U.S. coastal regions.
De Jesús Crespo’s research links landscape-level patterns of anthropogenic activities,
ecosystem services and socio-economic factors to indicators of ecological integrity
and human health. Her graduate research was majorly funded by awards from the UPR
Center for Applied Tropical Ecology and Conservation, the Ford Foundation and the
Fulbright Program. She previously worked as a biologist for the Puerto Rico Department
of Environmental and Natural Resources and as a postdoctoral researcher for the Environmental
Protection Agency’s National Health and Environmental Research Laboratory, where she
earned the Gulf Ecology Division Scientist of the Year Award and the EPA Environmental
“I am truly honored to receive this award and to get the opportunity to test my ideas in the next couple of years. I am excited to contribute, with my research, to the Gulf Research Program; and I hope that my work helps promote human health and resilience in the coastal communities of the region,” de Jesus Crespo said.
Birch’s research focus is ecosystem management and facilitating local implementation of regional planning efforts. Her doctoral research focused on the ability and effectiveness of local communities to implement ecosystem management and her postdoctoral research focused on developing planning frameworks for coupled coastal-inland community resilience and well-being in the face of increased climate change. Birch was a research faculty members at LSU for three years before becoming an assistant professor in the School of Architecture. She holds a Ph.D. in urban studies and environmental management and a master’s degree in urban and regional planning, both from the University of New Orleans.
The Gulf Research Program’s Early-Career Research Fellowship helps early-career researchers, like Birch and de Jesus Crespo, during the important pre-tenure stage of their careers. Fellows are provided with a $76,000 financial award along with mentoring support to help them maneuver this period with independence, flexibility and a built-in support network. The support allows them to take risks on research ideas, pursue unique collaborations and build a network of colleagues who share their interest in improving offshore energy system safety and the resilience of coastal communities and ecosystems.
“Through the support of this fellowship, I will be able to expand on my research and
create new tools and partnerships to specifically address cultural resilience needs.
Cultural resilience is the capacity of a cultural system, consisting of the common
and unique cultural processes in a community to absorb adversity, deal with change
and continue to thrive and develop,” Birch said. “Honoring people’s connections to
their environment, and the layers of history and activity that comprise cultural landscapes
is fundamental to a community’s resilience. Simply put, it is the glue that binds
people together as a community in the face of abrupt and gradual environmental change.
Without cultural wellbeing, there is no social wellbeing, and arguably no economic
Other LSU recipients of the Early-Career Research Fellowship include Ipsita Gupta, assistant professor of petroleum engineering; Michelle Meyer, assistant professor of sociology; Jill Trepanier, assistant professor of geography and anthropology; Shanondora Billiot, social work graduate; Ashley Ross, political science graduate; and Wanyun Shao, geography graduate.
The fellowships are awarded to individuals who demonstrate a strong scientific or technical background, superior scholarship, effective communication skills and an ability to work across disciplines, among other attributes.
Two LSU graduates have been selected as National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine’s Gulf Research Program Science Policy Fellows. LSU Oceanography & Coastal Sciences doctoral graduate Lauris Hollis from Silsbee, Texas and coastal environmental science graduate Abbey Hotard from River Ridge, Louisiana are 2019 science policy fellows, who will serve one year on the staff of federal, state, local or non-governmental environmental, natural resource, oil and gas and public health agencies in the Gulf of Mexico region.
Hollis will join the staff of the Texas General Land Office in Austin, Texas. He holds
a Ph.D. in oceanography and coastal sciences from LSU. He received an M.S. in environmental
science and a B.A.A.S. in natural resources management from Stephen F. Austin State
University. His research has focused on how natural and anthropogenic stressors affect
the biomechanical properties of wetland plants and the resultant effects on coastal
wetland and estuarine ecosystems. Hollis was awarded the Outstanding Dissertation
Award by the LSU College of the Coast & Environment and the LSU Ted Ford Memorial
Scholarship for Outstanding Graduate Student Research. Prior to graduate school, Hollis
worked as a geographic information systems analyst managing projects for counties
in the Houston-Galveston region. He currently serves as a member of the Society of
Wetland Scientists’ Waters of the United States Ad Hoc Committee, which disseminates
information to various audiences about proposed amendments to the Clean Water Act.
Hotard will join the staff of the Environmental Protection Agency, Gulf of Mexico Program in Gulfport, Mississippi. She holds a Master of Marine Resources Management from Texas A&M University at Galveston and a B.S. in coastal environmental science from LSU. Her graduate research focused on how Gulf Coast residents perceive and respond to coastal environmental hazards. Hotard complemented her master’s program with applied learning opportunities, including the Sustainable Adaptive Gradients in the Coastal Environment Boston short course and the National Science Foundation Partnerships for International Research and Education Coastal Flood Risk Reduction Program in Amsterdam. She also served as a student volunteer with the Federal Emergency Management Agency in their Response Geospatial Office. These experiences developed her knowledge of modeling, planning and risk communication practices used in the U.S. and abroad.
Other LSU recipients of the National Academies of Science’s Gulf Research Program Science Policy Fellowship include Kathryn Keating, sociology Ph.D. student; Kelcee Smith, renewable natural resources Ph.D. student; David Reeves, oceanography and coastal sciences Ph.D. graduate; Paulina Kolic, chemistry Ph.D. graduate; Stephanie Sharuga, oceanography and coastal sciences Ph.D. graduate; and Cholena Ren, chemistry Ph.D. student.
National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine Gulf Research Program’s 2019
Early-Career Research and Science Policy Fellows:
National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine Gulf Research Program’s 2019 Science Policy Fellows: http://www.nationalacademies.org/gulf/fellowships/science-policy/current-and-past-fellows/index.htm
Contact Alison Satake
LSU Media Relations