RNR Undergraduate Student Wins Award at Regional Coastal Conference

[16 Nov 2022] Patrick Colclough, an undergraduate majoring in Renewable Natural Resources at LSU’s School of Renewable Natural Resources, won the Undergraduate Poster Award at the 2022 Gulf Estuarine Research Society (GERS) Biennial Meeting.

GERS has a total membership of about 250 scientists, researchers, and students who are interested in estuarine and coastal issues along the Gulf coast.  Its fundamental goal is to promote research in the Gulf of Mexico.  It is one of 7 regionally based Affiliate Societies of the Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation (CERF).  GERS meets every other year; its 2022 meeting was held in Ocean Springs, MS on Oct 27-29 and was attended by over 120 people and included 48 poster presentations and 46 oral presentations.   

Colclough’s presentation described a comparison of created and natural marshes in south Louisiana.  He focused on tiny animals that live in marsh soils because of their importance to numerous species of shorebirds and marsh birds.  His research was motivated by Aylett Lipford, who is a M.S. student in the School of Renewable Natural Resources who is comparing bird use between created and natural marshes in south Louisiana.  

Marsh Creation is a restoration technique that converts shallow open water to areas shallow enough to support marsh grasses by using heavy equipment to move sediments from deeper water areas to shallow water areas.  The final elevation of the created marsh is critical.  If the sediment is spread too wide and thin, then the water still is too deep for marsh grasses to establish.  If the sediment is more restricted and stacked too high, then marsh grasses may grow but the area will be too dry for the tiny animals that marsh birds require as food. 

 A research proposal prepared by Lipford and Professor Nyman, also in the School of Renewable Natural Resources, to compare the food items of many of the birds that she was seeing was funded by the 2022 Louisiana Sea Grant Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program.  Colclough’s data have not yet been statistically analyzed but it appears that the created marshes support more invertebrates but the natural marshes support a more diverse invertebrate community.  Over time, subsidence and sea-level rise is expected to make the created marshes more like the natural marshes.