Tulane scientist wins grant for Gulf of Mexico ecosystem project


Photo courtesy of Tulane University

NEW ORLEANS – Ehab Meselhe, a professor in the Department of River and Coastal Science and Engineering at Tulane University, received a $ 125,000 grant to plan the creation of an online forecasting tool to help scientists, environmentalists and engineers to assess the impact of freshwater diversion and other coastal restoration projects on marine mammals. , shorebirds, barrier islands and fisheries from the Mississippi River to the Gulf of Mexico.

Meselhe received one of 20 planning grants totaling $ 2.3 million for a project that aims to develop a management and forecasting system directly accessible to resource managers via an online dashboard.

“This is a preliminary step towards the development of emergency management tools needed for natural resources in the Gulf of Mexico,” Meselhe said. “It was very competitive and I am very happy to receive one of these planning grants. “

The grant from the NOAA RESTORE Scientific Program aims to fund research that reduces the uncertainty surrounding the management of natural resources in the Gulf of Mexico region.

“The team of resource managers and researchers that Dr. Meselhe has assembled will work together to develop a publicly accessible river management and forecasting system to explore the trade-offs between different restoration strategies in the lower Mississippi. and to examine how to optimize the river inputs to achieve the restoration objectives ”, declared Julien Lartigue, director of the scientific program. “The team has submitted a competitive proposal, and we look forward to working with them on this award.”

NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, created the RESTORE science program in 2012, to conduct research, observations, and monitoring to support the long-term sustainability of the ecosystem.

An estimated 79 to 92 percent of all fresh water enters the Gulf of Mexico from the Mississippi River system, and these river inflows are a fundamental driver of the system, Meselhe said.

“Without fully understanding the effects of influxes, federal agencies struggle to properly prioritize funding for restoration projects that adaptively manage natural resources and mitigate unwanted impacts such as dead zones, high turbidity, and blooms. harmful algae from freshwater discharges, ”he said. .

“This project will guide the prioritization of funding, location and design of proposed restoration projects and will integrate adaptive management strategies and guide the management of riverine inputs in the northern Gulf of Mexico.

He said the project is unique in that it will allow resource managers to explore the potential effects of specific management alternatives and produce a needs-driven, science-based forecasting system that will build capacity for interdisciplinary work through training and commitments.

The Meselhe team includes representatives from universities, government agencies, non-governmental organizations and the private sector. Among them are the National Marine Fisheries Service, the US Army Corps of Engineers, the National Park Service, the United States Geological Survey, the NOAA – National Water Center, the NOAA – National Ocean Service, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. The team also includes scientists from Tulane, LSU, University of Southern Mississippi, Auburn University, University of Miami, University of Central Florida, National Charrette Institute-Michigan. State University and ESSA Technologies.

“Our team is intentionally inclusive to capture a wide range of perspectives, experiences and points of view,” said Meselhe.