Too cold for alligators
After much planning, a team consisting of project PI Beth, postdoc Chunlei, and technician Geoff traveled to coastal Louisiana with bright eyes and bushy tails to see some potential sites. We were amazed by the beautiful landscapes of the coastal marshes, and saw the long-term damage wrought by recent hurricanes. Cold weather had come to the south, which was good (the reptiles were all hibernating) and not so good (the boat rides were very brisk!).
Our objective was to evaluate the feasibility of establishing sites along a degrading delta in Terrebonne Bay and a growing delta in the Atchafalaya Basin. These sites would represent areas of the coast that were becoming submerged and experiencing increased salinity, and those that were actively growing and becoming freshwater systems. We also managed to snag some water samples from each location to test our methods and get a sense of the chemistry at each site.
In all, we were able to visit three sites in three days. We fell in love with Wax Lake Delta, due both to its beauty and scientific promise (and maybe also because the sun came out that day). WLD is a highly studied and super interesting site because it's formed over the past few decades due to water diversion away from the Mississippi River and into Atchafalaya Basin. It also serves as a indicator of what might be to come as Louisiana implements a strategy to regrow its coast through similar water diversions. WLD also has these great hydrologic gradients due to tidal variation that are evident in the plant populations.
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Our objective is to develop new understanding of P biogeochemistry in coastal systems in order to improve representation of coastal biogeochemistry in Earth system models. We focus on the Louisiana Gulf Coast where water management has contributed to extensive coastal degradation.
This work is supported by the DOE Early Career Research Program through the Environmental System Science program in Biological and Environmental Research.