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RNR Research Highlights

Researchers work to identify safer, more effective oil dispersants



LEFT: LSU AgCenter and Louisiana Sea Grant researchers Chris Green and Andy Nyman are studying the effects of dispersants used after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. RIGHT: LSU AgCenter and Louisiana Sea Grant researcher Chris Green holds a dish of FA-Glu, a microbe-based dispersant being used in experiments.
Photos by Olivia McClure/LSU AgCenter

BATON ROUGE, La. – Four years ago, as nearly 5 million barrels of oil flowed into the Gulf of Mexico after the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded, desperate cleanup crews applied dispersants to break up the oil that people worried would have profoundly negative effects on coastal wetlands and wildlife.

But dispersants like COREXIT 9500A, which was used in 2010, may have made the oil even more dangerous to aquatic life, according to LSU AgCenter and Louisiana Sea Grant scientists who have been studying the effects of the Deepwater Horizon spill.

Dispersants break oil into smaller pieces so it spreads throughout the water column. The downside is that they also make oil easier for fish and other life in the Gulf to ingest and absorb, said Chris Green, associate professor at the AgCenter's Aquaculture Research Station.

Green and AgCenter wetlands biologist Andy Nyman tested hundreds of Gulf killifish, a popular baitfish, and found that oil becomes less toxic over time, partially because bacteria that live in the Gulf eat the toxins. While fish populations take a significant hit when oil first spills, they are able to survive later on, Green said.

That doesn't necessarily mean those fish are healthy, however.

RNR Faculty, Post-Docs' Study Gets Cover of BioScience

seaside sparrow (Ammodramus maritimus).  Photo by Dr. Phil Stouffer

Congratulations to RNR faculty, Drs. Taylor and Stouffer and postdocs, Drs. Bergeon-Burns, and Woltmann, for getting the cover of the latest issue of BioScience (http://bioscience.oxfordjournals.org/content/64/9.cover-expansion)

Also check out their paper: Christine M. Bergeon Burns, Jill A. Olin, Stefan Woltmann, Philip C Stouffer, and Sabrina S. Taylor. Effects of Oil on Terrestrial Vertebrates: Predicting Impacts of the Macondo Blowout. BioScience (September 2014) 64 (9): 820-828 doi:10.1093/biosci/biu124.

Breeding the perfect Oyster?

Dr. John Supan - AgCenter, RNR, and Sea Grant scientist, was recently featured on WWL-TV New Orleans discussing his triploid oyster program.

Professor Supan began researching this concept of cross breeding oysters back in 1993. After roughly nine years of work and experimentation, he and his team had a break through. In the spring of 2002, they successfully produced what they call a "triploid" oyster. “We have not inserted strange genes into these oysters. The chromosomes in these oysters were in the oysters already. It's just part of a breeding process,” Supan said. "

"They retain their winter fat acquired during the winter time, they don't burn it off during the summer to spawn, which causes their meat yield to drop and become watery. The triploids stay fat all summer long" said Supan.

See the video, and read the rest of the fascinating details HERE.

LIFT2 Grants Awarded to Three RNR Faculty

LSU has awarded 15 grants totaling $500,000 to faculty members through its new LIFT2 (Leveraging Innovation for Technology Transfer) grant program, which provides funding to validate the market potential of the faculty members' inventions. Grants are for up to $50,000. LSU President F. King Alexander says in a prepared statement that "this program will help to see many of these projects advance from basic research to market." Results of the research from the first grants are expected within a year. The grant awardees were selected from among 47 applications.

Congratulations are in order for three of our Faculty members receiving these prestigious awards:

Professors Todd Shupe and Richard Vlosky in the School of Renewable Natural Resources, along with Dr. Jim Richardson in the E. J. Ourso College of Business Administration on the LSU A&M campus received one of these these for their project titled: “Reclaiming Chromated Copper Arsenate (CCA) from Decommissioned Preservative-treated wood: Technology, Economics, and Markets

Assistant Professor Julie Anderson Lively in the School of Renewable Natural Resources, also received one of these awards. The title of her project is “Packaging and storage of a new blue crab bait

The New GPS: Gobbler Positioning System

An article from the May 2, 2014 issue of Field and Stream features our current wildlife ecologist, Dr. Bret Collier, and our former wildlife ecologist, Dr. Mike Chamberlain. The use of GPS technology to study the habits and movements of turkeys is highlighted. Interesting stuff. The article can be viewed online, here.

LSU AgCenter, Nicholls State Collaborate on Gar Fish

BATON ROUGE, La. – Researchers from the LSU AgCenter and students from Nicholls State University recently collected alligator gar at the LSU AgCenter Aquaculture Research Station in Baton Rouge in an effort to improve the fish populations in areas where they are no longer found.

Christopher Green, the lead researcher on the project at the station, is working with biology students at Nicholls to address the spawning behavior of the fish. And for the past four years, Green has been looking at ways to keep the alligator gar a viable species in southern Louisiana and other parts of the Mississippi River.

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Research Highlight: Blue Crab Bait Could Improve Crab, Shrimp Industries

Dr. Julie Anderson Crab Bait studiesBATON ROUGE, La. – A new gelatin-like bait using shrimp waste could improve the way blue crabs are caught along the coast of Louisiana and add value to the state’s shrimp processing industry.

Julie Anderson, a crustacean specialist with the LSU AgCenter and RNR Faculty memeber, is working on a crab bait that could replace Atlantic menhaden, the current bait used.

The menhaden, also known as pogy, is shipped from the East Coast, Anderson said, but stocks are declining. The Atlantic State Marine Fisheries Commission put a limit on how much menhaden can be caught. Anderson said this is driving up the price of Atlantic menhaden.

Menhaden also is caught in the Gulf of Mexico, but it is rarely used for bait.

Artificial reefs could stem coastal land loss

BATON ROUGE, La. – Louisiana’s issues with coastal land loss are well-documented. Scientists estimate that since 1930 as much as 25 square miles of land per year have been lost in the Mississippi River delta area. Much of these losses can be traced to land subsidence – land simply sinking and being covered by water – and erosion from wave energy.

Megan Lapeyre, an estuarine ecologist with the LSU AgCenter’s School of Renewable Natural Resources and the U.S. Geological Survey, is studying engineered reefs and examining how these reefs perform in stabilizing land primarily in areas of high wave energy.

“We are studying these reefs in three different areas. One in the Vermilion Bay area, one in Grand Isle and another in the Biloxi marsh area,” she said.

Lapeyre said one goal of the studies is to answer just how effective reefs are for shoreline stabilization. “Ideally, they would assist in creating marsh,” she said. “At this point, it is too early to tell.”

Cooperative Research Unit Corner - Research on Louisiana's Bald Eagles

Wildlife Management Institute’s Outdoor News Bulletin is hilighting Dr. Alan Afton’s Bald Eagle research in it's "Cooperative Research Unit Corner". Research being conducted by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries in collaboration with the USGS Louisiana Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, US Fish and Wildlife Service, and Louisiana State University is examining the change in the eagle population over time and looking at what habitat types the birds are currently using for nesting. The Bulletin and all the details are available on the Wildlife Mangaemnt Institute's website. Read about nteresting research to help preserve our National Symbol.

Workshop Focuses on Wood-Based Bioenergy

HAMMOND, La. – The U.S. forestry industry has migrated from the Pacific Northwest to the South over the past two decades, providing additional opportunities for Southern forest landowners, an LSU AgCenter business development expert told an audience at a workshop on forest-based bioenergy.

Emerging biomass-to-energy markets have been driven by increasing interest in renewable energy sources, said Rich Vlosky, director of the Louisiana Forest Products Development Center in the LSU AgCenter.

Stouffer Lab Brings Good News From the Rainforest

Some good news out of the Amazon rainforest: given enough time, deforested land can rebound enough to host bird species that had previously deserted the area, according to a recent study in The Auk.

Between 1992 and 2011, a team led by Philip Stouffer of Louisiana State University tracked the movements of birds through fragmented rainforest in the Brazilian Amazon. Using soft nylon stretches called mist nets, they snagged nearly 4,000 birds at the margins between old growth forests and tracts of between old growth rainforest and forest recovering after being abandoned by cattle ranchers.

As the so-called secondary forest regenerated, birds crossed the borders more frequently, the team found. These areas of regrowth become more habitable to birds with time, although the results suggest that it can take at least a decade or two for species to return.

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Nature faces disasters, disruptions

LNRS logoBATON ROUGE, La. – Man-made modifications in the Mississippi River Valley – levees, cut-offs and dams – have all caused changes in the ecology of the Atchafalaya Basin and similar areas, Wes Cochran, a graduate student in the School of Renewable Natural Resources, told a conference audience recently.

Those and effects of natural and man-made disasters and disruptions were featured as scientists presented results of some of their research in the fourth Louisiana Natural Resources Symposium on Aug. 1-2 on the LSU campus in Baton Rouge.

The fourth in a series of biannual conferences was presented by the LSU AgCenter School of Renewable Natural Resources.

“The conference is focused on the effects of human and natural changes on forested and wetland ecosystems and wildlife,” said Todd Shupe, of the AgCenter’s Louisiana Forest Products Development Center and one of the organizers of the event.

Alligator Diet is the Focus of Aquaculture Research Station Project

1/28/2013, The Advocate -- Millie Williams, Senior Research Associate with the LSU AgCenter's Aquaculture Research Station, is working on a study that could do for Louisiana’s $60 million alligator farming industry what science has already done for the cattle, pork and poultry industries.

Robert Reigh, director of the research station, says LSU is set to open its new Alligator Research Station just outside Baton Rouge city limits in early March.

Since the early 1990s, alligator farmers have been asking for help in identifying the right food mixture and the right conditions in which they can grow their alligators quickly to marketable size and sell them, Reigh said.

About five years ago, the farmers pooled their money — about $160,000 — to pay for the Alligator Research Station.

Once the building is completed, researchers will have adequate space to take in young alligator hatchlings and nurture them until they reach marketable size of about 4 or 5 feet.

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LSU AgCenter Researchers Testing Oil Cleanup Chemical Toxicity

BATON ROUGE, La. – 12/18/12 - LSU AgCenter scientists are working with researchers at Columbia University and Iowa State University on an environmentally friendly substance that could be used to clean up oil spills.

Andy Nyman, an LSU AgCenter wetlands biologist, and Chris Green, an LSU AgCenter toxicologist, are testing the chemical’s toxicity on killifish, a baitfish known more commonly in Louisiana as cocahoe minnows. The $211,000 project is being funded for three years by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the National Science Foundation.

The project came in reaction to the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and the recognized need for a more effective, yet environmentally friendly dispersant, Nyman said.

Researcher Tracks Changes at University Lakes

LSU Lakes Research16 Nov 2011 - Trying to keep the University Lakes in Baton Rouge clean and healthy is a goal of LSU AgCenter researcher Yi Jun Xu, associate professor in the School of Renewable Natural Resources.

For the past three years, Xu has used funds from the Louisiana Board of Regents Equipment Enhancement Fund to study the lake’s health.

“When the project began in 2008, the focus was on two areas – enhanced teaching in water resources and to provide sophisticated, state-of-the-art equipment for surface water research,” Xu said.

Xu and his graduate students receive measurements of the dissolved oxygen, pH and water temperature every 15 minutes from equipment in the lake. He said his data can be used by state agencies and others interested in water quality.

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The Fall 2011 Louisiana Agriculture issue contains several articles by RNR faculty

The fall 2011 issue of Louisiana Agriculture focuses on our state’s water resources. These resources must be sustained and improved for the future well-being of Louisiana. The LSU AgCenter has made a major commitment to water quality. Our scientists are finding ways to prevent nutrient runoff, which is from a variety of sources, into our streams and waterways and to mitigate the damage from saltwater intrusion following hurricanes. Learn more by reading this issue, and please contact the individual authors if you have questions or need more information. Or you can contact the editor, Linda Benedict. The LSU AgCenter is dedicated to Louisiana’s economic development.

    Selected content, contributed by RNR Faculty and students includes:
  • LSU AgCenter is committed to water quality
    Y. Jun Xu
  • Keep Louisiana’s water resources plentiful and good
    D. Allen Rutherford
  • Nutrient Removal from Atchafalaya during 2011 flood
    April Bryant-Mason and Y. Jun Xu
  • Forestry Best Management Practices and stream water dissolved oxygen
    Y. Jun Xu, Abram DaSilva and April Bryant-Mason
  • Riverine Sediment and the Louisiana coast
    Y. Jun Xu and Timothy Rosen
  • Water Depth enhances quality, provides fish refugia in the Atchafalaya River Basin
    Michael D. Kaller and William E. Kelso
  • Wetland Restoration with agricultural techniques
    Andy Nyman
  • Water Resource Use in Louisiana Aquaculture
    Robert P. Romaire, W. Ray McClain and C. Greg Lutz

Tropical Birds Return to Harvested Rainforest Areas in Brazil

click for slideshow/enlargement22 June 2011 - During a 25-year period, many bird species in Brazilian rainforest fragments that were isolated by deforestation disappeared and then reappeared according to a research paper published June 22 in PLoS One, an online, peer-reviewed journal.

Although species loss following habitat conversion can be inferred, long-term observations are necessary to accurately identify the fate of bird populations, said Philip Stouffer, an ornithologist with the LSU AgCenter and lead author of the paper “Understory bird communities in Amazonian rainforest fragments: Species turnover through 25 years post-isolation in recovering landscapes.”

Stouffer’s research, funded for the past five years by a grant from the National Science Foundation and conducted in cooperation with Projeto Dinâmica de Fragmentos Florestais, Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazônia and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Manaus, Brazil, shows bird species began reappearing following a 10-year hiatus (click to enlarge images).

Stouffer and his colleagues – Erik Johnson, who was Stouffer’s graduate student and is now with the National Audubon Society, Richard O. Bierregaard at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, and Thomas E. Lovejoy with the Heinz Center in Washington, D.C. – measured bird populations in 11 forest fragments ranging from about 2.5 acres to 250 acres in the Amazon rainforest near Manaus, Brazil.

revised: 31-Oct-2014 13:37