USM prof, Water Institute work to restore Chandeleur Islands

September 18, 2021 GMT

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — A Louisiana-based research organization and a professor at the University of Southern Mississippi are joining forces in a research project aimed at restoring and protecting the Chandeleur Islands in the northern Gulf of Mexico.

In a news release announcing the effort, USM notes that the islands provide habitat for gulf fish and wildlife, and provide storm protection for coastal Louisiana.

Led by Dr. Kelly Darnell, an assistant research professor at USM, the project is one of 20 awarded a combined $2.3 million to find ways of best managing natural resources in the Gulf, including marine, mammals, shorebirds, barrier islands, seagrass and fisheries. The projects are funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration RESTORE Science Program. The Water Institute of the Gulf, based in Baton Rouge, will be among those working with Darnell. Others include the University of Florida, Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Gulf of Mexico Alliance


Darnell’s project, which relates to seagrass ecosystems along the Chandeleur Islands, was given $127,065.

Each project is slated to begin this month.

“We’re committed to developing a plan that provides practical and useable data that can be easily incorporated into restoration and management decisions for the unique and productive Chandeleur Islands,” Darnell said in the USM release.

“These seagrass beds are very dynamic and have greatly reduced with major storms, such as Katrina in 2005. This project will help understand how decisions made in planning the Chandeleur Islands restoration may influence the area of seagrass potentially growing in future decades,” said Tim Carruthers, director of Coastal Ecology at The Water Institute of the Gulf in Baton Rouge.

The project will provide useable data for restoration and long-term management of the islands.

“The Chandeleur Islands are a highly dynamic system, and the long-term health of the seagrass meadows and other habitats is tied to them being resilient to storms and sea level rise even as the islands themselves evolve on a daily and weekly basis,” said Soupy Dalyander, senior research scientist at The Water Institute.