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Lilypads floating on water with marsh grasses growing in the background. The sky is gray and cloudy.

Gulf coast marshes are disappearing...

cattail marsh at j.d. Murphree wma

Ph.D. Research: Coastal marsh loss is a growing issue along the Gulf Coast as rising sea levels and climate change further endanger wetlands that have long been negatively affected by human industry and leveeing of the Mississippi River. Managed marshes are particularly vulnerable as management practices designed to provide habitat for waterfowl have led to significant decreases in elevation and resilience to rising sea levels. However, we don't fully understand how management practices influence the processes that drive marsh surface elevation. My dissertation research (with Drs. Sammy King and Andy Nyman) is focused on understanding how these processes are influenced by plant community and management practices. Specifically, we are looking at surface elevation change, accretion, belowground productivity, nutrient cycling, and root/rhizome decomposition for three perennial plant communities. By developing a better understanding of the how plant community and management technique influence elevation, we hope to inform management decisions that allow managers to provide habitat for waterfowl while increasing marsh elevation and sustainability in the face of sea level rise.

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Master's Research: While at Nicholls State University, I studied the influence of polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) on molting in crustaceans. These PBDEs are commonly used flame retardants that disrupt endocrine system signalling in mammals and birds, but little research has focused on their effects in crustaceans despite the prevalence of these chemicals in aquatic systems. Any changes in the ability of crustaceans to molt could influence growth rates, reproduction, and population numbers. Our study specifically looked at the how PBDEs 28 and 47 affect molting hormone signalling in the blue crab, Callinectes sapidus. We developed an in vitro tissue culture technique called the Epidermis-with-Exoskeleton (EWE) method that allowed us to evaluate gene expression in live epidermal cells to illuminate a mechanism for molt disruption in the blue crab. You can read more about my blue crab research here.

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