From Vision to Reality: Bayou Region Incubator Welcomes Generous Support at Grand Opening

The Bayou Region Incubator and the Student Entrepreneur and Innovation Center celebrated a momentous occasion at their grand opening event, as they were presented with over $110,000 in generous support from various sponsors, as per this news release from Nicholls State University.

Among them, Chevron’s contribution of $50,000 played a pivotal role in furnishing the common areas and offices, ensuring that the space is equipped with essential furniture, office equipment, internet services, and mentoring platforms. Lisa Kliebert, the Executive Director of the Bayou Region Incubator, expressed immense gratitude, noting that without Chevron’s contribution, furnishing the space would have been a significant challenge.

In addition to Chevron’s support, Mosaic also stepped up with a substantial contribution of $50,000. This contribution focused on promoting diversity and inclusion within the incubator community. It encompassed crucial aspects such as diversity and inclusion training, roundtable cohorts, and sponsorship for the BRI to become a member of the River Region Chamber of Commerce. This sponsorship enables businesses associated with the incubator to attend River Chamber events as guests, fostering networking and collaboration opportunities. Kliebert emphasized the transformative impact of Mosaic’s contribution, highlighting its potential to benefit up to 17 businesses through various membership offerings, ranging from private office space to virtual memberships.

Premier Food Group’s donation of $7,500 was directed towards the creation of essential areas within the incubator, such as the kitchen and break room. These spaces are integral for fostering a conducive work environment, where members can recharge and enhance their productivity without having to leave the premises. Moreover, Premier Food Group has pledged to volunteer their time and expertise to conduct multiple training sessions at the BRI, further enriching the support ecosystem provided by the incubator.

Furthermore, Susanna Lamers, CEO of BioInfoExperts, contributed $3,300 to sponsor a Dedicated Desk membershipfor a full year. This sponsorship underscores the community’s commitment to supporting aspiring entrepreneurs on their journey towards success. To ensure transparency and accessibility, applications for all sponsored memberships or vouchers will be made available on the BRI website and social media platforms.

Reflecting on the significance of these contributions, Lisa Kliebert remarked, “The grand opening of this business incubator signifies the beginning of a powerful regional resource, fueled by the unwavering support of our sponsors. Chevron, Mosaic, Premier, and BioInfoExperts have fueled the Bayou Region Incubator to ignite movement – a movement dedicated to fostering innovation, launching dreams, and propelling the economic engine of our entire region.”

Looking ahead, the Bayou Region Incubator is poised to become a vital hub for entrepreneurial activity in the region. With plans to accommodate approximately 40 to 50 startups and small businesses, the incubator will offer a wide range of amenities and resources. From collaborative workspaces and meeting areas to private offices and multifunctional conference rooms, the incubator is designed to meet the diverse needs of its members at every stage of their entrepreneurial journey. Moreover, the incubator will serve as a platform for learning and growth, offering access to trainings, guest speakers, networking opportunities, mentoring, workshops, pitch competitions, and professional development initiatives.

Central to the mission of the Bayou Region Incubator is the promotion of a diverse, sustainable, and inclusive economy in Louisiana’s coastal community. By investing in entrepreneurship and small business development, the incubator aims to address the challenges posed by the coastal crisis and contribute to economic vitality in the aftermath of the pandemic and ongoing environmental threats.

In conclusion, the grand opening of the Bayou Region Incubator marks the beginning of an exciting new chapter for entrepreneurship in the region. With unwavering support from sponsors like Chevron, Mosaic, Premier Food Group, and BioInfoExperts, the incubator is poised to become a beacon of innovation, collaboration, and economic growth in Louisiana’s coastal community.

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Preserving Louisiana’s Coastline: Nicholls State University’s Environmental Research Efforts

Nicholls State University’s commitment to environmental research and education has reached new heights with the establishment of a dedicated wetland at the Nicholls Farm. As per this news release from the University, this initiative, which is made possible by the generous support of Ducks Unlimited and the Natural Resources Conservation Service(NRCS), aims to conduct research on coastal restoration and other related projects.

The wetland at Nicholls Farm plays a crucial role in the reduction of nutrients that find their way into the Gulf of Mexico. By pumping water from Bayou Folse into the wetland, the plants in this newly created ecosystem act as natural filters, effectively removing nutrients. The water, now free from these pollutants, is then returned to Bayou Folse. This process helps mitigate the impact of nutrient-rich runoff, which is a major issue faced by Bayou Folse due to factors like fertilizer use and home septic systems.

Ducks Unlimited, an organization dedicated to habitat conservation, is thrilled to be a part of this endeavor. Cassidy LeJeune, the Director of Conservation Programs – South Louisiana, expressed their gratitude to the NRCS for allowing Ducks Unlimited to contribute to this vital project. LeJeune also looks forward to future collaborations with Nicholls State University, highlighting the potential for further impactful work in the region.

Situated just three miles south of Nicholls’ campus, the 277-acre Nicholls Farm serves as an exceptional environmental research and education center. Equipped with state-of-the-art facilities such as labs, classrooms, greenhouses, shade houses, and storage barns, the farm also boasts a 7.5-acre pond specifically dedicated to the production of wetland plants. These resources provide an ideal setting for students and faculty to engage in hands-on research and learning experiences.

Nicholls biology students and faculty members have already been actively involved in coastal restoration efforts through the farm. They have successfully cultivated and harvested over 35,000 plants, including black mangroves, beach dune grasses, and coastal oak trees. These plants are then replanted along the coast and barrier islands, contributing to the preservation and restoration of these vital ecosystems.

Professor and Head of Biological Sciences, Quenton Fontenot, recognizes the wetland’s significance beyond nutrient removal. He emphasizes that the wetland will serve as a valuable resource for student learning activities and community engagement. By providing multiple opportunities for research and educational initiatives, the wetland at Nicholls Farm becomes a catalyst for fostering environmental stewardship among students and the local community.

The urgency of coastal restoration efforts in Louisiana cannot be overstated. Over the years, the Barataria-Terrebonne basins alone have lost around 600,000 acres of land. Louisiana faces the highest rate of wetland loss in the country, with approximately 80% of the nation’s coastal wetland loss occurring in the state. This alarming trend has led to the conversion of over 2,000 square miles into open water, an area roughly equivalent to the size of Delaware.

To address these challenges and safeguard the coast from future storms, Nicholls is planning to open its Coastal Center. The groundbreaking for this $21 million project is scheduled for the fall of 2023. The Coastal Center, located at the corner of Colonel Drive and Ardoyne Drive on the Nicholls campus, will work in conjunction with the Nicholls Farm. The center will serve as a real-world testing ground for coastal research, ensuring that the knowledge gained can be directly applied to restoration efforts in the region.

Collaboration lies at the heart of the Coastal Center’s mission. Scientists from various organizations, including the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, the Water Institute of the Gulf, and Nicholls’ Biological Sciences and Geomatics departments, will have a shared space to collaborate and advance research. By pooling their expertise, these experts aim to repair and rebuild Louisiana’s receding coastline, contributing to the long-term sustainability of the region.

The Nicholls Farm and the upcoming Coastal Center exemplify Nicholls State University’s dedication to becoming a leading center for coastal restoration research in Louisiana. These initiatives highlight the university’s commitment to environmental stewardship and its proactive approach to addressing the pressing challenges facing the coast.

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Nicholls Farm has New Bridge Allowing Access for More Research

Thanks to a partnership with ConocoPhillips and the Lafourche Parish Government, Nicholls State University recently celebrated the rebuilding of the Nicholls Farm Bridge, a project that will have massive implications for the research conducted on Nicholls Farm. According to this statement from the school, the newly rebuilt bridge will be used to grant Nicholls Biology faculty members access to the land on the opposite side of Bayou Folse for research, ecological, and educational purposes.

The rebuilding of Nichols Farm bridge was a $300,000 project that was deemed “critical” by the University for its impact. Funding for the project was gathered over the past two years with the Lafourche Parish Government donating $200,000 towards the project and ConocoPhillips donating an additional $100,000 to see the project come to fruition.

It was in 1969 that Nicholls first purchased from Harvey Peltier the land that would eventually become Nicholls Farm, an integral part of the school’s plans to become the center for total restoration research in Louisiana. In just the past decade alone, Nicholls Biology has produced over 30,000 black mangroves at Nicholls Farm. These mangroves were eventually planted along coastal areas for the purpose of maintaining our coastal wetlands. A complete master plan for Nicholls Farm outlines plans for a classroom space, additional land, and areas to test coastal restoration projects, so the completion of this bridge is only one component of a much larger vision for the University.

Because of the bridge’s placement, Nicholls Biology faculty will now have access to the other end of Bayou Folse, allowing them to plant and grow several species of trees and coastal plants. These plants and trees will then be transferred to the Louisiana coastline to help defend coastal erosion.

Nicholls Biology department head Dr. Quenton Fontenot commented on his vision for the bridge at Nicholls Farm by saying, “our dream for the Farm is a place that brings people together for coastal restoration initiatives, and so to have the support of partners such as ConocoPhillips and the Lafourche Parish Government means we are going to be able to do that. Without that help the project is likely not finished today.”

As of the time of the university celebrating the completion of the bridge, the Biology Department already had several Louisiana irises ready to plant in the ponds on the other side of the bridge through a collaboration with the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry. One of the objectives for planting the irises is for seed harvest production. This is due to the versatility and essentialness of the plant, as it is native to the Bayou Region and sustainable in coastal habitats. These features make plants such as these native Louisiana irises absolutely vital to maintaining coastal wetlands and barrier islands.

John Harrington, the Coastal Wetlands director for ConocoPhillips, said of the essential need to protect the Louisiana coastlands, “the vast wetlands in southeast Louisiana are ideal for coastal restoration research. We are proud to support key partners like Nicholls State University to drive habitat-enhancement research and promote coastal resiliency and sustainability.”

A vital partner in this project coming to fruition is ConocoPhillips, which is one of the world’s leasing exploration and production companies when concerning production and reserves. They also have a globally diversified asset portfolio, and through their subsidiary The Louisiana Land and Exploration Company, they are the largest private wetlands owner in Louisiana. ConocoPhillips has long been a supporter of Nicholls State University and helps to steward their support of the coastal wetlands through their Houma office.

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Nicholls Awarded Nearly $500,000 For Coastal Research

In an effort to save the eroding coast of the state of Louisiana, students from Nicholls State University have been given nearly $500,000 to conduct coastal research, according to Houma Today.

This hefty amount that will be used to research the Louisiana coastline is among eight Louisiana research grants announced recently by the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority and the Water Institute of the Gulf. These eight grants all together amount to a pledged $2.5 million.

The Water Institute of the Gulf is responsible for “vetting” grant proposals on behalf of the State of Louisiana. Afterward, they select recipients whose proposals will be funded by oil money, which is required to be spent on coastal restoration projects. In fact, the $495,368 research grant going to Nicholls students consists of funds originating from penalties and fines that have been levied against BP and other companies that were involved in the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

An assistant professor of biological sciences at Nicholls, Dr. Jonathan Willis, said of the aim of their research, “our understanding of how ridges function and the ecological and sociological communities they support is limited. By resolving targeted data gaps and providing conceptual models of ridge function, we can facilitate planning for coastal ridge restoration projects.”

The students at Nicholls will focus their research on ridges in particular. Ridges are strips of elevated land created by the Mississippi River, area bayous, and other waterways when collected sediment overflows their water banks. In most cases, that process ended sometime after flood-prevention levees were built along the Mississippi River and some of its connected tributaries in the late 1920s, and as a result, many of these ridges have since eroded and can no longer buffer communities and wetlands from flooding.

The Dean of Nicholls College of Science and Technology and the director of coastal initiatives, Dr. John Doucet said of the research grant, “this funding is recognition of the strong reputation of Nicholls scientists and students and the important coastal work they’ve been conducting over the years. This grant award is a win for Nicholls and the Coastal Center but it is also a win for the communities of the Terrebonne-Lafourche-Barataria region.”

Students at the University will conduct their research through a portion of south Louisiana between the Atchafalaya and Mississippi rivers known as the Barataria-Terrebonne Estuary, including all of Terrebonne and Lafourche. This area has lost 598,730 acres or 935 square miles of land to erosion and rising seas since 1935.

Contributing to the research will be multiple members of faculty and students from Nicholls’ Biology, English,Geomatics, and History departments. These contributors will be in the field conducting surveys, performing lab analysis, conducting historical reviews, using drones to take aerial video and photography, and interviewing estuary residents. Nicholls State University reports that the work will begin this upcoming fall and continue well through 2023.

With this multi-year research project beginning soon, Nicholls will be positioning itself as a leading center in the region for coastal education and research. In fact, the school will begin preliminary work in the next year on a $14.5 million Coastal Center that will serve as a hub for research on Louisiana’s eroding wetlands that will give guidance on how they can be preserved and eventually restored. Gov. John Bel Edwards announced in 2019 that Nicholls expects to receive bids by the year’s end to start groundwork on the 33,000-square foot building with the work being financed by $2.5 million from the state coastal agency. They are expecting to get to work and break ground early next year.

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Nicholls Partners with U.S. BOEM to Develop Database of Coastal Research

It was recently announced that Nicholls State University is partnering with the United States Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to develop a database for coastal research conducted on the Bayou Region and Gulf Coast, according to a press release from the school.

It was outlined that the $400,000 project would take place over a four year period, wherein a database and repository would be created for scholars, agency officials, and members of the community to contribute to and benefit from. The project is titled, “Digital Curation: Streamlining Access to Research Across Gulf of Mexico Communities.” Aptly named, the project’s title also stands as a concise mission statement for the goals set forth by the partnership.

Nicholls’ dean of the College of Sciences and Technology and director of coastal research initiatives, Dr. John Doucet remarked on this momentous collaborating, saying: “The Digital Curation Project will improve how levels of government from federal to local find key resources for environmental impact statements and other reports related to the Louisiana Gulf Coast, The Digital Curation Project will improve how levels of government from federal to local find key resources for environmental impact statements and other reports related to the Louisiana Gulf Coast.”

Dr. Doucet went on to say, ““The project is an important addition to our growing portfolio of coastal services at Nicholls as the Louisiana university ‘Closest to the Coast.’ It shows our continuing commitment to coastal communities.” He will oversee the project alongside Dr. Gary LaFleur, R.E. Miller Endowed Professor of Honors Studies and executive director of the Center for Bayou Studies.

Overseeing the day-to-day project operations and student training as project manager will be Dr. Shana Walton, Nicholls associate professor of English, modern language and cultural studies. Walton remarked to Nicholls press that the Center for Bayou Studies is notable in that it alone is uniquely qualified to develop the database because much of the research is composed of qualitative reports based on structured interviews, surveys, oral histories, field notes, and observations. Because of this variety of qualitative reporting, the accurate coding of coastal research reports requires a deep knowledge of the surrounding region and its culture.

The project initially started its work back in October by conducting studies that had been commissioned by the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and other agencies. In addition to the studies, the work involved archival material and projects, such as regional oral histories and information gathered, analyzed, and collected from local historical groups.

Dr. LaFleur remarked on the project’s meaning, saying: “this project represents a history of hard work laid down by Dr. Walton through her past BOEM projects, and Nicholls researchers taking the innovative step to work together within the Center for Bayou Studies.”

Not only will the project fund graduate fellows to help construct the database itself, but it will also allow for the professional utilization of that information. Additionally, opportunities will emerge for Nicholls faculty to develop their own research initiatives, allowing for undergraduates to take part in class-based projects.

This project opens the doors for accomplished faculty, graduate fellows, and inquisitive undergraduates to combine their eagerness for research and respect for their surrounding region. This pursuit of information, data, methods, and knowledge undertaken by the university and the U.S. Bureau stands tall as a perfect encapsulation of higher education at its best. The Center for Bayou Studies is housed at Nicholls State University, and it’s a multidisciplinary faculty collaborative focusing on the cultural and natural resources of the Bayou Region and its famed wetlands.

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