ULL Scientists Research Environmental Impacts of Hurricanes

A partnership of two researchers at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette is working within an international team of scientists to study the ecological impacts of previous hurricanes to inform how coastal ecosystems may best prepare for and respond to future storms, according to a news release from the University.

The international research team of scientists has recently published their study, “A General Pattern of Trade-Offs Between Ecosystem Resistance and Resilience to Tropical Cyclones,” in Science Advances, an academic journal that is published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science. The researchers’ findings in the study have reportedly provided insight into how our coastal ecosystems might respond to future storms, to which as anyone in the Gulf Coast region can attest, are always around the corner.

The study was co-authored by UL Lafayette’s Dr. Beth Stauffer, an associate professor of Biology, and Dr. Kelly Robinson, an assistant professor of Biology. Dr. Christopher Patrick of William & Mary’s Virginia Institute of Marine Science led the research team for the study, whose whole team was made up of 23 scientists from 11 states, Taiwan, and Puerto Rico. The team’s study is a part of the National Science Foundation’s Hurricane Ecosystem Response Synthesis (HERS), and Dr. Stauffer is a co-principal investigator for the research coordination network.

This collaborative research coordination network aims to bring together research on how an ecosystem’s long-term or more recent environmental history might influence its response to subsequent storms. In addition to this, the network will also collaborate on researching how species traits such as reproductive potential, dispersal mode and distance, and physiological tolerance might explain certain patterns of resistance and resilience.

In their research, the team used both pre-storm monitoring surveys and post-storm monitoring surveys to examine the resilience and resistance of coastal ecosystems across 26 different storms. The 26 total storms used for the research team’s data were selected among those that had made landfall in the Northern Hemisphere of Earth between the years 1985 and 2018. The researchers set out to study the effects of such a wide array of storms in order to maximize the scope of their data.

When speaking on the widening of the research’s scope in the study, UL Lafayette’s Dr. Beth Stauffer said, “most hurricane-related research is done on a single-storm, single-system basis. So studies like this one are especially powerful in bringing together the results from that diverse research and finding more general rules for how ecosystems respond to hurricanes.”

In working on their study, researchers were able to document post-storm changes related to the distribution and abundance of living things such as oysters, fishes, mangrove plants, and microbes. Outside of these living things, researchers also documented the observed changes made to various ecosystems’ biochemistry such as salinity levels, nitrogen levels, and hydrography such as depth and shoreline position.

Additionally, the researchers were able to analyze, document, and gauge storm characteristics and impacts based on critical factors like maximum wind speed and rainfall rate. They were also able to consider four types of ecosystems in total: freshwater, saltwater, terrestrial, and wetland ecosystems.

In speaking on the benefits of analyzing multiple ecosystems, ULL’s Dr. Kelly Robinson said, “cross-ecosystem analyses help us understand the resilience and vulnerability of animals and plants that ultimately support recreational and commercial activities along our coasts. This study provides an important reference point against which we can measure the impacts on coastal ecosystems from future hurricanes, which are predicted to strengthen as oceans warm due to climate change.”

When it comes to understanding hurricanes in an effort to not only anticipate their arrival but to prepare on how to respond to them after they pass, the regional expertise of two researchers from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette cannot be underestimated nor undervalued.

For more education-related information, click here.

University of Louisiana at Lafayette Announces $500 Million Fundraising Campaign

Oftentimes the spirit of giving accompanies the end of the year, and at UL Lafayette, that spirit is abundant. According to this news release from the university, a $500 million comprehensive fundraising campaign was announced by the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, making it the largest single fundraising initiative in the school’s long history.

The initiative, which was formally started on November 5th is titled Together: The Campaign for the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, and according to UL Lafayette President Dr. Joseph Savoie, the half-billion-dollar goal is not only about focusing on the school and its students, but the surrounding community, state, and world they find themselves in.

In his rousing speech announcing the historic milestone fundraising goal, Dr. Savoie stated that in reaching the $500 million goal, ULL will also “enhance the role the University plays in strengthening our community, deepening our wider understanding, and opening the door to a world-class education for those who come here to pursue their aspirations. This campaign is our moment to look upward and see that the only obstacle we face – the only limit we have – is our own capacity to dream. Together, we can – and will – shape the future.”

Four days following its announcement, the fundraising campaign was over halfway towards meeting its target, according to UL Lafayette vice president for University Advancement and CEO of the UL Foundation, John Blohm. Reportedly, alumni and friends of the university had already provided $303 million in pledges and gifts during its initial phase, which began in 2016.

As of today, the campaign has enabled the University to create many opportunities for faculty and students. This is seen in the four endowed chairs, 34 endowed professorships, and 122 endowed student scholarship funds that have been created thanks to the campaign.

In their donation, ULL alumni and friends have chosen to support various construction projects and renovations of teaching and learning spaces found inside several academic colleges over the years. Included in these projects made possible by the generosity of alumni and friends are the Maraist Financial Services Lab, which is located inside of theB.I. Moody III College of Business Administration, the Northwestern Mutual Sales and Research Lab, and the Grant Gibson Interdisciplinary Research Laboratory in the Ray P. Authement College of Sciences.

Additionally, several labs such as the Franks CAD Student Education Laboratory, Nick Pugh Aerospace Electronics Research Lab, and the Solar Energy Program of Excellence were created in a similar manner, and all three of the aforementioned labs are located inside ULL’s College of Engineering. Not to mention, the fundraising campaign has also helped to renovate the Roy House, which turned it into the new home for the Center for Louisiana Studies and the creation of the Kathleen Babineaux Blanco Public Policy Center.

Included in the $303 million that has already been raised in the campaign are the two single largest gift committees in university history. These are the $20 million from LHC Group that was for the College of Nursing and Allied Health Professions and the $15 million from Our Lady of Lourdes Regional Medical Center for the renovation of Cajun Field. Both of these pledges were received by ULL in 2021.

According to UL Lafayette’s provost and vice president for Academic Affairs, Dr. Jaime Hebert, of the approximately 25,000 individuals who have made an effort to give to the campaign to date, 62% were identified as being ULL alumni, 30% friends, and 8% organizations.

Dr. Hebert reelected on the funds raised so far in the campaign by remarking, “this campaign has provided more opportunities for student success, world-class facilities for our student-athletes, a deeper connection to this community and its culture, and a stronger, better prepared and more agile workforce. None of this would have been possible without donors and friends working with the University to empower our students and change their destinies.”

For more education-related information, click here.

New Cajun Prairie Habitat and Outdoor Classroom Coming to UL Lafayette

Students at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette will soon be able to take their learning outside of the traditional classroom setting by building an innovative outdoor classroom to study Louisiana’s Cajun Prairie, according to a news release from the school.

The new classroom is just one of two new environmental changes happening at the University as part of their Sustainability Strategic Plan, an initiative that encourages the creation of urban prairie environments on ULL’s campus. The project to cultivate the planned Cajun Prairie Habitat aligns with the Office of Sustainability’s master plan for stormwater management. By installing more urban prairies instead of other types of landscaping systems and structures, ULL will reduce the need for mowing, help to reduce stormwater runoff, and provide a habitat for bees, birds, butterflies, and other pollinators.

Once the urban prairie is installed on the campus, it will also serve as an outdoor classroom from which students can conduct research and learn about stormwater runoff erosion management, native grasses and plants, bees and other pollinators, and soil quality. Also, in addition to being used by students directly involved in STEM courses and research studies, the outdoor environment will also serve as a type of gathering spot for all types of learning.

Gretchen LaCombe Vanicor, the director of the University’s Office of Sustainability said of the layout, “the idea is to have a plaza-like outdoor seating area with no walls or roofing – a true outdoor classroom where students, faculty members, and the public can meet while they are working on the project.”

This vision of a school-wide classroom isn’t just a concept that exists in the completion of the Cajun Prairie Habitat and Outdoor Classroom, but the interdisciplinary aspects of the project’s inception, planning, construction, and much more will provide learning opportunities for students from many colleges and disciplines.

The work to bring this project to life will begin this fall semester with an interdisciplinary effort to plant more native flowers and grasses along the 4 acres on either side of Coulee Mine, a stream that bisects University Common behind Blackham Coliseum. The planting of more native fauna along this section of the waterway will be led by UL Lafayette’s Ecology Center and its Office of Sustainability. This work will lay the foundation for what will become of the urban prairie environment, as it allows for students, community officials, faculty members, and researchers to gather and learn about the ecological value of native flowers and grasses in an environment where they actually exist.

Vanicor went on to highlight this stage as “one of the most important components of the project, because native plants’ expansive, fibrous root systems hold soil, reducing erosion caused by stormwater runoff. They slow water drainage, which reduces flooding, and also filters contaminants.”

Outside of the Ecology Center leading the installation and planting of the prairie, other ULL schools are collaborating to bring the project to life. For example, students who will help design and build the outdoor classroom will be from the School of Architecture and Design. Then, after it’s completed, students partaking in community service with the University’s AmeriCorps program and the Office of First-Year Experience’s ‘Big Event’ will coordinate the maintenance of the urban prairie along the coulee.

According to Vanicor, any findings and research gathered at the future site will be shared with public officials and water management professionals in an effort “to inform community dialogue and decisions, including about implementing flood mitigation methods.”

So while it’s encouraging for UL Lafayette to have so many students from several of the University’s departments and schools coming together to bring the academic and ecological dream of the Cajun Prairie Habitat and Outdoor Classroom to life, the Louisiana community outside of the school will also be able to benefit from the research conducted in the urban prairie as well.

For more education-related information, click here.

UL Lafayette and SLCC Partner on New Engineering Transfer Agreement

It was recently announced that the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and South Louisiana Community College are collaborating on a new transfer pathway agreement that will allow students to earn a bachelor’s degree in engineering from both institutions.

This beneficial transfer agreement, which is set to begin with the Fall 2021 semester, will allow students beginning their post-secondary studies at SLCC to earn an associate’s degree in general studies with a pre-engineering concentration at SLCC. The student will then transfer to UL Lafayette’s College of Engineering to complete coursework, earning them a bachelor’s degree in engineering with no course credits lost in the process.

For decades high school graduates in the Acadiana region regularly attend their first two years of post-secondary education at SLCC before transferring’ over to ULL. Students choosing this pathway do so to save on tuition costswhile they earn generalized course credits that transfer over with them when they transfer to the four-year university. It should be noted that in transferring from a community college to a public university, many students notice that not all of their course credits transfer to their new degree program; luckily this won’t be the case with the announced transfer agreement.

SLCC’s chancellor Dr. Vincent G. June commented on the aim of the agreement, saying that it was designed to help a larger percentage of the student body achieve both their academic and career goals as well as give a boost to the development of the engineering workforce.  When speaking of the organization of the agreement, Dr. June was quoted as saying “to ease the transition for SLCC students who ultimately intend to pursue a bachelor’s degree in engineering from UL Lafayette.”

While at SLCC students will complete a curriculum consisting of 61-63 course credits that include classes in English, history, math, natural sciences, and social sciences. In addition to these courses that are applicable to a General Studies degree, students will also be required to take several engineering courses that are to be taught on UL Lafayette’s campus by professors from its College of Engineering. This cross-campus learning model is best suited for students entering the transfer pathways agreement as it will acclimate them to the learning environment, practices, and student body of the school in which they will ultimately finish their degree.

The press release confirmed that all credits taken in the pathway will successfully transfer to UL Lafayette, allowing students to pursue an engineering degree in a variety of disciplines and concentrations, including chemical, civil,electrical and computer, mechanical, and petroleum engineering. In order to earn an undergraduate engineering degree from ULL students must have completed at least 127 course credit hours of study.

Members of UL Lafayette’s administration who were present at the signing included Dr. Joseph Savoie, president, Dr. Jaimie Hebert, provost and vice president for academic affairs, and Dr. Ahmad Khattab, dean of the College of Engineering. Representing SLCC at the historic signing that occurred in late May were Dr. Vincent G. June,chancellor, and Dr. Darcee Bex, interim vice chancellor of Academic and Student Affairs.

Dr. Bex, who is also SLCC’s dean of STEM as well as Transportation and Energy, spoke to ULL Press on the beneficial aspects of the agreement, “upon enrolling, transferring students will already know some of our professors and their fellow students and be acclimated to campus. They will also have about four semesters of coursework completed. Aligning the community college with university partners like UL Lafayette just makes sense. This transfer pathway will increase educational attainment in Acadiana and is a commitment to those students seeking a career as an engineer. We’ve created a pathway to get these students to that career.”

For more education-related information, click here.

ULL Awards Jefferson Caffery Research Award

The University of Louisiana at Lafayette has recently awarded the 2021 Jefferson Caffery Research Award to a student examining how Cajun and Creole cultural identity is altered when assimilating into American society, according to a press release from the school.

René Champagne, a senior at UL Lafayette double majoring in French and Francophone Studies as well as Anthropology, wrote his award-winning research paper, “Cajuns, Creoles, and the Impact of Americanization on Ethnic Identity in Louisiana,” in an effort to pay tribute to his hometown of Galliano, Louisiana.

Champagne, who plans on graduating in Fall 2021 and pursuing masters and doctoral degrees in anthropology, attributes his award recognition to his lifelong tracking of the diminishing French culture of the small, unincorporated Lafourche Parish town. Located along Bayou Lafourche, Galliano still has a modestly-sized French-speaking community today, but over the past century, it has greatly diminished due to the region’s assimilation into American society.

According to the UL Lafayette Office of Communications and Marketing, Champagne wrote the award-winning paper as a means to “examine the “evolution of race and ethnicity as a result of factors such as assimilation, and the resulting impact on cultural identity.” Since childhood, the senior has had a fascination with “monitoring cultural changes that have been created by outside influences.” This passion for cultural studies is what had inspired the senior to investigate the many ways that culture is exhibited, celebrated, and suppressed, causing his paper to cover a wide range of topics including customs, traditions, languages, dialects, hurricanes, land loss, and even ways in which culturally-specific holidays were celebrated during the pandemic.

Speaking of Galliano’s declining evidence of South Louisiana culture, Champagne told ULL press, that the town’s “culture is still very present, but south Louisiana, in general, is decreasing rapidly in terms of both culture and land – which is so strongly tied to culture – and that’s a huge interest to me.” The research paper utilizes nearly two dozen sources such as The New York Times, U.S. Census Bureau, the Journal of Anthropological Research, and the Louisiana Office of Cultural Development.

In order to be considered for this annual award, students must either cite or directly investigate primary source documents found in UL Lafayette’s Edith Garland Dupré Library. Specifically, these documents must be found in the Special Collections department of the library, which includes the Louisiana Room, Rare Book Collection, Ernest J. Gaines Center, Cajun and Creole Music Collection, U.S. Government Information, and the University Archives & Acadiana Manuscripts Collection.

Created in 1967, the Jefferson Caffery Research Award was established by Ambassador Jefferson Caffery and his wife, Mrs. Gertrude Jefferson Caffery, to recognize outstanding scholarly research conducted through materials offered by the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. The award is accompanied by a $500 prize and is bestowedannually by both the Edith Garland Dupré Library and the University Library Committee.

The award’s namesake, Ambassador Caffery was born in Lafayette, Louisiana, and he was an integral part of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s early days as an educational institution. Specifically, he was a part of the school’s first graduating class when it was initially established as the Southwestern Louisiana Industrial Institute. Caffery kept his ties with the school over his historic career as an American Diplomat, serving as a United States Ambassador to Egypt, France, Brazil, Cuba, Colombia, and El Salvador from 1926-1955. ULL has since honored Caffery not only by annually awarding out the Research Award but by keeping an archival catalog of library holdings in the Jefferson Caffery Reading Room, which is located on the 3rd Floor of Dupré Library.

For more education-related information, click here.

Prestigious CAREER Award Presented to 3 UL Faculty Members

The National Science Foundation has recently presented three University of Louisiana at Lafayette faculty members with the prestigious CAREER Award, according to a press release from the University.

Considered to be one of the NSF’s most prestigious honors bestowed, the CAREER award is presented by the Foundation’s Faculty Early Career Development Program, and it is presented to early-career faculty members who “have the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education and to lead advances in the mission of their department,” according to the NSF’s description.

Dr. Nicholas Kooyers, Dr. James Nelson, and Dr. Mohsen Amini Salehi are the recipients of the distinguished award, and they are all faculty members of UL Lafayette’s Ray P. Authement College of Sciences. Dr. Azmy S. Ackleh is the dean of the college, and he remarked on the prestige of the award by saying, “this is one of the most prestigious funding awards early-career faculty can get. It shows the caliber of faculty we have in the College of Sciences. They are leaders in their respective disciplines and their ideas make them competitive at the national level.”

The National Science Foundation first presented the CAREER award in 1995 as a way to support the outstanding efforts of junior faculty members who epitomize the role of a teacher-scholar in their education and research. The award is presented annually alongside a federal grant for research and education activities, both of which are dispersed over five years. The NSF is an independent federal agency that provides funding for nearly 25 percent of federally-supported research that is conducted by American colleges and Universities.

Dr. Kooyers and Dr. Nelson are each assistant professors in the University’s Department of Biology and Dr. Salehi is an assistant professor in the School of Computing and Informatics.  Each CAREER award is accompanied by an NSF grant that is given to award recipients to further their research. Dr. Nicholas Kooyers will receive $997,269 to examine whether or not the effects of climate change can be countered through a process known as assisted migration. Dr. James Nelson will receive $688,849 to research climate change’s effects on coastal marsh ecosystems, specifically those in Louisiana. Dr. Mohsen Amini Salehi will receive a $513,000 grant to research the development of a domain-specific cloud platform for enhanced multimedia streaming.

Dr. Ramesh Kolluru, associate provost and vice president for Research, Innovation, and Economic Development at UL Lafayette remarked, “with the addition of Drs. Kooyers, Nelson, and Salehi to this roster of exceptional academic talent, our faculty members have now received the CAREER Award eight times since 2004. That’s undeniable evidence of the continued strength of our research mission and the dedicated faculty whose work animates it.”

While the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s College of Sciences has had five CAREER Award recipients before 2021, this year makes it the first time multiple NSF honors were bestowed to faculty members in a single year. UL Lafayette’s past recipients were Dr. Sheng Chen, a 2018 honoree; Dr. Danella Zhao, 2011; Dr. Miao Jin, 2009; Dr. Dmitri Perkins, 2005; and Dr. Hongyi Wu, 2004.

Receiving the honor that is a CAREER award from the NSF is a highly-respected achievement by educational leaders in their respective schools, and it has a history of building a firm foundation for a career marked by leadership and the integration of both education and research. Recipients of the award are selected for the honor early in their career, making them the ideal academic role models of their respective educational institutions, and with three UL Lafayette faculty members receiving the honor this year, the future is looking bright.

For more education-related information, click here.