Discussion Panel

Meeting the challenges of conserving the Gulf Coast in the face of climate change: federal, state, academic and NGO viewpoints

TUESDAY, November 10, 2020, 9:00-10:30 CST

In this 90 minute online discussion, panelists will discuss how they are working to provide the scientific knowledge required to conserve, restore and manage resources. Panelists will provide information on the role of their organization in encouraging and supporting research, and discuss how they coordinate with other organizations at a larger scale, to answer regionally relevant questions. In addition, panelists will address how COVID-19 has influenced their work. Four panelists will represent the different organizations. 

To Participate:

1. Register (free for current GERS members) for the GERS 2020 Virtual Meeting HERE. Not a member?  Join HERE

2. An email with the Go-To-Meeting link and further instructions will be sent to you via email prior to the discussion panel.

Dr. Jessica Henkel, RESTORE COUNCIL

Jessica Renee Henkel, Ph.D. serves as the Science Advisor and Coordinator for the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council (RESTORE Council). Created by the RESTORE Act of 2012, and comprised of the Governors of the five Gulf Coast States and Cabinet-level officials from six federal agencies, the RESTORE Council is responsible for allocating funding for the restoration and protection of the natural resources, ecosystems, and economy of the Gulf Coast. At the Council, Dr. Henkel works collaboratively with Council members and their technical staff to incorporate the use of best available science into Council funded restoration planning, implementation and monitoring.

Prior to this position, Jessica served as a Science Policy Fellow with the Gulf Research Program of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. Dr. Henkel completed her B.A. at Stony Brook University and her M.S. at the University of New Orleans. She received her Ph.D. from Tulane University, where she investigated how environmental changes and habitat degradation are impacting the coastal habitats of the U.S. Gulf of Mexico and the effects these changes are having on the bird populations that migrate through them.

Dr. Melissa M. Baustian, The Water Institute of the Gulf

Melissa M. Baustian, Ph.D. is a Coastal Ecologist with The Water Institute of the Gulf. She has more than 15 years of experience in researching the ecological responses of aquatic ecosystems to nutrient enrichment, eutrophication and hypoxia. She has extensive research experience studying the benthic ecology of the low-oxygen area, known as the “Dead Zone”, in the northern Gulf of Mexico.  Dr. Baustian's current research is focused on providing technical support in the data collection and development, and application of analyses and ecosystem models to examine nutrient-related dynamics from restoration efforts in Louisiana’s coastal zone. She is also examining climate change related effects on coastal vegetation and ecosystem processes, a research priority in the Institute’s Science and Engineering Plan. This includes a field study that examines organic matter decomposition and short-term and long-term soil carbon accumulation rates in herbaceous wetlands across a salinity gradient and determining how black mangrove expansion might alter basal carbon sources in benthic food webs of salt marshes.  In addition to being a researcher at the Institute, Dr. Baustian is the Director for the RESTORE Act Center of Excellence for Louisiana where she leads the administration of a competitive coastal research grants program. She is also adjunct faculty in the Department of Oceanography and Coastal Sciences at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. https://thewaterinstitute.org/our-team/melissa-baustian

Dr. Bryan Piazza, The Nature Conservancy

Dr. Bryan Piazza, Director of Freshwater and Marine Science for The Nature Conservancy in Louisiana, provides scientific support and strategic guidance for freshwater and coastal conservation and restoration projects in Louisiana, the Gulf of Mexico coast and the Mississippi River basin. He has published on a number of conservation and restoration topics and is the author of a book titled The Atchafalaya River Basin – History and Ecology of an American Wetland.

Bryan’s current projects include 1) the Atchafalaya River Basin Initiative – conservation and restoration of America’s largest river swamp; 2) development and expansion of The Freshwater Network – an online decision support network for freshwater resources; 3) using science to support robust statewide watershed management planning and policy development in Louisiana; 4) using current and future river flows to assist in planning oyster habitat restoration across the northern Gulf of Mexico; 5) understanding the role of habitat and hydrologic restoration in nutrient cycling; and 6) using market-based approaches to incentivize conservation.

Bryan also serves as an adjunct assistant professor at Louisiana State University, Nicholls State University, and Southern Illinois University. He holds a B.S. from the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point, and a M.S. and Ph.D. from Louisiana State University.

Dr. Robert Twilley, Louisiana Sea Grant 


Dr. Twilley has been a Distinguished Professor in Department of Oceanography and Coastal Sciences, College of Coast and Environment, at LSU since 2004, and served in several administrative capacities including Executive Director of Louisiana Sea Grant College Program (2012 to present), Associate Vice Chancellor of Research and Economic Development (2007-2010) and Director of the Wetland Biogeochemistry Institute (2004-2007).  Dr. Twilley founded the LSU Coastal Sustainability Studio (2009). He is a leading national expert in coastal deltaic science and sustainability. He has worked on some of the largest ecosystem restoration efforts in the world including the Mississippi River Delta, Chesapeake Bay, Florida Everglades and mangrove conservation and restoration throughout the neotropics of Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela and Mexico. He has published extensively on wetland ecology, global climate change and has been involved in developing ecosystem models coupled with engineering designs to forecast the rehabilitation of coastal and wetland ecosystems. http://www.laseagrant.org/

GERS is an affiliate society of the Coastal Estuarine Research Federation (CERF). We encourage you to join and support CERF! CERF members receive great benefits, influding access to an international job board and tools for early career scientists to become leaders in their fields. Regular GERS dues may also be paid at the same time as CERF dues. Join or renew your CERF membership today!


Other CERF Affiliates:

  • Southeast Estuarine Research Society (SERS)
  • Atlantic Estuarine Research Society (AERS)
  • Pacific Estuarine Research Society (PERS)
  • California Estuarine Research Society (CERS)
  • New England Estuarine Research Society (NEERS)
  • Atlantic Canada Coastal Estuarine Research Society (ACCERS)


Contact Us

Please email us with any questions at GERSSecretary@gmail.com

Gulf Estuarine Research Society 

703 E. Beach Dr., 

Ocean Springs, MS 39564 USA




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