Dr. Nancy Rabalais, who has devoted her life to the study of dead zones in the Gulf of Mexico, has been chosen for the prestigious MacArthur Fellows Program, which comes with a no-strings-attached $500,000 prize paid out over five years. The 62-year-old marine ecologist is executive director of the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium in Cocodrie.
The MacArthur Foundation’s stipends, often called a “genius grant,” are awarded to people “of outstanding talent to pursue their own creative, intellectual and professional inclinations.” Twenty-three people were chosen for the 2012 awards, which the foundation says are not for past accomplishment, but rather an investment in a person’s originality, insight and potential. In other words, a fitting award for Nancy Rabalais.
Rabalais’ research is dedicated to documenting and mitigating the effects of hypoxic zones — aquatic areas with low dissolved oxygen levels commonly known as “dead zones” — that have expanded dramatically in the Gulf of Mexico and many other coastal systems around the globe. Rabalais received her bachelor’s and master’s of science degrees from Texas A&I University in Kingsville and a Ph.D. from the University of Texas. Since 1983, she has been affiliated with the LUMS. Her scientific articles have appeared in such journals as Science, Nature, BioScience, and Biogeosciences.
According to the foundation’s website:
Since the mid-1980s, [Rabalais] has led a long-term monitoring program to study the size, intensity, and seasonal occurrence of dead zones in the waters off the Louisiana continental shelf; she has also analyzed the relationship between the extent of hypoxia and the increasing quantities of nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus flowing into the Gulf from the Mississippi River watershed.
When concentrated in coastal waters, the nutrients from farmland fertilizer and other sources spur the growth of an overabundance of algae, the decomposition of which consumes oxygen vital to sustaining an enormous spectrum of aquatic species. Over the past three decades, Rabalais’s studies have evolved to include collaborations with researchers from many different disciplines and have used methods from physical oceanography, hydrology, geochemistry, and paleoecology to make ever more precise assessments of hypoxia dynamics and their impact on a range of fragile, interconnected ecosystems.
In addition to her scientific contributions, Rabalais has played a prominent role in informing strategies to restore the degraded waters of the Gulf by reducing nutrient pollution from urban and agricultural runoff upstream and has focused national attention on the environmental and economic consequences of large-scale eutrophication. Her outreach efforts have included lecturing throughout the United States about the effects of hypoxia on those far from its waters, testifying before Congress, and working with federal, state, and tribal agencies on an action plan for improving water quality in the Mississippi River basin.
While weathering the destruction of her research facility in catastrophic hurricanes and treacherous diving conditions due to oil spills, Rabalais continues to deepen our understanding of this profound oceanographic problem that threatens the well-being of the entire Gulf region.
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OCT 31 The National Journal posts another story from its visit to NOLA, this one about the struggling Vietnamese shrimpers in the area. The publication has been looking at how the state is recovering from Katrina, nine years later.
OCT 31 The New York Times posts this look at Louisiana politics, and how national issues are forcing out the old-time local politicking. Of course they mention EWE, aptly described as an old-time politician known for "charming one half of the state and mortifying the other."
OCT 31 Here's an AP story on the ABC site about Louisiana's chicken little response to an international medical conference planned in NOLA this weekend. Organizers (who are actual physicians, as opposed to the hand-wringing state officials who issued the edicts) say the orders are "unfortunate" given that a main focus of the meeting was Ebola.
OCT 31 Given the things Bobby Jindal has said and done since he's been governor, it's a pretty safe bet he thinks we're a bunch of dummies. Apparently, he's sure President Obama is one, too. This story on Huff Post quotes Jindal as saying the president - a graduate of Harvard Law - should sue to get his money back. (What should a Brown biology grad who doesn't believe in evolution do?)
OCT 31 Us old folks are used to a two-party system, although most of us aren't sold on its success. But what if that system wasn't in place; what if politics reflected the true level of diversity among voters? That's what an LSU student is dreaming of in this editorial. He sees the two parties' control of our politics as limiting.
OCT 31 And you thought the Senate race was dirty. This post on the Forward Now blog tells the story of a Shreveport mayoral campaign worker who was paid to "infiltrate" and "sabotage" an opponent's campaign. Karma's a beeotch, though, because turns out the guy really liked the "enemy," and now he's supporting her. For real.
OCT 30 The National Journal offers this analysis of Bobby Jindal's willingness to stump in any Senate campaign that's not in Louisiana. Why is that? The Journal asks some GOPers and finds that the answer is one we already know: he's so unpopular here, because he's been so busy running for President, that his support might be "toxic."
OCT 30 Blogger Tom Aswell is still all over the OGB mess - and all by himself, apparently. In this post, he's revealing orders from the Jindal administration to destroy records from the state employee health insurance plan. Those orders (he's heard) have angered the Secretary of State and caused an administration lawyer to quit her job. Wow!
OCT 30 A NOLA lady has alleged she was drugged and raped at a Bywater club that had a clothing-optional policy until recently, and she's now become the victim of a smear campaign, columnist Jarvis DeBerry writes in this post. She chose to reveal her story and her name, and she's being punished for that now, he says.
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