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 22 This entertaining short (15 minutes) film on Munchies is all about Boudin. Thank goodness it's just a documentary-style piece filled with the voices and faces of south Louisiana, as opposed to outsiders waxing poetic about our regional specialties. But be warned, there is some pretty graphic pig butchery going on here, so if you're squeamish it may not be for you.
OCT 22 A state judge threw out the lawsuit of a former employee of the LSU Alumni Association, the Advocate reports here. The employee had claimed the former director of the group gave her a job so she'd have sex with him, and after she left agreed to continue to pay her -- so she'd have sex with him. Apparently you get no points for hutzpah.
OCT 22 Education blogger Mike Deshotels writes about the retraction of the Cowen report in this post. However you slice it, the Recovery School District is still failing, he says. (But Mike, doesn't that depend on what the intention was? If no one ever meant the RSD to fix public education, it's working perfectly, isn't it?)
OCT 22 A major Jindal donor was allowed to avoid the competitive bid process in the purchase of a state office building in Monroe, blogger Tom Aswell reports in this post on Louisiana Voice. The circumstances he lays out here are pretty stinky.
OCT 22 While Govs. Bobby Jindal and Rick Perry attempt to fan the flames of Fox Newsian hysteria into viable presidential hopes with talk of building walls to keep out the Ebola, LA Times columnist Mike Hiltzik gives them some national press they probably don't want: if you want to save lives, he says, try accepting Medicaid expansion. Wups!
OCT 22 It's hard to pick out the most interesting part of this post on Mother Jones about Texas lieutenant governor candidate Dan Patrick (His claim that migrant workers will bring leprosy to Texas? That Connie Chung's show should be called "Slanted Eye to Eye"?) But of course we must go with the comments about our very own Duck people, and how they are the spokesmen for God.
OCT 22 Advocate owner (and rich guy) John Georges must be doing a little happy dance today. As his paper reports here, the Times Picayune is further reducing its footprint in NOLA, by laying off 100 people and moving their printing operations to Mobile. (Yes, Alabama.) Does this mean the Advocate won?
OCT 22 Baton Rouge's downtown is now starting to show significant growth, this post on DIG Baton Rouge reports. With new construction, new restaurants and new housing units popping up, the downtown area is finally starting to look like a capital city, the story says.
OCT 21 Two St. John Parish employees were indicted in connection with the amoeba found in the parish water supply, WVUE reports in this post. They are accused of lying about testing the water for proper chlorine levels, the story says, claims that were contradicted by their government vehicles' GPS records.
OCT 21 The McClatchy DC blog posts this fascinating view of Louisiana's political landscape. It's a little heavy on the cliches, and also a little heavy on the quaint Cajun/Creole shtick, but it's still good reading -- if only for the outside view of our insides.
OCT 21 Here's an interesting story from the National Journal about New Orleans almost 10 years post-Katrina. There are demographic information and charts, as well as some commentary about the corresponding changes in the way the city looks and works.
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