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7/25/11 - New grant funds Gulf wetlands data collection

A competitive funding grant from the Gulf Research Initiative is helping Mississippi State scientists collect important data about the status of salt marshes impacted by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

The nearly $81,000 stop-gap award will underwrite the project for three months until the consortium's larger grants reach researchers this fall. (For more about the GRI, visit www.gulfresearchinitiative.org/.)

"Our project is to continue collecting salt marsh biophysical data and biogeochemical data across Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama and Florida through the summer," said geosciences assistant professor Deepak Mishra, the grant's principle investigator.

His partners on the project are MSU assistant professors Karen McNeal and Andrew Mercer and associate professor Bill Cooke.

In May, the GRI's research board realized that emergency funds for summer data gathering were needed, and subsequently, issued a June 10 request for proposals--with a June 17 deadline for submissions.

In addition to being a tight timeframe to submit proposals, mid-June was a time of added pressure for Mishra: his wife delivered the couple's second child, baby girl Nevee, at midnight on the 15th.

"I was working on the proposal on the 16th from the hospital," the University of Nebraska, Lincoln doctoral graduate said. Smiling, he added, "I have to say it was kind of good because I had fewer distractions there."

Under the GRI's first round of funding, Mishra is involved in several proposals for monitoring the region's coastal wetlands to determine whether they are back to pre-spill productivity levels.

"This latest project will allow us to collect field data during the summer's very important growing season, and give us a chance to calibrate and validate satellite map products," Mishra explained. "

"The map products will delineate the spill-impacted marsh and its degree of recovery," he added. "This part of the work will give us a baseline, and is an integral component in a larger, longer-term project."

The research directly addresses the GRI's research theme to examine the environmental effects of the petroleum and dispersant system on the sea floor, water column, coastal waters, beach sediments, wetlands, marshes, and organisms, as well as the science of ecosystem recovery, Mishra added.

For more about MSU research, visit www.research.msstate.edu/

JIM LAIRD | University Relations and the Office of Research and Economic Development

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