A visit to The Water Institute of the Gulf in Baton Rouge

Bill Dennison ·
18 March 2013
Environmental Report Cards | 

I traveled to Baton Rouge, Louisiana for a two day workshop at the relatively new, The Water Institute of the Gulf (of Mexico). I have been to Baton Rouge several times over the past few years, most recently to work with the State of Louisiana's Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority on the 2012 Master Plan. My role in that project was co-chair of the Science and Engineering Board. The other co-chair on that Board is now the CEO of the Water Institute, Dr. Chip Croat. It was great to be back in Louisiana, and working with many of the same very talented and committed people that pulled together the 2012 Master Plan, a monumental effort.

Water Institute
Sign in lobby of The Water Institute of the Gulf

The Water Institute is situated in a high rise building in downtown Baton Rouge, just a few blocks south of the State Capitol Building. They have wonderful views of the mighty Mississippi River and the State Capital. The Water Institute Chief Scientist is Dr. Denise Reed, a hydrologist who spearheaded the scientific effort underlying the 2012 Master Plan. In addition to Denise, the Water Institute hired Alaina Owens, who I had the pleasure to work with in the crazy post-Hurricane Katrina period when Tim Carruthers and I teamed up with Dr. Robert Twilley at Louisiana State University to produce three science newsletters on coastal Louisiana issues. Alaina turned out to be a talented Science Communicator as well as a good project manager. She was working at Brown & Caldwell during the 2012 Master Plan process. Nick Speyrer is at the Water Institute, and he worked closely with the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority team for the 2012 Master Plan. The person heading up the workshop was Ann Hijuelos who returned to her native Louisiana following her Master's at Florida International University. Ann proved to be very capable and organized, further convincing me that Chip has been able to very quickly assemble an impressive team.

Mississippi River
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
View of Mississippi River from The Water Institute for the Gulf in

State Capitol Building
in Baton Rouge
View of Louisiana State Capitol Building from The Water Institute for the Gulf

The workshop also included several people from the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, Carol Parsons Richard, Natalie Peyronnin and Andrea Galinski who were crucial in producing the 2012 Master Plan under the direction of Kirk Reinhardt, a former summer student at Horn Point Laboratory.

An interesting aspect of this report card effort is that the Water Institute team is committed to developing various ecological indicators for maintaining a sustainable landscape in coastal Louisiana, as well as various socio-economic indicators for maintaining resilient communities in coastal Louisiana. The incorporation of ecological, economic and social indicators into a State of the Coast assessment would be quite novel and challenging.

A big advantage to visiting Louisiana is the wonderful food, with gumbo, jambalaya, blackened fish and other delectable morsels to sustain you during your visit. The spring-like weather was also a treat and the hospitality of the folks at The Water Institute of the Gulf and the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority was appreciated. I look forward to returning, and to the further development of this interesting report card effort.

About the author

Bill Dennison

Dr. Bill Dennison is a Professor of Marine Science and Vice President for Science Application at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES). Dr. Dennison’s primary mission within UMCES is to coordinate the Integration and Application Network.

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