LAFAYETTE, La. - A University of Louisiana at Lafayette researcher is one of eight scientists chosen by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine to study the Gulf of Mexico’s changing ecosystem.
Dr. Robert Miller is an assistant professor of civil engineering and assistant director of UL Lafayette’s Louisiana Watershed Flood Center. Miller earned a 2021 Early-Career Research Fellowship as part of the academies’ Gulf Research Program. The fellowship is part of the program’s Environmental Protection and Stewardship track.
Each of the scientists received a $76,000 award to examine issues related to the Gulf’s estuaries, including oyster reefs, beaches and dunes, mangroves, and offshore shoals and banks.
The researchers will consider how different ecosystems interact with one another; they will produce research intended to inform decisions about environmental protection and stewardship, according to a press release from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.
Miller will examine infrastructure designed to control water for better flood mitigation; he will also research the effects of these projects on water quality problems such as hypoxia, a dynamic created when floodwaters and storm surges carry organic materials such as leaves and other vegetation into waterways. As the vegetation decomposes, it consumes oxygen vital to the survival of marine life.
“I’m looking to model those interactions, civil engineering works like levees and structures and how they affect water quality and, ultimately, how the water quality affects aquatic populations – like fish,” he explained.
Miller’s research will involve numerical modeling related to hydraulics and hydrology, water quality and mathematical biology. He also plans to conduct environmental sampling and field observations with help from undergraduate and graduate students.
His objective will be finding “solutions for floods, and the effects of these engineering solutions on water quality, which is already an issue and will become more of an issue.”