LSU Researchers Awarded National Academies' Gulf Research Program Fellowships

BATON ROUGE – Four LSU researchers are recipients of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine’s Gulf Research Program Early-Career Research Fellowships and Science Policy Fellowships for 2016 announced today. These competitive awards are among the suite of activities in the program’s 30-year mission to enhance oil system safety and the protection of human health and the environment in the Gulf of Mexico and U.S. outer continental shelf regions.

“This year’s fellows reflect the wide range of expertise and experience that the Gulf and other coastal regions’ complex, interdisciplinary challenges call for,” said Maggie Walser, fellowships director for the Gulf Research Program. “Through these fellowships, the Gulf Research Program is strengthening the long-term scientific and technical capacities that are needed in coastal regions while also supporting an exemplary set of young researchers and professionals.”

The Early-Career Research Fellowships recognize professionals at the critical pre-tenure phase of their careers for exceptional leadership, past performance and potential for future contributions to improving oil system safety, human health and well-being or environmental protection. Two of the 10 fellows are LSU faculty members.

LSU Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology Michelle Meyer was awarded the research fellowship for her work as an environmental and disaster sociologist. Meyer’s interests include how environmental and social forces affect population groups, especially low-income and culturally marginalized groups. Her research identifies the importance of creating a practice of resilience among community groups centered around inter-organizational relationships and communication for community sustainability. Using her research findings, Meyer has helped community organizations understand demographics that contribute to vulnerability and then prepare disaster recovery plans.  With increasing disaster frequency, everyday practices and relationships are crucial to supporting community resilience.

LSU Assistant Professor in the Department of Geography and Anthropology Jill Trepanier received the research fellowship for her work, which focuses on the quantification of extreme hurricane wind and storm surge risks in coastal locations. This risk estimate provides planners and managers with an understanding of how often the most extreme events will occur in the region, which can help them better prepare structures for the worst-case scenario.  Additionally, as the Gulf region has a large number of oil platforms, this quantified risk can be estimated for platform locations, helping to prevent catastrophic life, economic and environmental losses.

To foster their development as leaders, fellows will receive professional guidance from a mentor, who is a senior faculty member at their home institution. Meyer’s mentor is LSU Department of Environmental Sciences Professor Margaret Reams. Trepanier’s mentor is the LSU Department of Geography & Anthropology Richard J. Russell Professor and Louisiana state climatologist Barry Keim.

Fellows will receive an award of $76,000, paid to their institution in the form of a two-year grant, for research expenses and professional development.

The Science Policy Fellowships, focused on leadership development and capacity building at the science-policy interface, are awarded to graduate or professional students or those who have completed their studies within the past five years and demonstrate a strong scientific or technical background, superior academic achievement and leadership qualities. This year’s fellows will spend a year on the staff of a state agency or a relevant federal agency’s regional office in a Gulf state.

Two of the 10 Science Policy Fellows are LSU alumnae. Paulina Kolic received her doctoral degree in chemistry from LSU in May. She will be a fellow at the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority in Baton Rouge. Stephanie Sharuga received her doctoral degree in oceanography and coastal sciences from LSU in 2014. She will be a fellow at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Lafayette, La.

The fellows will be paired with a mentor when they arrive at their host offices. They will also have opportunities for professional development. Fellows will receive an annual stipend of $45,000 for current students or $55,000 for graduates.

In alphabetical order, the recipients of the Early-Career Research Fellowships are: 

  • Jordon Beckler, Ph.D., Chemical Oceanography, Mote Marine Laboratory, Sarasota, Fla.
  • Ann Cook, Ph.D., Marine Geology and Geophysics, The Ohio State University, Athens
  • Brad Erisman, Ph.D., Marine Biology, University of Texas at Austin, Port Aransas
  • Diego Figueroa, Ph.D., Biological Oceanography, University of Texas, Rio Grande Valley, Brownsville
  • Huilin Gao, Ph.D., Civil and Environmental Engineering, Texas A&M University, College Station
  • Michelle Meyer, Ph.D., Sociology, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge
  • Jennifer Pazour, Ph.D., Industrial Engineering, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, N.Y.
  • Kerri Pratt, Ph.D., Chemistry, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
  • Adam Skarke, Ph.D., Geology, Mississippi State University, Starkville
  • Jill Trepanier, Ph.D., Geography, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge

The recipients of the Science Policy Fellowships are:

  • Debra Butler, Ph.D. Candidate, Business, University of Massachusetts, Boston; Host Office: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Gulf of Mexico Program, Gulfport, Miss.
  • Makyba Charles, Ph.D., Public Health, University of Florida; Host Office: Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Tallahassee
  • Kirsten Dorans, Sc.D., Epidemiology, 2016, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health; Host Office: RESTORE Council, New Orleans
  • Paulina Kolic, Ph.D., Chemistry, 2016, Louisiana State University; Host Office: Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, Baton Rouge, La.
  • Alejandra Mickle, M.S., Biological Oceanography, 2016, Florida State University; Host Office: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Fairhope, Ala.
  • Krystal Pree, Ph.D. Candidate, Environmental Science, Florida A&M University; Host Office: Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Tallahassee
  • Geoffrey Roest, Ph.D. Candidate, Atmospheric Sciences, Texas A&M University; Host Office: Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Gulf of Mexico Office, New Orleans
  • Lindsey Saum, Ph.D., Environmental Microbiology, 2016, University of California, Riverside; Host Office: Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Austin
  • Stephanie Sharuga, Ph.D., Oceanography and Coastal Sciences, 2014, Louisiana State University; Host Office: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Lafayette, La.
  • Caitlin Young, Ph.D., Geosciences, 2013, Stony Brook University; Host Office: NOAA RESTORE Act Science Program, Stennis, Miss.

The Gulf Research Program, a program of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, was established in 2013 as a result of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. It seeks to improve understanding of the interconnecting human, environmental and energy systems of the Gulf of Mexico and other U.S. outer continental shelf areas. The Gulf Research Program funds studies, projects and other activities using three broad approaches: research and development, education and training and environmental monitoring. To learn more about the Gulf Research Program, including fellowships and other funding opportunities, visit  More information about the 2016 Gulf Research Program fellows is available at

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine are private, nonprofit institutions that provide independent, objective analysis and advice to the nation to solve complex problems and inform public policy decisions related to science, technology and medicine. The Academies operate under an 1863 congressional charter to the National Academy of Sciences, signed by President Lincoln. For more information, visit

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Contact Ernie Ballard
LSU Media Relations


Molly Galvin
National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine