Matt Hiatt Becomes Third LSU Oceanography & Coastal Sciences Professor to Receive NSF CAREER Award

March 09, 2022

Matt HiattMatt Hiatt, assistant professor in the LSU Department of Oceanography & Coastal Sciences (DOCS), has received a five-year National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development (NSF CAREER) award for his coastal hydrological research—the third professor in the history of the College of the Coast & Environment (CC&E) to receive it. The first was awarded to Sam Bentley in 2001, a then-assistant professor in DOCS who now serves as the vice president of the LSU Office of Research & Economic Development, and the second was awarded to DOCS associate professor Jun-Hong Liang in 2020. 

The CAREER award is one of NSF’s most prestigious awards and is bestowed upon junior faculty who meet two important criteria: “1) innovative research at the frontiers of science and technology that is relevant to the mission of NSF, and 2) community service demonstrated through scientific leadership, education, or community outreach.” The grant will fund Hiatt’s research on variability in the time it takes for water to move through river deltas and how that movement indicates water quality and ecosystem health. 

“Louisiana’s coastal restoration strategies will have a big impact on the hydrology of the region, so we need to be able to predict these changes under many different scenarios,” Hiatt said.

Surface water movement through coastal environments is controlled by both marine and terrestrial processes, which yields complicated patterns of water circulation that vary through time and space. In river deltas, this is complicated by the presence of deep, fast-moving water in channels that is connected to slow, shallow moving water in vegetated wetlands. Hiatt’s project will combine five years of field measurements in Wax Lake Delta, Louisiana, with computer simulations of long-term and short-term changes to the delta to understand dynamic patterns of water movement changing through time. This research is especially important in the context of Louisiana’s coastal restoration efforts. 

“Louisiana is a hotspot of coastal change and restoration, and Dr. Hiatt has positioned himself well to perform cutting-edge research that fosters collaboration and outreach with local stakeholders,” said Kam-biu Liu, professor and chair of DOCS. “His research will be critical for predicting future impacts of coastal restoration strategies and to evaluate their efficacy in the face of global issues such as sea-level rise.”

“LSU CC&E is a perfect venue for this project because of its highly interdisciplinary faculty and students. The project has implications for biology, ecology, fisheries, and society and I have a wealth of world-class collaborators who can provide their expertise just down the hall from me,” Hiatt said. 

Additionally, this project includes an educational plan that builds on these themes by training university students using innovative field measurements for coastal hydrology, integrating coastal hydrology research into undergraduate and graduate coursework, and engaging K-8 students with demonstrations, guided research projects, and field trips.  

“Dr. Hiatt’s discipline-crossing work fills an important role in our strategic plan and contributes to a robust expansion of our coastal hydrology offerings. These students will be well-served to learn from such a driven and engaged expert in the field. I look forward to seeing all that he accomplishes,” Liu said. 


For more news and information about the LSU College of the Coast & Environment, visit Like us on Facebook (@LSUCoastandEnvironment) or follow us on Twitter (@LSU_CCE).

Contact Christine Wendling
LSU College of the Coast & Environment