Human Health and Well-Being

Education and research at LSU’s College of the Coast & Environment (CC&E) has a direct impact on human and animal health and wellbeing. Known for the study of coasts, rivers, and the environment, the college examines both the natural environment (including air, water, soil, chemical, biological, and social features of our surroundings) and the man-made or “built” environment, such as land use practices, pollution, and waste management. Our faculty, researchers, and graduates have a multidisciplinary understanding of interactions between the natural and built environments and a passion for sustainable ecosystems. The following highlights some of CC&E’s research related to this industry.

The environment can impact our food, including fisheries, shellfish, and seafood transmitted illness. In addition to studying fish and other seafood populations, productivity, and quality, our faculty studies microbial assays which use microorganisms to measure the activity of organic compounds and calculate the purity of nutritional factors by measuring bacteria growth.

Harmful algal blooms can produce extremely dangerous toxins that can sicken or kill people and animals, create dead zones in the water, raise treatment costs for drinking water, and hurt industries that depend on clean water. CC&E studies harmful algal blooms and hypoxia. 

Environmental toxicology is an important issue as toxicants can both benefit and harm living organisms, depending on their use.  CC&E scientists are studying cancer caused by environmental exposure as well as risk assessment. This research resulted in a fast-track education program for a Master of Public Health. This program also creates a new environmental health concentration for a bachelor’s degree in Coastal Environmental Science. With its focus on toxicology and the environment, the program is unique in the environmental health field. Its curriculum has been developed by faculty at LSU CC&E and LSU School of Public Health whose experience includes working in top medical and research facilities.

Renowned scientists at CC&E use tools such as modelling and remote sensing to study watershed issues, such as sediments, agricultural nutrients, toxic chemicals, pathogens, plastics, and their sources. This research enables leaders to make informed decisions about developing best practices and policies regarding water quality.

Climate change affects health. Weather changes and extremes, ecosystems, water scarcity and/or flooding, oceans and coastal regions, and air quality are just a few of the issues that are studied. By studying the causes and effects of climate change, we enable leaders to make informed decisions that will better prepare the community for related changes.

CC&E scientists study population groups that are especially susceptible to the environment’s impact on health. For example, CC&E scientists are studying Tanzanian mangroves as they provide a number of ecosystem services that are particularly beneficial to poor, coastal communities. This society’s dependence on natural resources can be the source of the resources’ degradation, which has significant consequences for human well-being. Scientists are studying the links between mangrove ecosystem services and poverty traps – mechanisms that cause poverty to persist.

Technology such as GIS computer analyses is used to understand human resilience and vulnerability. CC&E scientists have created several indexes that take into account different factors that play into the resilience and vulnerability of an area to a particular hazard. For example, hurricanes are hazardous to people in low lying areas close to the coast. An index of several different factors, such as distance from the coast, surface elevation, livelihood of a storm, etc., are examined and applied to real world problems. This data is also mapped to analyze the spread of disease and impacts of diseases on human health.

CC&E scientists are also studying how communities respond to disasters and how to communicate these risks to the public.  Indeed, LSU’s College of the Coast & Environment is very involved in research and education that impacts health and well-being, in Louisiana and around the world.