Chief Scientist's Take

It’s been more than three years since we opened our doors, and the time has flown by – it’s not very long from a scientific perspective, but a lot can change in three years for people, communities, and businesses struggling to remain resilient and viable. I’m proud of the team that we have assembled in such a short time, the partnerships that we have developed, and all the advances that we have made in the state of the science.

Our team here has been working collaboratively with the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) and a very large and diverse team of partners on models and analysis that can be applied to address a lot of the challenges facing coastal Louisiana. At the same time, we have gradually been extending into new areas by engaging with a number of other clients and funders to help address their scientific and research needs here in Louisiana and across the globe.

In the next few months, we will release a number of reports that will directly inform policy decisions relevant to the future role of river sediment diversion projects in coastal Louisiana’s restoration program. While we do not make the policy decisions, we do work hard to make sure our knowledge is applied in ways that help governmental entities, as well as business and industry, as they plan for sustainable landscapes, ecosystems, and economies.

In addition to our work on sediment diversions, we are working collaboratively with CPRA to lead a large team that is developing and applying predictive models to inform the 2017 Coastal Master Plan. While work is ongoing, draft reports documenting the models that CPRA will use to evaluate projects and alternatives for the 2017 Coastal Master Plan are already available on the
 CPRA website

For many of us here at the Institute, the Louisiana coast is one of the most dynamic and exciting places to do research in the world, but we are very interested in applying our knowledge and ideas to help those working toward resilient and sustainable coasts worldwide. We are proud of our international work, such as our research in the Mekong Delta highlighted below, and we are keenly focused on identifying other parts of the U.S. and the world where the expertise and the tools we have developed at the Institute can be of use.

Back at the office, just last week we had our 
Science and Engineering Advisory Council in town to review our applied research program and recommend areas for improvement and opportunities for expansion. They continue to be impressed with our work, programs, and most importantly, our team. We are also looking forward to next June, when we will proudly partner with the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana and CPRA to host the State of the Coast 2016
. This is a great opportunity for our team members to showcase their work and to learn more about their peers' work. The State of the Coast conference is the largest state-wide conference of its kind, providing an interdisciplinary forum to exchange timely and relevant information on the dynamic conditions of Louisiana’s coastal communities, environment, and economy. I have personally been engaged in all of the last three State of the Coast conferences, and they get better every time! We hope to see you there.

These are exciting times at the Institute. Please let me know if you would like to visit and hear more about our work.

Thanks for your continued support,

Denise Reed
Chief Scientist

Featured Project 

The same issues of land and estuary degradation, subsidence, loss of fisheries, pollution, endangered water supply, and rising sea levels that affect the Mississippi River and Delta and Gulf of Mexico also impact other parts of the world.

One of our primary motivations at The Water Institute is to not only take what we have learned in coastal Louisiana and apply to other regions, but also to have the opportunity to work in other systems and with other partners so that we can learn new techniques that can conversely benefit our work in coastal Louisiana. This is why we are so proud of our work in the Vietnam’s Mekong River Delta as part of the Office of Naval Research’s “Tropical Deltas Directed Research Initiative.” 

As part of the project, we have made two trips to Vietnam to collect water and sediment data at both high and low discharge. During these trips, our team utilized a number of observational tools to assess how tides from the sea impact sediment supply and transport in the river. 

The data collected during these trips has helped us develop computer models to better understand and simulate current river processes so we can test scenarios of how the river might change in the future due to sea level rise, dams, and other human modifications to the delta. The long-term goal of this observational-modeling study is to understand the dynamics of sand transport through the tidal-estuarine reach of the Mekong River that control sediment supply to the ocean.

In addition, just last month, team members Ehab Meselhe and Eric White presented the modeling tools that we developed at a workshop in Vietnam designed to introduce the basics of ecosystem and morphologic numerical modeling to Vietnamese students and young professionals. 

This project is funded by the Department of the Navy, Office of Naval Research. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Office of Naval Research.

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Staff Spotlight


Director of Physical Processes & Sediment Systems Mead Allison, Ph.D, leads a team of five research associates and interns. An expert on river, deltaic, and coastal sedimentary processes, Mead has researched river delta systems for nearly 25 years. He is one of the foremost experts on the Mississippi River’s sediment transport processes.

Mead hasn’t always worked in Louisiana, but he has always placed an emphasis on research regarding the coastal challenges that the state faces. He began studying the Mississippi River during his time at Tulane University in 1999, where he found that Louisiana is the perfect natural laboratory to follow his interests in studying deltaic systems. Coastal restoration became the centerpiece of his work while in Louisiana, and it continued to be a major focus after he took a new position at The University of Texas at Austin. That same focus brought him back to Louisiana years later to join The Water Institute through a joint appointment with Tulane University. 

Mead credits success in much of his work to collaboration and hopes to continue working closely with other universities and institutions in the pursuit of coastal solutions. “I’ve been able to assemble a great team from not only The Water Institute, but also from Tulane University, and leverage the expertise and experience of both organizations to accomplish impressive goals in the pursuit of coastal solutions.”  

Since joining The Water Institute in early 2013, Mead and his group have undertaken a series of observational projects in support of coastal restoration efforts for the State of Louisiana. These include process studies of the Calcasieu Ship Channel, the West Bay Diversion, the Mississippi River channel, and Barataria Basin and Breton Sound. The basin studies are in support of research to examine the effects of proposed river diversions. 

Looking ahead, Mead hopes to apply Water Institute expertise to restore coasts and protect communities across the Gulf Coast, as well as internationally  an effort he has already begun in the Mekong Delta. He is also working with partners to advance the science of subsidence as it relates to the delta by implementing a system-level approach to coastal restoration and community resiliency using a robust network of coastal monitoring stations and predictive models.  

To contact Mead Allison, send an email to

Each quarter, we will feature a different member of our distinguished team to highlight the diversity and strength of competencies housed at The Water Institute.

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