UNO and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to Partner on $1.2 Million Gulf Shellfish Study

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) and the University of New Orleans have agreed to partner on a five-year, $1.2 million study of crab and shrimp populations in the northern Gulf of Mexico.

Martin O’Connell, assistant professor of earth and environmental sciences, and Meg Uzee-O’Connell, research associate with UNO’s Pontchartrain Institute for Environmental Sciences, will focus on blue crabs, brown shrimp and white shrimp, three species that are important to the region’s ecology and economy.

The award is a cooperative agreement between BOEM and UNO, which means that BOEM scientists will actively participate in the research. Study partners brought in by UNO include scientists from the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory at the University of Southern Mississippi, the University of South Alabama and the Dauphin Island Sea Lab. Simultaneous sampling will occur from Lake Borgne in Louisiana to Mobile Bay in Alabama, an area about 120 miles wide.

“UNO researchers are well-positioned to conduct this type of research because we have been actively studying the aquatic organisms of the Pontchartrain estuary since 2000 through various externally funded research grants,” said Martin O’Connell. “Over this period, our team of scientists and students has collected valuable baseline data on how animals such as fishes, crabs and shrimp have responded to events such Hurricane Katrina, the Bonnet Carre Spillway openings and the Deepwater Horizon disaster.”

The five-year study will focus on tracking the abundance and distribution of blue crabs, brown shrimp and white shrimp throughout the northern Gulf of Mexico, which will yield useful baseline data. The key goals are to better understand the natural variability of these valuable species, and how they respond to and recover from disasters such as hurricanes on a large, multi-state, multi-year scale. Initial sampling is expected to begin this fall.