Jafari Receives NSF Grant to Fund, Create LSU Delta Institute

May 11, 2023 

Stock photo of Mississippi RiverBATON ROUGE, LA – Coastal erosion, sea-level rise, and hurricanes along the U.S. Gulf Coast are taking a serious toll on the Mississippi River deltaic system. In order for coastal communities to not only survive but thrive, there must be a coming together of engineers, industry leaders, and researchers. Thanks to an industry-university cooperative research center (IUCRC) planning grant from the National Science Foundation, LSU can start the LSU Delta Institute, which will bring together scientists, engineers, and industry to work on developing solutions for the Louisiana coast. 

“Mississippi River natural processes, driven by both climate change and flood/river control practices, are hampering the ability of our nation’s southern coastal communities and shoreline environments to remain resilient, sustainable, productive, and healthy,” said LSU Civil and Environmental Engineering Associate Professor Navid Jafari, who will lead the LSU Delta Institute.

“This funding provides resources for LSU to explore the formation of an IUCRC focused on combining the strengths, intellectual capacity, and resources of universities, industry, and the public sector in tackling some of the largest problems in river-dominated, engineered, deltaic systems.”

IUCRCs are designed to help corporate partners and government agencies connect directly with university researchers, making industry-university collaboration easier by taking care of the administration costs so that industry dollars go toward research.

“Our goal is to get industry members to sign on and give $50,000, with 90% of that going towards research,” Jafari said. “The goal for the larger proposal I’m writing is to have at least eight members bringing in $400,000 for research.” 

LSU faculty and administrators involved with the institute’s planning include Jafari (principal investigator); Vice President of LSU Research and Economic Development Robert Twilley; LSU Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Professor Marcio de Queiroz (co-PI); LSU Department of Oceanography and Coastal Sciences (DOCS) Associate Professor Tracy Quirk (co-PI); LSU School of Architecture Assistant Professor Traci Birch (co-PI); DOCS Associate Professor Giulio Mariotti; DOCS Associate Professor Victor Rivera-Monroy (co-PI); and LSU Department of Geology and Geophysics Professor Sam Bentley. 

Through their meetings with industry, Jafari has identified four main areas of need. The first is “Community Resilience,” where companies that work in urban planning, design, and architecture are interfacing with engineering to co-design or co-produce solutions for communities. The other focus areas are “Nature-Based Solutions,” “Sediment Conveyance,” and “Renewable Energy & Maritime Technology.”

“Louisiana serves as the best test in America for evaluating how barrier islands, marshes, and swamps contribute to surge and wave protection, among other ecosystem benefits,” Jafari said. “We are also a state that does the largest amount of sediment conveyance. You have navigation for the Mississippi River, dredging to restore the Barrier Islands and marshes, and large-scale sediment diversions. Also, the top five ports in Louisiana are some of the highest grossing in the U.S.”

“The LSU Delta Institute represents unique university-industry partnerships that transform research into useful technologies that directly support the coastal economy and coastal resilience,” Twilley added. 

Next steps for the LSU team involve engaging a broad spectrum of public and private entities to identify and discuss collective needs with the goal of creating a viable research roadmap and associated research thrusts in which partners are willing to participate and fund.

“LSU is the first coastal IUCRC,” Jafari said. “The solutions we create have implications across the U.S. and world, and that puts us in a really good position.”

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Contact: Libby Haydel
Communications Manager