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Deepwater Horizon Restoration Area Lead - Mel Landry - Louisiana.

Number of years working with NOAA: 

6 years

Current location: 

Baton Rouge, LA

Describe a project related to habitat that you are currently working on.

I represent NOAA in the evaluation and selection of projects to address impacts from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. One of many projects we're currently partnering on is a $124 million marsh and ridge restoration project, which will create more than 1,000 acres of estuarine habitat.

What habitat work has been especially successful or inspiring to you?

Places like Plaquemines Parish and the Barataria Bay area of Louisiana are only here because the Mississippi and Atchafalaya rivers carry sediment to Louisiana where it spreads out and accumulates. Channels created to control the rivers and improve ease of shipping have resulted in loss of that sediment accumulation over most of southern Louisiana. Add to this storm damage from massive hurricanes like Katrina and Rita, and the wetlands—once so abundant in wildlife and beauty—are disappearing at the rate of one football field every hour and a half. But we’re working to change that.

All of our large-scale habitat work is inspiring. As you fly out of New Orleans, you can clearly see the mark we leave on the landscape in the form of wetlands, ridges, and barrier islands that we've worked to restore over the past 25+ years.

 Describe a time when you were surprised by fish and/or habitat.

It's always surprising to see how vegetation takes up residence on our new projects. We can be gone for only a couple weeks and come back to find the landscape nearly unrecognizable. On the Bayou Dupont Marsh and Ridge restoration project, head-high vegetation quickly took hold on the Mississippi River sediment we used to create our marsh platform. Within months, a moonscape became a lush grassland, all on its own.

What person has expanded your understanding or connection to habitat?

All of my colleagues at NOAA are amazing and have helped me better appreciate the value of various types of habitat across our nation and its territories. Seeing the dam removal work of our colleagues on the East and West Coasts is inspiring, and salmon efforts out West are proof that opening the door to habitat is a key step in helping a species survive and thrive.