THIBODAUX, La. — Nicholls State University will lead the observation and conservation of alligator gar and other Louisiana fish species for a $400,000 project that aims to improve connections between the Mississippi River and a north Louisiana floodplain.
The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) awarded the $400,000 grant to Nicholls, the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium (LUMCON), and the Lower Mississippi River Conservation Committee (LMRCC). The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) will also partner on the project.
The goal of the project is to improve connections between the Richard K. Yancey Wildlife Management Area floodplain and the Mississippi River. LMRCC will improve three culverts and a weir to enhance the connection. LDWF will work on monitoring sport fish and water quality impacts, facilitate public outreach and support the research teams.
Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences Dr. Solomon David and his students will partner with LUMCON to monitor the alligator gar. Dr. David is an internationally recognized expert in garfish and principal investigator of the GarLab.
“We are excited to work with this talented team of professionals and provide Nicholls students research opportunities to study these amazing fishes,” said Dr. David. “Fishes are among the best indicators of aquatic ecosystem health, and we’ll be looking to Louisiana’s largest freshwater fish to help determine restoration and conservation success.”
Dr. David and his students will monitor how the project affects the local fish populations and habitat. The information gathered will be used to guide future projects.
“We’re looking at how the Mississippi River floodplain restoration, specifically improving connectivity between the river and the floodplain, benefits wildlife,” Dr. David said. “Alongside the alligator gar, we’ll also be monitoring size, number and habitat use of other fish species to get a better picture of how habitat improvements benefit these valuable freshwater ecosystems.”
The project is one of four awarded by NFWF through the Lower Mississippi Alluvial Valley Restoration Fund. Launched in 2017, the LMAV Fund is a competitive grant program that supports restoration, enhancement and management of bottomland hardwood forests and wetlands, and promotes aquatic connectivity on private and public lands. The program is a partnership between NFWF and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, with private funding from International Paper’s Forestland Stewards Partnership and the Walton Family Foundation.
Each project will support the preservation of the nation’s largest floodplain. At more than 24 million acres, the valley stretches from Illinois to Louisiana, including the Atchafalaya Basin and Houma-Thibodaux region.