Research at the Center for Plant Restoration and Coastal Plant Research (CPR)

Patrick D. Biber, Ph.D., B.Sc. (Hons)

Dr. Patrick Biber has worked on coastal systems for about 15 years, first on the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, then in tropical Florida seagrasses and mangroves, followed by temperate seagrasses in North Carolina, and now seagrasses and salt marshes in the northern Gulf of Mexico.

Since beginning his research at the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory in 2004, Patrick has obtained grants to conduct research on coastal plant habitats, and he has also established a native plant nursery for propagating coastal plants for restoration. His current project is developing a plant tissue culture lab at GCRL for micropropagation of local germplasm in species like seaoats that are difficult to grow from seeds.
Linh is working on the Chandeleur Islands, Louisiana in May 2012 with a Trimble GPS on one hand and her data sheet on the other hand. Linh uses the GPS for mapping the perimeter of seagrass patches as well as navigating to study stations. Tiny seeds of Vallisneria sprouting in petri-dish, 24 hours after being nicked (scarified) to allow the seed to take up water and begin germination.
Dr. Biber making measurements on Black Needlerush leaves with a chlorophyll fluorescence meter (Walz Mini-PAM) to understand how shading by docks and piers affects plant photosynthesis and growth.

At the Chandeleur Islands after the oil spill, Dr. Biber uses a GPS to document seagrass species composition and percent cover to determine possible long term impacts from storms and oil contaminants.

Heather Joesting, Ph.D.

Dr. Heather Joesting is a post-doctoral researcher in the CPR.  Heather received her B.S. in Environmental Science from the University of North Carolina – Wilmington, her M.S. in Plant Biology from Ohio University, and her Ph.D. in Biology from Wake Forest University.  Her broad research interests include coastal plant adaptations to abiotic stress and the role of native plants in coastal sustainability and management.

Heather has been at GCRL since September 2011.  She is currently collaborating with Dr. Reginald Blaylock at the Thad Cochran Marine Aquaculture Center on an investigation of the potential role of native Gulf Coast salt marsh plants in the management of marine aquaculture waste effluent.  Specifically, Heather is testing the solid waste to determine if it can be used as an alternative to commercial fertilizers in nursery production of native salt marsh species.  She is also contributing to a project examining the potential of several salt marsh species in reducing the nutrient content of liquid waste effluent while maintaining salinity to allow liquid effluent to be recycled into finfish production. 

Heather waters salt marsh plants growing in a greenhouse for an experiment to determine fertilizer effectiveness of aquaculture waste solids. Two species of salt marsh plants fertilized with shrimp or fish waste solids in an experimental greenhouse at Cedar Point to determine the potential commercialization of this by-product.
Heather waters salt marsh plants growing in a greenhouse for an experiment to determine fertilizer effectiveness of aquaculture waste solids. Two species of salt marsh plants fertilized with shrimp or fish waste solids in an experimental greenhouse at Cedar Point to determine the potential commercialization of this by-product.

Philip Kauth, Ph.D.

Philip Kauth is a post-doctoral researcher in the CPR. Phil came to GCRL from the University of Florida (UF) where he received his M.S. and Ph.D. in Horticultural Sciences. His undergraduate degree from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point is in biology. After graduating from UF and before arriving at GCRL he conducted post-doctoral research at UF, studying invasive plant species and restoration of Midwest and south Florida wetlands. His broad interests include native plant growth and development, rare and at-risk plant conservation, seed germination ecology, and restoring degraded habitats and ecosystems.

Phil is investigating ways to grow submerged aquatic and marsh plants native to the northern Gulf Coast. His projects include developing seed propagation and seed storage methods and investigating how light source and sediment type influence seedling growth.  Phil is also developing a plant tissue culture lab that will be used to propagate plants more efficiently.

Linh is working on the Chandeleur Islands, Louisiana in May 2012 with a Trimble GPS on one hand and her data sheet on the other hand. Linh uses the GPS for mapping the perimeter of seagrass patches as well as navigating to study stations. Tiny seeds of Vallisneria sprouting in petri-dish, 24 hours after being nicked (scarified) to allow the seed to take up water and begin germination.
Phil (front, left) is assisted by CPR students and technicians in setting up an experiment to investigate the effects of soil condition and light spectrum on Vallisneria seedling survival and growth. Tiny seeds of Vallisneria sprouting in petri-dish, 24 hours after being nicked (scarified) to allow the seed to take up water and begin germination.

Linh Thuy Pham, Ph.D. Candidate

Linh Thuy Pham, is a Ph.D. student in the CPR and came to GCRL from Hanoi University of Sciences in Vietnam. Linh is interested in using remote sensing and geographic information systems (GIS) to study vegetation cover and dynamics. She is currently mapping seagrasses in the Mississippi Sound and along the northern Chandeleur Islands, and analyzing their changes over the past 70 years.

To obtain a more comprehensive picture of seagrasses in the area, Linh is employing a large seagrass mapping dataset dating back to 1940, which includes aerial photography, field data, and herbarium collection locations. All the maps are made available in digital format not only for easy access and sharing but also for further scientific analyses. 

Seagrasses in this area generally occur in three groups:

  1. Along the Mississippi mainland coastline, predominantly widgeon grass (Ruppia maritima)
  2. North side of the Mississippi barrier islands, predominantly shoal grass (Halodule wrightii)
  3. West side of the Chandeleur Islands, turtle grass (Thalassia testudinum) co-occurring with the other seagrass species. 

Linh is also investigating trends in seagrasses in terms of vegetated cover, habitat, and species composition since 1940. With the fine-resolution data, she will examine the general movement of seagrass patches over the years, which will provide more insight for seagrass management in Mississippi and adjacent waters.

Linh is working on the Chandeleur Islands, Louisiana in May 2012 with a Trimble GPS on one hand and her data sheet on the other hand. Linh uses the GPS for mapping the perimeter of seagrass patches as well as navigating to study stations. Linh (in blue) and Tom [#PB - last name?]are using quadrat to record seagrass species, percent cover, and canopy height at the Chandeleur Islands, LA in May 2012.
Linh is working on the Chandeleur Islands, Louisiana in May 2012 with a Trimble GPS in one hand and her data sheet in the other. Linh uses the GPS for mapping the perimeter of seagrass patches as well as navigating to study stations. Linh (on right) and Tom Albaret are using a quadrat to record seagrass species, percent cover, and canopy height at the Chandeleur Islands, Louisiana in May 2012.

Viviana Mazzei, M.S. Candidate

Viviana Mazzei is a master’s student in the CPR. She received her B.S. in Biology from Florida International University where she also worked as a research assistant in the Marine Macroalgae Lab. Her undergraduate research focused on the use of macroalgae as indicators of water quality in Biscayne Bay. Specifically, she looked at the effects of pulsed freshwater discharges on the spatial and temporal dynamics and nutrient status of the macroalgal community of the Black Point area. 

For her master’s thesis, Viviana is studying algal primary production on artificial reefs in the Mississippi Sound. She is using settlement plate measures of periphyton primary productivity, chlorophyll a content, and biomass to estimate net habitat productivity of four artificial reefs in Mississippi Sound. Her intention is to provide insight into the value of these structures in increasing benthic primary production in this highly turbid, soft-bottomed body of water.

Top left – sampling at Katrina reef in the spring, Top right – periphyton attached to settlement plates after one month on the reef, Bottom right – transferring the periphyton into incubation bottles on the boat, Bottom left – Incubation bottles with samples under grow lights to measure the photosynthesis and calculate primary productivity.

Top left – sampling at Katrina reef in the spring, Top right – periphyton attached to settlement plates after one month on the reef, Bottom right – transferring the periphyton into incubation bottles on the boat, Bottom left – Incubation bottles with samples under grow lights to measure the photosynthesis and calculate primary productivity.

J.D. Caldwell, Research Associate

J.D. Caldwell cleaning seeds of Spartina alterniflora in preparation for germination and growth in the nursery. These plants grown from these seeds will be used for restoration and research.J.D. has been a technician and researcher in botany for his entire career, and he’s worked at GCRL since soon after Hurricane Camille. Among other things, he managed the Herbarium at Gulf Coast Research Lab, now located at USM's Hattiesburg campus, and taught in the GCRL Summer Field Program. J.D. is an expert at identifying local flora, and is always happy to examine samples that people bring in for identification or questions.

J.D. Caldwell cleaning seeds of Spartina alterniflora in preparation for germination and growth in the nursery. These plants grown from these seeds will be used for restoration and research.