Karen A. Westphal
National Audubon Society
|B.S. 1978 Zoology - Louisiana State University
30 years research, education and training in coastal Louisiana
|Life is full of changes.
I transferred from LSU to UNO in December 2007 to work more closely with my good friend and colleague, Shea Penland, who died unexpectedly on March 23, 2008. Another good friend and colleague, Paul Kemp, offered me a position with the NAS which I accepted in February 2009.
During the 29 years I worked at LSU/UNO within the Louisiana coastal zone, I acquired an enormous archive of imagery and accumulated a varied expertise. I was funded completely by "soft-money," which means by grants and contracts funded by agencies other than the university. This also means that my duties and work areas changed sometimes drastically from contract to contract and study to study.
Through the Aerial Video Survey Program, I have seen every foot of the northern Gulf Coast from the Rio Grande to the Everglades. Through various coastal studies, I've walked, surveyed and sampled nearly every habitat and shoreline along the expansive Louisiana coastline. Through environmental emergency response, I've worked oil spills in Texas, Louisiana and Alaska. I worked closely with the US Army Corps of Engineers in their pioneering trials at beneficial use of c materials, before it was widely accepted and expected. I worked with the US Geological Survey on hurricane impact studies and coastal habitats and shoreline change mapping.
I've discovered new-to-Louisiana plant species, measured shoreline retreat caused by hurricanes, fought off alligators and aggressive nutria, suffered nutria itch and poison ivy, sweated in mid-summer and froze doing water samples during mid-winter. Its all been fun.
Now, through the National Audubon Society, I have the opportunity to turn my experience and knowledge more directly to protecting and enhancing our surrounding environment.
My position at NAS Gulf Coast Initiative is Project Manager for the Atchafalaya Basin and Science Advisor, and I still try to keep informed and involved in coastal issues that fall within my expertise. I've become co-lead on a marsh creation project at the Paul J. Rainey Wildlife Refuge using a small dredge. I was recently involved in the BP oil disaster as a volunteer coordinator at Hopedale and in a science capacity for the 6-month assessment Audubon conducted. I hope to continue my personal goal of understanding how our surroundings work together in a balanced, healthy system and to promote this process to "make things right."
|watch dredge video|