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Melissa Baustian

Coastal Ecologist

Melissa Baustian, Ph.D. is a Coastal Ecologist with The Water Institute of the Gulf. She has over 10 years of experience in researching the ecological responses of aquatic ecosystems to nutrient enrichment, eutrophication and hypoxia. Most of her research experience has been on the benthic ecology of the low-oxygen area, known as the “Dead Zone” in the northern Gulf of Mexico. 

Dr. Baustian's current research is focused on providing technical support in the data collection and development of analyses and models that will examine nutrient-related dynamics from restoration efforts in Louisiana’s coastal zone. She is also examining climate change related effects on coastal vegetation and ecosystem processes, a research priority in The Water Institute of the Gulf’s Science and Engineering Plan. This includes a field study that examines decomposition and accumulation rates of organic matter in herbaceous wetlands across a salinity gradient and determining how mangrove expansion might alter basal carbon sources in benthic food webs of salt marshes. 

In addition to being a researcher at the Institute, Dr. Baustian is also adjunct faculty in the Department of Oceanography and Coastal Sciences at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. 

Prior to joining the Institute, Dr. Baustian was a post-doctoral researcher at the Center for Water Sciences at Michigan State University in East Lansing, MI, where she collaborated with other water researchers that have a wide range of expertise (e.g. economics, microbiology, geography, geochemistry) to better understand the coupling of socioeconomic and ecological systems in the Great Lakes. While at Michigan State University, she also conducted research on the essential mechanisms and stressors involved in benthic-pelagic coupling of lakes, estuaries and oceans. 

Dr. Baustian earned a M.S. and Ph.D. from the Department of Oceanography and Coastal Sciences at Louisiana State University and a B.S. in biology at Iowa State University.

AREAS OF EXPERTISE

  • Dr. Baustian’s expertise includes ecological responses of aquatic ecosystems to nutrient enrichment, eutrophication and hypoxia. In particular, she is skilled in studying the benthic ecology of coastal systems including examining the role of benthic infauna and benthic microalgae and how they influence food webs and ecosystem processes in benthic and pelagic habitats.