Press Releases

Jessica Renee Henkel, science advisor at the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council, joins The Water Institute

BATON ROUGE, La. (June 2, 2022) – Jessica Renee Henkel, Ph.D., science advisor and coordinator for the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council (RESTORE Council), will be joining The Water Institute as Deputy Director to the Chief Scientist on June 13.

“I’ve been so impressed watching The Water Institute grow over the last decade as it has expanded its range and diversity of scientific research expertise,” Henkel said. “I’m excited about the work The Water Institute is doing to advance science that is not just applicable here, in Louisiana, but across the Gulf of Mexico and nationally.”

Henkel received her bachelor’s degree in English from Stony Brook University, but a semester spent at sea studying marine biology as she sailed across the Pacific Ocean on a tall ship, turned her mind to science. After graduation, she worked in science publishing for Cambridge University Press until she decided she wanted to be producing the science, not publishing other scientists' work.

Moving to New Orleans, Henkel received her master’s degree in conservation biology from the University of New Orleans and then her Ph.D. in ecology and evolutionary biology from Tulane University. Her research focus looked at the migration ecology of shorebirds along the northern Gulf of Mexico and the impacts of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. As part of a fellowship through the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine she started work as a science policy fellow with the RESTORE Council where she eventually was named the science advisor and coordinator.

“When I was with the RESTORE Council, Jessica’s ability to bring together representatives from the Gulf states and federal agencies was indispensable in developing the Council’s mission and goals,” said Alyssa Dausman, Ph.D., senior vice president and chief scientist at The Water Institute. “Her commitment to science and applicable research makes her a great addition to The Water Institute team.”

During her time with the RESTORE Council, Henkel worked extensively to connect and build consensus across federal and state agency representatives on the RESTORE Council, established by Congress through the Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourist Opportunities and Revived Economies of the Gulf Coast States Act (RESTORE Act). Her work included developing guidance on how Council-funded restoration activities should be monitored, the design and development of databases to support the Council in tracking and assessing its work and advising how that information could be used to inform restoration planning at watershed and regional scales.

“I had the pleasure of working with Jessica at the RESTORE Council and am so grateful that she is joining our growing team,” said Justin R. Ehrenwerth, president and CEO of The Water Institute. “Jessica’s deep knowledge of the Gulf, background in structured decision making, and her commitment to transdisciplinary collaboration, make her a perfect fit for the Institute. I know she will add so much to our work and the Institute’s culture.”