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Academic Research

As a Loyola student, you have the opportunity to work alongside our talented professors to partner in collaborative research. Learn more about some recent research and projects currently underway.

Water Quality Change in the Mississippi River

Dr. David A. White and Dr. Jenneke M. Visser published an article "Water quality change in the Mississippi River, including a warming river, explains decades of wetland plant biomass change within its Balize delta." Aquatic Botany 132 (2016) 5-11.
 

Highlights

•Wetlands in the Mississippi River’s Balize Delta, USA showed an overall plant biomass increase with a large inter-annual change from 1988–2008.

•River discharge and sediment negatively impacted the biomass over these decades, whereas river temperature had a positive impact.

•The decadal plant biomass likely increased because of the impact of a 0.9 °C/decade increase in river temperature on growing season length.

•The added river temperature increased the growing season 0.7 days each year from 1983–2012, or 14.7 days over the shorter biomass study period.

•Climate change and land use/cover change in the catchment are likely responsible for the river and wetland biomass change in the Balize Delta.

 

Abstract

Ecosystem properties of riverine wetlands are known for high inter-annual variability. This multi-decadal study within the wetland complex of the Mississippi River’s Balize Delta, USA assesses how river parameters (temperature, discharge, and sediment load) impact wetland plant biomass over time and space. The Mississippi River’s annual temperature has increased 0.9 °C/decade, while discharge and sediment load has varied without trend over the same period. End-of-season herbaceous biomass increased 14 g/m2/year between 1988 and 2008, extrapolating to large (m-ton) area-wide increases. The river’s temperature, discharge and sediment impacted the Delta’s biomass in two ways: the increase in temperature had a positive impact on the growing season length which increased biomass; whereas discharge and load had negative impacts affecting the inter-annual variation without a temporal trend. The results explain natural variability in ecosystem processes in a dynamic deltaic system and likely trace a signal related to both climate warming and land use change within the drainage of the Mississippi River. The discovered decadal increase in herbaceous biomass has implications on carbon storage in the inshore and offshore receiving basins of the world’s riverine wetlands experiencing longer growing seasons.

First-Year Seminar on Cultural Blending

Islam, Spain, New Orleans
(This course is ONLY open to students who are enrolled into the Honors program)

Professor Eileen J. Doll, Department of Languages and Cultures

Disciplines:  Literature, Medieval History

How does one culture influence another? Starting with the medieval history of Spain, when Islamic culture was at its peak in Europe, this course examines how Islamic culture affected the existing Christian and Jewish cultures of the Iberian Peninsula. We explore the cross-cultural history of 18th-century New Orleans, when it was part of the Spanish empire. Connecting to the present, we also investigate current immigration --legal and illegal-- from Africa to Spain, and compare the problems and benefits of cross-cultural assimilation to those in the United States, and particularly to Louisiana. The class includes a required Service Learning project for the Isleños Museum and community of St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana.

Dr. Doll teaches all areas of Peninsular Spanish Literature and Culture, as well as introductory, intermediate, and advanced Spanish language classes. Dr. Doll is the Director of the Loyola Summer Program in Spain. 

Florence Clement (Philosophy/Spanish major 2015), Loyola Undergraduate Collaborative Scholarship Scholar with the University Honors Program, assisted Dr. Doll in the creation of this class. Florence did bibliographic research, helped plan the Service Learning Project, and developed questions for some of the readings.

For more information, see this video: https://vimeo.com/120815705

Making a better world: A project examining motivation to improve collective well-being

Dr. Chuck Nichols' project seeks to better understand the correlates, causes, and effects of wanting and working toward collective betterment.  Caring about and helping close others and even complete strangers can provide strong psychological benefits for the helper as well as the helped. However, some surveys suggest that individuals may be becoming more selfish and less other-focused in recent decades, potentially undermining overall well-being. This project employs survey and experimental methodology to explore what leads people to care about and act to help others.

Senior Capstone Projects

The central component of the Department of Sociology's required Senior Capstone course is a one-to-one faculty-mentored, collaborative research project. The department also has a consistent record of incorporating students into grant funded research projects.

Below are examples of some of the recent Senior Capstone projects:

 

Twitter Wars: Social Media, Ethnicity, and Political Participation

Zahra Abdeljaber with Dr. Talukdar

 

Restore the Oaks: Public Art as Social Protest in the Historic Treme Neighborhood

Mark Gouda with Dr. Parham

 

Vulnerabilities to Trafficking Among Foster Care Youth

Molly Alper with Dr. MacGregor

 

The Lasting Impact of Participation in a Black Greek Letter Organization: An Examination of Social Capital

Eli Green with Dr. MacGregor

 

HIV in Prisons

Hannadi Mirfiq with Dr. Kondkar

 

Exploring the Gendered Curricula of Formal Sex Education 

Callie Dorsey with Dr. Talukdar

 

School to Prison Pipeline

Eleni Roulakis with Dr. Capowich

 

Child Abuse as an Extension of Violence Against Women 

Amy Cole with Dr. Kondkar

 

An Exploratory Study of Social Network Influences on Cultural Creativity in Popular Culture

Emily Bauer with Dr. Capowich

 

No Such Thing as a Free Lunch? Social Exchange Among the Hare Krishna

Caitlin Cowlen with Dr. Kondkar

 

The Role of Faith Based Initiatives in Corrections

Gianna Carbone with Dr. Voigt

 

The After School Zone of Kipp Central City Primary: A Case Study

Kelsey Coyle with Dr. Miron

 

Judging Books by Their Covers: An Intersectional Analysis of the Male Gaze and Attitudes toward Thinness

Marisa Gentler with Dr. MacGregor

 

Exploring the Relationship between Antidepressant Use and Suicide

Julie Castellini with Dr. Kondkar

National Identity After A Conflict

Dr. Natasha Bingham is writing a paper with a student entitled "Redefining National Identity after a Conflict: National Identity Formation among Northern Irish Youth."

Nanomaterial Synthesis

Dr. Heinecke’s research interests focus on nanomaterials synthesis and their applications in biomedicine and electronic devices. She is interested in 1) developing cationic nanomaterials as a platform for multivalent display of host defense peptides as novel antibiotic agents and 2) building defined molecular assemblies of these small materials for electron transport properties. This type of multidisciplinary research will afford students the opportunity to learn a wide variety of scientific techniques.

Effects of Rouseau Cane on Coastal Wetlands

For almost a quarter century, Loyola University New Orleans biologists and ecologists Donald Hauber, Ph.D., Craig Hood, Ph.D, David White, Ph.D., and several undergraduate honors students, have studied the origination and effects of the common reed known locally as Rouseau Cane on the marshes and coastal wetlands of southeast Louisiana.

Their findings, which detail the spread of this plant and its role in coastal protection, is found in a published study, “Genetic Variation in the Common Reed, Phragmites australis, in the Mississippi River Delta Marshes: Evidence for Multiple Introductions.”

“Rouseau Cane has dramatically increased in the coastal wetlands along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts during the past century,” White said. “The species’ spread is mainly due to the introduction of new gene types from Europe. These invasive types are becoming more common in the interior marshes of the Mississippi River Delta, land that is extremely rich in nutrients.”

The Mississippi River Delta covers an area roughly 521,000 acres, but during the last 40 years, it has been significantly reduced due to lack of river sediment coupled with high natural subsidence.

P. australis is the dominant emergent vegetation in the Delta’s outer two-thirds and is believed to play a major role in stabilizing these extensive marshes by breaking wave action and storm surges from the open Gulf while also capturing and retaining river sediment. “This stabilizing role protects the diverse interior marsh communities that provide food and breeding habitat for wildlife, particularly birds,” said White.

In recent years however, the new European gene types of P. australis, have begun to expand into the interior marshes displacing food and habitat resources for wildlife. This new invasion into these inner marshes is thought to have negative impacts on sustaining the migratory and local wildlife.

In the study, Hauber, Hood and White identified several new DNA types of P. australis which were likely brought here by migratory birds, river currents or ships. These European types are increasing the species’ footprint in the delta at an alarming rate, according to White.

The researchers have been monitoring the spread of the Rouseau Cane through aerial views of the wetlands to study the impact from above. 

White noted the massive impact of Hurricane Katrina on the wetlands. “Flying over the coast and the Mississippi Delta, it is a terrifying and powerful image because of what is no longer there and it proves to me that the city is more vulnerable to another significant storm surge than I previously imagined. If every citizen of Louisiana had this kind of flight opportunity, we’d be moving much quicker and with far more attention to protecting and restoring our coast.”

Flights have confirmed that the invasive types of P. australis is spreading throughout their research sites in the inner marshes of the delta. In a similar flight during the spring of 2006, White observed small areas of the invasive P. australis that are now much larger and spreading to other areas outside the delta. The Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill caused some coastal wetlands loss along the very margins of the delta’s shoreline, according to the researchers. "The total wetland loss in the delta is remarkably low as a result of the spill, though any loss is very troublesome,” White said. “The small amount of loss is partly due to the freshwater sheet flow that kept oil away from the delta freshwater wetlands, and partly because of the peripheral stands of the P. australis which became the frontline physical barrier to oil invasion inland.”

White, Hood and Hauber use photo images from wetland fly-overs to continue studying P. australis in their study areas. “The study of P. australis is central to the health and stability of the wetlands of the Mississippi River Delta,” said White.

A Within Host Model of Dengue Virus Infection

Dr. Jeremy Thibodeaux and senior mathematics student Michael Hennessey have derived a system of differential equations that model certain blood cell and particle populations in the body when it is infected with Dengue virus. The model aims to capture the relevant physiological processes to provide researchers a tool to develop more effective antiviral drugs and treatments in the fight against Dengue Fever.

Just Desserts

Dr. Karen Rosenbecker has an article “Just Desserts: Reversals of Fortune, Feces, Flatus, and Food in Aristophanes’ Wealth” that will appear in Harvard Studies in Classical Philology, vol. 108, spring 2015.

Currency Exchange

Dr. Karen Rosenbecker and Professor Artemis Preeshl have had their article, “Currency Exchange: Staging Aristophanes’ Wealth in New Orleans” published in the journal, Didaskalia.

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