UNO professor gets grant to study oysters

A federal grant to a University of New Orleans professor looks to make sure Louisiana’s supply of oysters can keep up with the state’s appetite.

The $300,000 grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to professor Thomas Soniat seeks to develop a model for a sustainable harvest of Gulf oysters, as the bivalve’s habitat may not be enough to sustain Louisiana’s oyster industry in the future, according to a UNO news release.

Soniat is a research professor in the department of biological sciences and associate director of the Canizaro/Livingston Gulf States Center for Environmental Informatics at UNO.

The funding comes through the NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service Saltonstall/Kennedy Program.

The commercial oyster industry supports almost 4,000 jobs in the state and accounts for a $317 million economic impact every year, according to the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board.

Soniat, along with University of Southern Mississippi professor Eric Powell, will lead a team looking at options for restoring dying oyster reefs in the Gulf of Mexico.

Oysters produce their own habitat — oyster reefs — in part through dying, which adds shell carbonate to the reef. However, most reefs are losing more carbonate than they are taking in through oyster deaths. Soniat's team is looking at ways to help the reefs recover by adding shell material.

The grant “provides a unique opportunity to bring together academic scientists, state regulators and industry leaders from the Gulf states to ensure that oyster reef quality is maintained and enhanced, and that oyster populations are sustainably fished,” Soniat said.

Tulane adds member to governing board

Steven Paul, a neuroscientist and the CEO of Voyager Therapeutics, has been named a member of the Board of Tulane, the university’s main governing body.

Paul is joined by fellow newcomer Rusty Pickering, who was elected as the Tulane Alumni Association member of the board. Jenny Kottler, who previously held that position, was elected as a full member.

In addition, the university said, Carol Bernick was re-elected to a two-year term and Richard Yulman was re-elected to a one-year term.

Paul has more than 35 years of experience in the field of neuroscience after getting his bachelor’s, master’s and medical degrees from Tulane, according to the university.

“I look forward to working with President (Mike) Fitts, the university administration and my fellow board members,” Paul said. “Tulane has played such an important role in both my professional and personal lives, and this appointment will allow me the opportunity to give back to the university and to help Tulane reach even greater heights.”

Paul spent 17 years at Eli Lilly and Co. and was a professor of neuroscience, psychiatry and pharmacology at Weill Cornell Medical College. He has authored work in over 500 scientific publications and is chairman of the board of directors of the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health.

He and his wife, Tulane alumna Jann Paul, made a $10 million donation to Tulane in February for the construction of a new School of Science and Engineering building.

Tulane, Loyola host admissions conference

Tulane and Loyola universities are set to co-host the International Association for College Admission Counseling Conference from Tuesday through Friday, welcoming more than 1,400 college admissions and high school counselors from around the world.

Participants from 100 nations are expected to attend the conference this year, breaking a record, according to a Tulane news release.

The university said the focus of the conference will be on trends affecting international student admission, recruitment and enrollment, including anxieties of students coming to the United States in view of immigration restrictions imposed by President Donald Trump and his administration.

The number of international students entering the U.S. declined by 3 percent last year — the first drop in over a decade, according to the Institute of International Education.

More than 200 Tulane staff members will volunteer on campus to make sure the conference runs smoothly.

Follow Nick Reimann on Twitter, @nicksreimann.