Meet Mel Landry, Restoring Coastal Habitat in Louisiana after Deepwater Horizon

July 01, 2020

Learn more about Mel Landry's habitat conservation work as a Marine Habitat Resource Specialist.

Mel Landry and NOAA DOI CPRA partners on Restored Queen Bess Island.jpg

Mel Landry (third from left) joined federal and state trustee partners at newly restored Queen Bess Island in Louisiana.

 
Mel Landry is a Marine Habitat Resource Specialist. He has worked for NOAA for 9 years and currently works in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
 

Describe a project related to habitat that you are currently working on.

I represent NOAA in the evaluation and selection of projects to address impacts from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. One of many projects we're currently partnering on is a 1,200-acre marsh restoration project. It will pump Mississippi River sediment over a dozen miles to rebuild lost wetlands south of New Orleans, Louisiana.

What habitat work has been especially successful or inspiring to you?

Places like Plaquemines Parish and the Barataria Bay area of Louisiana are only here because the Mississippi and Atchafalaya Rivers carry sediment to Louisiana. It spreads out and accumulates in the delta. Projects intended to control the rivers and improve ease of shipping have resulted in loss of that sediment accumulation over much of southern Louisiana. Add to this storm damage from massive hurricanes like Katrina and Rita. Now the wetlands—once so abundant in wildlife and beauty—are disappearing at the rate of one football field every hour and a half. But we’re working to change that.

All of our large-scale habitat work is inspiring. As you fly into New Orleans, even thousands of feet above the ground, you can clearly pick out the thriving projects we’ve built over the past three decades. It’s amazing to see the reconstructed barrier islands that define our coast.

Describe a time when you were surprised by fish and/or habitat.

It's always surprising to see how vegetation takes up residence on our new habitat projects. We can be gone for only a couple weeks and come back to find the landscape nearly unrecognizable. On the Bayou Dupont Marsh and Ridge restoration project, head-high vegetation quickly took hold on the Mississippi River sediment we used to create our marsh platform. Within months, a moonscape became a lush grassland, all on its own.

What person has expanded your understanding or connection to habitat?

The Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program here in Louisiana has a history of inspiring and respected directors and I have the pleasure of knowing all of them. Those directors; Steve Mathies, Kerry St. Pe, and Susan Testroet-Bergeron—have each inspired me in different ways. Their communication styles, passion, and ability to connect people to habitat are attributes I continuously strive to emulate.