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July 8, 2010

Toxicology students to participate in USDA initiative along Mississippi River Basin

The Toxicology Department at the University of Louisiana at Monroe will participate in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service initiative to improve water quality in the Mississippi River Basin.

The USDA is investing more than $1.5 million during the next five years in two northeastern Louisiana watersheds that includes a 20,000-acre tract in East Carroll Parish along Upper Joe’s Bayou and a 53,000-acre tract in Ouachita and Richland parishes along Bayou Lafourche.

The goal is to improve water quality by managing fertilizer and sediment runoff from agricultural land. The runoff travels down the Mississippi River and increases the hypoxic zone, or dead zone, in the Gulf of Mexico.
ULM faculty Dr. Kevin Baer and Shannon Banks, along with undergraduate and graduate toxicology students, will participate in water quality monitoring to determine success of the implementation of Best Management Practices by farmers adjacent to the watersheds.

The Toxicology Department will work closely with Mike Adcock and Donna Remides of the Northeast Delta Resource Conservation and Development Area and Michael Schooler of the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry Office of Soil and Water Conservation in these efforts.

“This is an excellent opportunity to participate in a program that gives Louisiana a chance to make significant improvements in water quality in our region,” said Baer, professor and toxicology department head. “In addition, our students will gain invaluable experience that will make them well-prepared for careers in local and state environmental agencies.”

The overall program of the USDA is an $80 million, 12-state initiative to improve water quality in the Mississippi River Basin, according to Baer. The project will begin in the next few months.

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