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AP team explores NASA climate research in Louisiana delta

The Wax Lake Outlet, right, and Wax Lake Delta, part of the Atchafalaya Basin, seen from 8,500 feet in an aerial photo in St. Mary Parish, La., May 25, 2021. Scientists from NASA are studying the delta; along with a half-dozen universities they aim to create computer models that can be used with satellite data to let countries around the world learn which parts of their dwindling deltas can be shored up and which are past hope. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

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The New Orleans team of Janet McConnaughey, Gerald Herbert and Stacey Plaisance explained in all formats an intensive, highly technical NASA study of Louisiana’s deltas designed to help protect and bolster the world’s deltas dwindling with climate change.

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A Buffalo treehopper clings to a leaf along Hog Bayou, part of the Wax Lake Delta system in St. Mary Parish, La., May 1, 2021. – AP Photo / Gerald Herbert

McConnaughey and Herbert captured the start of the five-year study that is expected to help countries around the globe decide which of their deltas can be saved and which are beyond help. McConnaughey, who has been writing for decades about Louisiana’s land loss, learned about the project through a news release and stayed in touch with NASA and Louisiana State University researchers for more than a year. She and Herbert eventually joined one of the researchers on his own boat to interview scientists doing research in the field.

Herbert used his own small plane and a kayak — trips frequently delayed by storms and major breaking news — to get exquisite environmental shots and video of the delta to illustrate the wetlands and wildlife scientists hope to protect. Video journalist Plaisance combined her own video with Herbert’s for a piece bringing the research to life. A separate photo gallery of Herbert’s striking nature photos in Hog Bayou,with poetic text by McConnaughey,completed the multiformat package, making a complex scientific effort understandable.

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Andre Rovai, research scientist for the LSU Department of Oceanography and Coastal Science, uses a real-time kinetic GPS to take measurements on Mike Island, part of the Wax Lake Delta in the Atchafalaya Basin, in St. Mary Parish, La., April 2, 2021. NASA is using high-tech airborne systems along with boats and mud-slogging island work in a $15 million study of these sections of Louisiana’s river delta system. – AP Photo / Gerald Herbert
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