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The Water Institute Welcomes New Director of Coastal and Deltaic Systems Modeling

Uprooted from his home in the foothills of Cyprus during the civil war at the age of three, Ioannis Georgiou experienced first-hand the power of community, building and creating solutions with very little. Georgiou’s creative vision for what is possible, was rooted in these experiences from making his own toys as a child, and later as a teenager helping his uncle rebuild homes for his family.

After graduating from a Technical High School in Cyprus where he learned how to work with and manipulate building materials, he attended LSU where he completed his bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering. Georgiou understood early on that environmental shifts were affecting coastlines and became interested in the movement of water. During his doctoral degree in Hydrodynamics from The University of New Orleans in 2002, his research interests expanded to include modeling of sediment and water in coastal and deltaic systems.

“I want to understand how earth systems work,” he explained, “Both in the short- (decadal) and the long- (centennial) term. I’m interested in various surface processes that affect coastal change and shape coastal landforms.”

Georgiou will join the Institute on Aug. 26 as the Director of Coastal and Deltaic Systems Modeling. Previously, Georgiou has been a professor of Earth Sciences at the University of New Orleans since 2007 and has served as Director of the Pontchartrain Institute for Environmental Sciences since 2013. His arrival at the Institute will strengthen the already close partnership between the University of New Orleans and the Institute.

Georgiou collaborates on research projects internationally, though his primary research area has been the Mississippi River Delta, with recent projects such as the evolution of Louisiana barrier islands and inlets in response to coastal erosion and interior wetland loss, the response of bays and sounds to freshwater and sediment diversions, the exchange of water and sediment during storms along barriers islands, and the dynamics of saltwater intrusion in the lower Mississippi River in response to sediment diversions.

Georgiou has led many modeling studies varying in complexity and scale and has authored numerous technical reports and peer-reviewed journal publications on surface processes operating in coastal Louisiana and the northern Gulf of Mexico.

“Ioannis is widely recognized as a leading scientist in the issues surrounding sediment and water in the Mississippi River, delta and Louisiana coast,” said Hugh Roberts, Institute Vice President for Engineering. “We’re very excited that Ioannis is bringing his extensive knowledge of coastal changes and his well-known collaborative approach to science to the Institute.”

Some of Georgiou’s more recent work with collaborators from Massachusetts and Virginia includes examining marsh sustainability in Plum Island Sound, MA, under future projections of sea-level rise, and resulting vulnerability of nearby communities, a project in south Brazil looking at how coastal systems respond to sea-level fall, as it has been in this area for thousands of years, quantifying the fate and transport of sediment during storms on marshes along the Atlantic seaboard from hurricanes (e.g., Irma) and nor’easters and storm-driven shoreline dynamics along Plum Island, MA.

In Louisiana, Georgiou’s work includes the Barrier Island Comprehensive Monitoring Program which aims to understand regional sediment trends through intensive collection and analysis of hundreds of sediment samples along the coast. Another project involves working with LSU collaborators, through Department of Interior funding, to unravel the controls and triggering mechanisms of underwater slides in the modern delta, while another project works to understand the geomorphic and economic benefits of using offshore sands for barrier island restoration projects.

Throughout all of these projects, Georgiou believes strongly in the value of being in the field, as well as behind his computer.

“Going into the field allows you to experience and visualize the processes you are modeling, and enables a better understanding of the current and future controls driving change,” Georgiou said. “It’s one thing to read about saltwater intrusion and another to document it using instrumentation in the field. There’s a real value in both.”

Georgiou lives in New Orleans with his wife Maja and their eight-year-old twins.

Story by The Water Institute of the Gulf

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