Gulf Coast sociologist and researcher Shirley Laska to speak at Auburn University

AUBURN – The Auburn University Office of Sustainability will present a lecture, “Using local ecological knowledge to aid restoration decisions in the Gulf of Mexico,” by Shirley Laska, professor emerita of sociology and founding past director of the Center for Hazards Assessment, Response and Technology at the University of New Orleans, Wednesday, April 18, at 4:30 p.m. in 2370 Haley Center.

Laska has more than two decades of experience working in coastal Louisiana and has become a leading authority on coastal restoration and hazard mitigation. Through intensive field research with diverse coastal populations in Louisiana, she said she has come to appreciate the importance of traditional ecological knowledge that is part of local community cultures.

In the lecture, she will talk about how local knowledge can improve the work of credentialed scientists and democratize the formulation of coastal policy. She will also speak on how the integration of different forms of knowing can be applied to long-term problems such as land loss due to subsidence and sea level rise on the Louisiana coast, as well as to acute disasters, such as the 2010 Macando explosion and its impact on the people and ecosystem of the Gulf of Mexico. The presentation will feature a remote link to the research team working with Laska on traditional ecological knowledge in coastal Louisiana.

“One of the key points in sustainability is acknowledging that all voices must be heard in creating a sustainable future,” said Jennifer Morse of the Office of Sustainability. “Dr. Laska’s research makes this point in a powerful way. We are excited to have her come to campus to talk about how local communities have much to offer toward solving complex ecological problems in the Gulf of Mexico and elsewhere.”

The lecture is free to the public and is part of the Office of Sustainability’s Campus Conversations program.

Laska’s work also includes studies on residential flood mitigation, hurricane response, coastal land loss effects, coastal fisheries, community risk assessment and risk management for coastal hazards, use of information technology and GIS as support tools for disaster management, and evacuation of the vulnerable.

(Contributed by Jennifer Morse.)

Contact: Jennifer Morse, Office of Sustainability, (334) 844-7777 (, or
Mike Clardy, Office of Communications and Marketing, (334) 844-9999 (