Scientific entrepreneurs launch company to restore Louisiana’s coastal forests

Two scientists believe their method of planting cypress and tupelo trees—in special rodent-resistant pods—can revive the region’s disappearing marshes.

In its ongoing battle against coastal erosion, Louisiana is looking for all the help it can get—including from the husband-wife research team of Gary Shaffer and Demetra Kandalepas.

The couple has found a way to restore wetlands by planting trees in an innovative pod and nourishing them with wastewater.

This spring, their company, Wetland Resources, won $10,000 in seed capital from the Greater New Orleans Foundation at New Orleans Entrepreneur Week. It could prove a crucial ally in combating the state’s land loss.

Shaffer, a professor of biological sciences at Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond, Louisiana, and Kandalepas, a doctorate-holding ecologist, founded Wetland Resources in 2009. The company grows and plants what Shaffer calls “hurricane-resistant” trees in coastal areas.

Because of their extensive lateral root systems, Shaffer says, strategically planted cypress and tupelo trees can serve as an effective barrier to knock down storm surges and reduce winds.

They can’t be blown over. They’re exceptionally strong and can live up to a thousand years, even through hurricanes,” he says.

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