Meet Our Staff: Q&A with Theryn Henkel

04.30.2018 | In People
By Theryn Henkel, Assistant Director of Coastal Sustainability Program, Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation

WELCOME TO OUR STAFF Q&A SERIES WHERE YOU CAN MEET THE PEOPLE BEHIND RESTORE THE MISSISSIPPI RIVER DELTA! TODAY WE'RE CHATTING WITH Theryn Henkel, ASSISTANT DIRECTOR OF COASTAL SUSTAINABILITY with the LAKE PONTCHARTRAIN BASIN FOUNDATION AND RESTORE THE MISSISSIPPI RIVER DELTA.
CLICK HERE TO MEET MORE OF OUR TEAM.

Tell us a little about what you do with the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation and Restore the Mississippi River Delta?

At LPBF I am the Assistant DIrector of the Coastal Sustainability Program. I study how our estuary functions and how to restore the most important functions. I am heavily involved with our swamp restoration program and studying the natural regeneration of our swamps. With Restore the Mississippi River Delta, I work with committees to keep up to speed with the latest in restoration science, review reports and restoration plans, and advocate for science-based restoration. We also track our priority projects, identifying slow downs or areas where these projects can be sped up to reach construction more quickly.

Theryn Henkel measuring soil salinity in the ghost swamp in the Central Wetlands.

How did you become interested in working in coastal restoration?

I moved to Louisiana to do my dissertation in forested wetlands. Through that, I learned of the land loss crisis in Louisiana, and wanted to be part of the solution.

We know the task of addressing land loss is daunting. What gives you hope?

I am hopeful because I can see the coast rebuilding at many locations where the delta is connected to the Mississippi River. I study the Caernarvon Freshwater Diversion quite a bit, and there we see not only over 750 acres of new land, but also a thriving delta, lush with wildlife and verdant plants. This diversion was not meant to build land and look at what it is doing! Imagine what we could do with diversions that were meant to build land. Basically, I don’t need to hope, I know we can do it!

Theryn Henkel - Restore the Mississippi River DeltaWhat are some of the most important projects you’ve worked on?

Restoring swamp. Swamp not only provides great habitat and is culturally important in Louisiana, it is also great at reducing storm surge and doesn’t really get damaged in the high winds associated with hurricanes. Some of my favorite field days are spent in some of Louisiana’s healthy swamps, and I hope that we create much more healthy swamp for future generations to enjoy through our swamp restoration program.

What is your favorite Louisiana food or restaurant?

My favorite restaurants right now is Cowbell……I am not sharing the mac and cheese, just so we are clear and Bayou Wine Garden (best cheese plate!!!)

If you could have any other job for a day, what would it be?

Lead dancer (not backup!)

What is your favorite coastal critter?

Well I am a plant ecologist and feel this question is very biased towards fauna, so I am going to answer with a flora. I love the swamp red maple. This tree puts out bright red seeds before it leafs out in the spring, so it is the first bit of color in the swamp in the spring time. It lets me know spring is on the way!

Anything else you want to share with us?

I am president of the Greater New Orleans Women’s Soccer League. It’ a recreational league that is a lot of fun. Ladies, check us out!