Coastal Resiliency: Buzan, Petty Featured on National Podcast

Dave Buzan (left) and Aaron Petty (right) recently appeared on the Environmental Professionals Radio (EPR) podcast.

A recent episode of the Environmental Professionals Radio (EPR) podcast features two Coastal Resiliency experts at Freese and Nichols. Coastal Scientists Dave Buzan and Aaron Petty discussed mussels, underwater surveying and various aquatic career paths in the one-hour episode.

EPR’s podcast is produced by the National Association of Environmental Professionals and features anything and everything related to being an environmental professional.

Here’s part of the discussion on mussels:

“In 2009, the state listed 15 of the 52 species of mussels in Texas as threatened or endangered,” Dave said. “When that happened it kicked off the need to do mussel surveys and try to understand what was going on with mussels in Texas.”

To mitigate potential impacts to these species Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) conducts surveys and relocations for all projects in perennial waters regardless of the size of the construction footprint or the type or geographic setting of the affected water body.

When we started this work to help TxDOT, there wasn’t a lot of data about mussels and their distributions of different species around the state. Over the last five to six years, Freese and Nichols and other companies have been growing a knowledge base of mussels in Texas. There’s a lot to learn about where these different mussels live within the streams and where they’re abundant, Dave added. He says Texas Parks and Wildlife is developing a database for this information. 

“Mobilization is always one of the key things when it comes to mussel surveys,” Aaron said. “We have to determine if we can access the site by foot, or if we’re going to need a vessel for deeper water. Anytime you have a survey that has a really high scuba component, diver orientation is a challenge. Typically, we use weighted lines stretched along the bottom so divers can orient themselves in the area in which they’re working when there is zero visibility in the water.”  

Dave and Aaron also discussed how they became aquatic biologists. Here’s an excerpt of the conversation:

“When I graduated from high school, I was pretty sure I wanted to be a game warden or a wildlife biologist,” Dave said. “I went to Texas A&M, and I took a wildlife biology class and I immediately wondered why in the world did I ever think I wanted to do this. But I also took a freshwater biology class, the study of fish, and I fell in love with it. I got my bachelor’s degree in fishery science from Texas A&M. I went to Texas State University, did a plankton study on a local reservoir and got a master’s degree. From there I was extremely lucky to get a job at the state water agency in Texas and that was in 1978. I’ve been working in water for the state water agency, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and now in consulting for 17 years. I think when somebody thinks about a career, they think about one particular job or one particular category of activity, but the reality is we are not in a world where everybody does the same thing. If you say you’re a biologist, somebody may have a concept of what that means, but it may be thousands of different tasks and jobs.”

“I’ve always been an outdoors kid,” Aaron said. “When I went to college at Texas Tech, I initially had aspirations of becoming a physician, but realized that wasn’t for me. I got an undergraduate degree in biology, and after realizing I didn’t want to be a teacher, I decided that grad school would help me figure out my opportunities. I went to the College of Charleston in South Carolina and got my master’s degree. I was able to do research on shrimp immunology. After I graduated, I spent some time working for the state doing oyster research. When the economy took a downtown, I came back to Texas and started my consulting career. I’ve been with Freese and Nichols now for about eight years. I think it’s very much been about saying yes to opportunities, allowing for specialization, whenever those opportunities arise.”  

Listen to the episode.

More Like This

Coastal Resiliency: Protecting Critical Infrastructure in Florida

Freese and Nichols is helping coastal communities in Florida become more resilient by assessing the climate risks and providing solutions to harden their facilities against future storms. Learn how our experts are creating a road map to resiliency for coastal treatment facilities.

Learn More

Coastal Resiliency: Rebuilding Critical Marshes in Louisiana

Coastal marshes are critical to Louisianans’ way of life: generating commercial fishing jobs, providing public recreation areas and shielding communities from storm surge. To protect lives and livelihoods, Freese and Nichols is working with Jefferson Parish to design a 600-acre marsh terrace field in the open waters of Upper Barataria Basin. This will improve coastal resiliency in an area with the highest rate of land loss in Louisiana.

Learn More