The University of Louisiana-Monroe recently received $2.5 million in federal funding through allocations sponsored by U.S. Rep. Julia Letlow and U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy.
Of that, $2 million was sponsored by Letlow and is planned to be spent on the State Mesonet Network Project. The other $505,000 was sponsored by Cassidy and will go toward the Mobilized Aid and Disaster Relief for Emergencies (M.A.D.R.E) project.
The Mesonet project entails the installation of weather-monitoring stations across the state which could improve severe weather forecasting.
“Our universities are the economic engines of our region, and I was proud to help secure this substantial federal investment for the University of Louisiana-Monroe,” Letlow said. “This project at ULM will provide critical information to our farmers, small business owners, and community leaders so they can better plan and respond to weather events.”
Todd Murphy, an atmospheric science professor at ULM, said planning for the project began about a year and a half ago.
“It’s a project specifically that has instrumentation that will help with severe and hazardous weather detection,” Murphy said. “Better understanding of local climate in areas, big implications for our ag community, because you better-understand lots of weather scenarios. That’s important for our farmers. Things like soil, moisture, percentage and soil temperature is all important for when they plan.”
The funding is planned to be used for the purchase of equipment and the installation of 100 Mesonet sites across the state. There will be at least one in each parish, with some parishes having several sites.
“We’re the only atmospheric science program in the state of Louisiana,” Murphy said. “It will certainly be a component of some of our classes. We can include entire units on instrumentation. We also more than likely will employ either current or past students to help set up the Mesonets and help with running it during the year.”
Meanwhile the M.A.D.R.E project, which was put together by a group of students and faculty in the College of Health Sciences and the College of Pharmacy, plans to build a mobile pharmacy unit.
“The M.A.D.R.E. project will help northeast Louisiana build healthier and safer communities,” Cassidy said. “It serves Louisiana families with a double purpose, both of which are focused on saving lives.”
The unit will be deployed during times of crisis, like when people are displaced during natural disasters, but will also be used during non-disaster times to help those in rural or under-served communities.
Donald Simpson, dean of the College of Health Sciences, said the project would be life-saving for people who were unable to access their needed medication or had no means of transportation.
“It’ll provide medication for those that need their hypertension or diabetes or heart medications,” Simpson said. “In the rest of the time, it will be able to go to places where communities are under-served, homeless shelters, rural areas.”