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Ogden Honors College sophomore named 2022 Udall Scholar

LSU sophomore Bridget Seghers has been named a 2022 Udall Scholar by the Morris K. Udall and Stewart L. Udall Foundation. The Covington native was one of fifty-five students selected from a pool of 382 candidates, and the only scholar from Louisiana.  A 20-member independent review committee selected this year's group of Udall Scholars on the basis of commitment to careers in the environment, Tribal public policy, or Native health care; leadership potential; record of public service; and academic achievement. 

Seghers, an Ogden Honors College student majoring in animal sciences and linguistics, is a Louisiana Service and Leadership (LASAL) and Stamps Scholar. 

Seghers is an aspiring global health veterinarian who aims to promote ecological balance, mitigate human-wildlife conflicts, and encourage environmentally sustainable livestock management.

LSU has given Seghers the resources to pursue a career addressing environmental issues, a dream realized long before she stepped foot on campus. “In 2016, I went to a weeklong wetlands camp at a state wildlife refuge. My once-tiny comfort zone and fear of the Gulf had made me scared of the camp's hands-on aspect. Immersion in coastal culture, like fishing alongside locals and eating our catch for dinner, involved us in the importance of what we were learning about. When we boated to the bayou to plant marsh grass, we were shown where prior campers' grass was thriving. It moved me to think that the grass we planted that day could outlive us,” Seghers recalls. 

“I used to write off my ability to speak up for the land around me since I didn't grow up on the water. This camp showed me that there will be no environmental messiahs—this is an all-hands-on-deck issue and we can all be part of the solution. I returned home determined to step into advocacy, seek a career that helped the environment, and do my part.” 

Seghers leads wetlands education activities and has written a book highlighting Louisiana’s endangered species. She’s passionate about making conservation issues accessible to the public and expanding environmental literacy. 

As a student researcher, Seghers has been working as part of the NOAA RESTORE Science Program in Dr. Michael Polito’s lab in the College of the Coast where she prepares fish and plant samples for isotopic analysis. This allows the team to build food webs of their study sites’ habitats and understand how the ecology of the Gulf changes over time.

Seghers is currently the lead undergraduate investigator on a project seeking to remedy the harm of invasive Asian carp fish in Mississippi River ecosystems. Asian carp disrupt local fisheries by voraciously outcompeting native species. To increase commercial harvest of the fish, her team is exploring using carp as feed for farm-raised aquaculture fish. 

To determine the safety of this proposal, her team will run nutrient profiles and toxicology reports on carp harvested from the Gulf. Seghers’ personal addition to the project is the analysis of the carps' stomachs for microplastics, as she is interested in how microplastics are accumulating in both wildlife and farm-raised animals. Plastic particles pose a threat to environmental, animal, and human health alike, and even if the research finds that the carp are too contaminated, the team will at least contribute to what is known about the effects of environmental pollution in Louisiana. However, if the research provides a science-based greenlight to use carp as aquaculture feed, commercial harvest of the carp will help restore balance to Louisiana’s native fisheries.