Getting to Know: Christopher Bonvillain
September 26, 2018
Christopher Bonvillain, assistant professor and graduate program coordinator in the department of biological sciences, received his Bachelor of Science in biology with a concentration in environmental biology and his Master of Science in marine environmental biology at Nicholls State University. He went on to receive his Doctor of Philosophy in wildlife and fisheries science at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge.
On campus, students can find Bonvillain teaching senior and graduate level environmental courses. Aside from teaching, he is also the graduate program coordinator for the biology department.
For over 10 years, Bonvillain has devoted his research to wild, red swamp crawfish. He said he’s looking for ways to improve wild crawfish.
“How does water quality and different biotic and abiotic variables affect crawfish production? In other words, what makes crawfish better? What makes bigger crawfish and what catches more crawfish?” Bonvillain said.
Bonvillain was recently appointed to the International Board of Astacology due to his devoted research on red swamp crawfish.
When asked about his appointment to the board, Bonvillain said, “It’s an honor to get appointed to the board. It’s great for the United States and Southern U.S. crawfish, too.”
Astacology is the study of crawfish, and Bonvillain is one of only two members appointed to the board from the United States.
The association looks at crawfish from over 40 different countries. The board is composed of academia, state and federal organizations and people who work in the crawfish industry. Bonvillain contributes to the academia side of the board.
Crawfish are considered an invasive species to most places outside of Louisiana. The association focuses on stopping the invasion of red swamp crawfish and how to deal with them when they do invade a non-native area.
With his knowledge on red swamp crawfish, Bonvillain is able to play a unique role with the board when dealing with the invasive species. His knowledge of the red swamp crawfish is useful not only for knowledge of the species, but also his economic knowledge.
Bonvillain said, “In a lot of states, crawfish is not a fishing industry. In Louisiana it is, so I kind of represent the economic side of crawfish.”
In his most recent research, Bonvillain and his graduate students focused on surveying the Atchafalaya River Basin. The Atchafalaya River Basin is where over 90 percent of wild crawfish are harvested. From a recent stock assessment of a 3-mile radius of the basin, Bonvillain’s graduate students recorded over 52,000 crawfish in an area of the Atchafalaya River Basin during the 2018 crawfish season.
Bonvillain’s research is the first of its kind to survey the Atchafalaya Basin. He said he hopes to get a better understanding of the crawfish population and what makes crawfish thrive.
For his research to show any significant data, it will take many years of surveying to fully understand the population of red swamp crawfish in the Atchafalaya River Basin.
Unlike other wildlife, crawfish do not have a season. Most fishermen fish at a specific time, when crawfish are abundant and in demand.
The Atchafalaya River Basin has a high flood pulse in the summer months, which allows for higher crawfish production in the area. Bonvillain and his students use their research in the basin to compare the lack of a flood pulse in the Barataria Estuary and how not receiving the flood pulse from the Mississippi river can affect the production in the Barataria Estuary.