Woody Gagliano

1936 - 2020

Sherwood M. “Woody” Gagliano, a geologist, geographer and archaeologist who documented Louisiana’s rapidly eroding coastline in the 1970s in a process that alerted the state to the problem, died on July 17, 2020 at the age of 84.

“History has shown that one person can make a difference, and that certainly applies to Woody Gagliano,” said Bren Haase, executive director of the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority. “Louisiana owes him a great debt for not only sounding the alarm in our coastal crisis, but for never giving up when few would listen.” Gagliano advocated tirelessly for a state comprehensive coastal protection program.

Dr. Gagliano;s work marked a turning point in coastal science and in the state’s decision to meet the challenge of coastal erosion at scale. “His vision allowed Louisiana to be years or decades ahead of where we would have been without Woody Gagliano,” said U.S. Rep. Garret Graves, R-Baton Rouge, and former chairman of the CPRA board. “He will be missed, but thank God we can stand upon his shoulders.”

Gagliano received his bachelor’s degree in geography and master’s degree and Ph.D in physical geography from Louisiana State University. He also served a stint in the U.S. Army.

In 1967, Gagliano founded Coastal Environments Inc., the Baton Rouge-based archaeological and applied sciences firm, while still working as a researcher studying river delta processes for the LSU Coastal Studies Institute.

Beginning in 1969, Gagliano was instrumental in documenting and designing solutions for Louisiana’s coastal erosion–a problem unrecognized by state officials before 1970, on the basis of Gagliano’s work. Don Boesch, former director of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Studies and the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium, told a local paper that the work was forward-thinking: “Fifty years later, we are still trying to execute his exact concept.” Boesch said. Gagliano assisted state officials in developing Coast 2050 in 1998, the first comprehensive effort to outline steps towards restoring or saving coastal wetlands, and in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the state’s creation of its first formal Coastal Master Plan in 2007.

Gagliano also produced groundbreaking research showing how some wetland loss was caused by slipping blocks of coastal soil along fault lines, and how the faulting could threaten levees, navigation routes, and coastal restoration projects. He and his company also developed new ways to create artificial oyster reefs – called Reef Blk – to assist in coastal restoration efforts.

Gagliano was the founding president of the Louisiana Archaeological Society and vice president of the Intracoastal Seaway Association. The Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana honored him with its Coastal Stewardship Award in 1996 and its Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012. He is survived by his wife, Betty Ann (Huxen) Gagliano, son Mark Huxen Gagliano, daughter-in-law Kristie Gagliano, and granddaughter Marguerite Lucy Gagliano.