Documenting Louisiana's Environment


Burkenroad in the Louisiana marshes near Port Sulphur,
marking off a section of marshland and then counting the crustaceans in it.

A special mission of the Louisiana Research Collection (LaRC) is documenting our state’s environment. Recently, LaRC made available a small collection of correspondence, handwritten notes and maps, and notated photographs of transect locations of Martin Burkenroad’s work for the Freeport Sulphur Company. Burkenroad studied the high mortality rate of oysters in Port Sulphur, La., the Freeport Canal, and other locations.

Martin David Burkenroad (1910 March 20 – 1986 January 12) was a marine biologist who specialized in decapod crustaceans and fisheries. Burkenroad was born in New Orleans and attended Tulane University for a short time. While he published several scientific papers at Tulane, he left the University without earning a degree. Afterwards, he worked for the Marine Biological Laboratory in the Dry Tortugas part of the Florida Keys and the Louisiana Department of Conservation, specifically focusing on the state’s fisheries. In 1934, he entered Yale University and participated in the Yale Oceanographic expeditions on the RV Atlantis. While at Yale, he supervised a sampling program of commercial shrimp species and conducted experiments with shrimp larval culture at the Bermuda Biological Laboratory, becoming an expert in dendrobranchiate biology and taxonomy.

After Yale, Burkenroad worked as the Chief Biologist of the North Carolina Survey of Marine Fisheries, the University of Texas marine facilities, and the Laboratorio Nacional de Pesca in Panama. In 1960, he returned to Tulane University as a researcher and published “The Evolution of the Eucarida in Relation to the Fossil Record” three years later. This article became the benchmark in modern studies of decapod evolution and classification. In 1978, Burkenroad became affiliated with the San Diego Natural History Museum and published “The Higher Taxonomy and Evolution of the Decapoda.”

Burkenroad also published articles related to astrophysics, Achulean hand axes, and did research into the interests of Lewis Carroll, the author of Alice in Wonderland.

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