John Ashley Barras, a scientist with the U.S. Geological Survey for 32 years, passed away at his home in Baton Rouge, Louisiana on February 14, 2022.
In Memoriam – John Ashley Barras, 1962 – 2022
John’s career in monitoring and mapping wetland change in coastal Louisiana was a life-long ambition. His dedication and breadth of knowledge led him to become a leader in the study of coastal land change, storm impact, and restoration assessment. John’s work in coastal wetlands was personal—he was born in southeastern Louisiana, where his family can trace their history for over three centuries. He often shared not only his experience in coastal mapping, but his knowledge on Louisiana culture and history. He was very generous with this knowledge and his enthusiasm and love of Louisiana wetlands shone through his work.
John joined the USGS in 1991 and was a pioneer in coastal wetland change assessment. He was widely known for his detailed maps showing the effects of storm impact on coastal habitat, leading to his most famous map of land area change following the devastating 2005 hurricane season. John understood the importance of visualizing the issue for people. He had the knowledge as well as the creativity to create robust scientific products and effective visuals to easily convey that science. Throughout his career he was not only involved in developing map products, but he was also involved in every aspect of the science—cultivating partnerships, developing projects, and furthering the technology. As important to his contribution to the science was his contribution to people. John cared about his co-workers professionally and personally and handled both technical and personal issues with equal concern and enthusiasm.
In addition to the coastal Louisiana land change studies, John was involved in many other USGS initiatives such as the Gulf Coast subsidence project, 3D Elevation Program (3DEP) lidar acquisitions, the Coastal National Elevation Database (CoNED), Northern Gulf of Mexico Topobathymetric Digital Elevation Model, and the Lower Mississippi River Monitoring Project.
John’s passion and dedication to the science will be missed by many and his legacy will continue to contribute to our understanding of our complex and fragile coastal ecosystem. His memory will endure in the hearts of those who continue to discover.