Wetland Warrior: Nic Dixon

An avid birder, duck hunter, and critical thinker, Nic Dixon works to share his appreciation for Louisiana’s wetlands with communities along the coast.

Q:  What is your job title and affiliation? 

A:   Outreach Associate for the National Audubon Society

Q:  How did you get started in this field and how long have you been doing this type of work? 

A:   It began at Louisiana State University’s school of Renewable Natural Resources. I’ve been in this field of work for around 10 years – starting with the field and lab positions that I held in college, up to today, working in the environmental nonprofit sector.

Q:  Describe the part of your job/role that you enjoy the most. 

A:   An enjoyable part of my job is whenever I’m getting to share the beauty of Coastal Louisiana. Whether that is producing a video of a New Orleans chef cooking up wild game harvested from the marshes of Barataria Basin, or giving a boat tour of a novel Ibis rookery in a freshwater diversion outfall area – coastal Louisiana has a lot to offer, and it feels good to help people realize that.

Q: Describe the part of your job/role that you believe is the most impactful.   

A:   This question is something that I dwell on occasionally. Our work is part of a complex machine that aims to restore the coast, so it’s really hard to say what component contributes more or less. If I attended some meeting, or if I got one more community member to make a public comment, would that contribute to even an additional grain of sand being deposited? Each component of the coastal restoration complex is very alienated from the actual production of coastal land. Even if I was the person pulling the lever on a dredge, that action is just the end of a very long line – and besides, we can’t all have our hands on that lever. 

If I had to take a guess, the most impactful thing that I do is providing my perspective of what is happening around us, be that through some form of storytelling or reconnaissance of something I see in the field, or my interpretation of a policy proposal – and with that, I hope it gives people additional context when they make decisions on where to focus their energy in daily life.

Right now, I think the best way to preserve wetlands is to get out and be in them.

Nic Dixon, National Audubon Society

Q:  What do you think is the best/easiest way people can help restore or preserve wetlands? 

A:  My answer to this question relates to the answer that I gave above. Like, can’t folks just get out there and start shoveling? It wouldn’t have an impact. Solving the problem will take a massive amount of resources and centralized decision making, and combine that with the fact that this problem isn’t material for most people, individual action would never get the job done. It’s not like an issue of “Oh, I’m hungry. I’ll need to get some food now.” The issue of preserving wetlands still greatly affects us, but there are many degrees of separation between the issue and our perceived everyday survival. 

Right now, I think the best way to preserve wetlands is to get out and be in them. Develop an understanding of them as they are, and over time, you will be able to identify what state they are in, and then be able to discuss that knowledge with your friends, family, and community. Science is a tool for having a standardized understanding, but you could also develop an academic or artistic understanding – there is a lot of literature and arts out there that can help us perceive the natural world. If you do not have the ability to get around in the wetlands, you can still observe the ecological indicators of wetland health. That’s one of the cool things about birds, since many species are migratory and rely on multiple habitat types, if you notice a change of birds in your own backyard there could be changes going on habitats that they rely on elsewhere, such as the wetlands!

Q: In your opinion why is coastal restoration in Louisiana important? For folks out of state, why is Louisiana’s coastal restoration work important for the nation? 

A:   Our ecological connections run deep and intertwine with the rest of the world. There are also good cases made on the societal and economic connections too. What more can I say? I don’t want to bore y’all with even more than what I wrote above.

Q: What is your favorite recreational activity to do in the wetlands?  

A:   Duck hunting on public land out of a pirogue. I like it because it’s something basically anyone can do with just a few hundred bucks, some courage, and a lot of trial and error – it feels more competitive than hunting on private land, or relying on machinery. But my opinion on this is probably just cope for not being able to spend money on all the nice stuff. I don’t want to be a hater because I’m just happy people are finding ways to get outside. And I do have to admit my current way of hunting is a real physical challenge – I’m sure I’ll get a boat or some land and join the petite bourgeois hunters, but for now, I’ll enjoy duck hunting on hard mode.

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