Coastal Careers

Wetland career opportunities are as diverse as the ecosystems they focus on. Whether you want to restore, study, inform, or otherwise utilize the abundance of ecosystem services, wetlands can provide a lifelong, rewarding career.  Involvement in wetlands is not limited to the sciences; it includes numerous different disciplines. Wetland careers also span various organizations from local to the federal level and from the private sector, nonprofits, and public service positions.

Wetland restoration involves several professions within the bounds of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math). Coastal biologists, hydrologists, botanists, engineers, modelers, and GIS specialists are all involved in planning, constructing, and monitoring CWPPRA restoration projects. In addition to STEM professionals, the coast needs professionals that work with the communities who are impacted by coastal wetland loss and policymakers who leverage the law to ensure local, state, and federal governments prioritize coastal wetland restoration. Coastal organizations also need grant writers and development professionals to generate funds for advocacy, engagement, and restoration projects as well as individuals who are involved in the day-to-day operations of the organization.

In addition to coastal restoration careers, many individuals benefit financially from the services and resources the wetlands provide. Wetlands supply jobs in fossil fuel production, the seafood industry, and agriculture production for Louisiana’s workforce and contribute billions of dollars to our state each year. These industries have a variety of careers within STEM, social sciences, administrative, and communication fields.

Tourism and education professionals are also invested in keeping wetlands healthy. These professionals are enthusiastic to share the splendor of our state with visitors from far and wide. Teaching both our native population and out-of-state neighbors the importance of keeping wetlands working properly is one of the main goals of the CWPPRA Outreach Office, alongside many great friends and partners from groups like BTNEP and RESTORE the Mississippi River Delta.

Wetlands can also inspire careers within the arts. Artists find some of their greatest stories and strongest inspiration in the wetlands of Louisiana’s. Painters such as George Rodrigue, photographers like Frank Relle, writers such as James Lee Burke, and musicians such as Lost Bayou Ramblers, to name a few, have all found inspiration in our charming, vibrant wetlands.

If you’re interested in wetlands, there’s probably a job for you that incorporates your other interests. The fight to restore and protect our wetlands is all encompassing and there’s numerous outlets for your curiosity, creativity and innovation!

 

 

 

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EcoSTEAM Summer Camp

Lafayette Consolidated Government’s Project Front Yard hosts five weeks of a summer camp focused on environmental issues and STEAM activities. Eco-STEAM began June 17 and CWPPRA joined campers June 24 through 28. Our Wetland Warriors program included three days of wetland-based activities, outlining important adaptations that help plants and animal species with survival in the dynamic coastal wetlands of Louisiana.

We began on Monday with Wetland Jeopardy because it leads into discussion about wetland ecosystem services and children enjoy the friendly competition. The next day, we focused more specifically on wetland plants and their importance to overall ecosystem health. The Girard Park pond was helpful to discuss adaptations like the bald cypress. Our last day centered on wetland animals, mostly birds, and some of their adaptation for wetlands habitats. Birds are an excellent teaching tool because some can swim, walk, and fly, and beak variability can have some serious implications on species distribution. The campers enjoyed the beak variability activity, which challenged them to use a spoon, a fork, a straw and a toothpick to pick up various shaped snacks like gummy worms, sunflower seeds, goldfish crackers, and mini M&Ms. Our week of wetland instruction concluded with a field trip to Lafayette’s Acadiana Park Nature Station.

This was the Eco-STEAM’s second year and CWPPRA was thrilled to be included again, alongside great community partners including local IT giant CGI, UL Lafayette’s Hilliard Art Museum, the McComb-Veazey Neighborhood Coterie, and Lafayette Consolidated Government’s Office of Community Development, Parks and Recreation Department, and Recycling Division. This program is offered as an affordable summer option for area kindergarten through eighth grade students and we interacted with just over 100 eager new “Wetland Warriors.”

 

GOMA All Hands Meeting

Community Outreach and Media Specialist Kacie Wright represented the CWPPRA Outreach Team at the Gulf of Mexico Alliance (GOMA) All Hands Meeting in Gulf Shores, Alabama. Like CWPPRA, GOMA highlights the importance of partnerships to enhance the health of the Gulf Coast. Similarly to CWPPRA being made up of five federal agencies, GOMA is led by leaders of the five Gulf States (Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida) and includes a network of individuals from nonprofits, federal agencies, businesses, and academic organizations throughout the Gulf Coast. At the All Hands Meeting, attendees broke into Priority Issue Teams to address issues such as Community Resilience, Data & Monitoring, Education & Engagement, Habitat Resources, Wildlife & Fisheries, and Water Resources. 

Because CWPPRA promotes the value of wetlands and engage the public in the importance of coastal restoration, we attended the Education & Engagement Priority Team meeting. At the meeting, individuals shared new ideas and projects to enhance the Gulf Coast. Team members from the Texas Aquarium shared their work engaging teachers to improve coastal curriculum in schools through NOAA’s Watershed Environmental Education Grants. One individual from the Galveston Bay Keeper detailed her project on changing the behavior of individuals who toss their fishing line into the bay.

The Director of the Mississippi State University Television Center, David Garraway, also presented to the Education & Engagement Team about best practices for crafting effective visual storytelling and going live on social media. Garraway shared the importance of understanding your audience and the message you want to share when creating video content for social media. A key message of his presentation was “show your audience, don’t tell them” when creating videos. 

The Education & Engagement Team also highlighted GOMA’s Embrace the Gulf 2020 campaign. Next year is the ten-year anniversary of the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and the fifteen-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. GOMA will highlight the benefits gulf ecosystems bring to the communities along the coast. While these disasters have made us stronger, they do not define our communities. We all live and work along the Gulf Coast because we love it here. During Embrace the Gulf 2020, GOMAis planning 365 facts to share with their network and a blueways-paddling trail throughout all five Gulf States. This paddling trail will encourage people to get out on the water and enjoy the coastal ecosystems all along the Gulf Coast. 

The CWPPRA Outreach Team had a great time in Gulf Shores, Alabama, but we are excited to be back in Coastal Louisiana embracing all the new ideas about engaging outreach content and connections with other ambitious groups we formed at the GOMA All Hands Meeting. We are ready to Embrace the Gulf in 2020 and we hope to see you on the Paddle the Gulf paddle trail! We will keep y’all posted as it develops!

 

World Oceans Day

In 2008, the United Nations designated June 8 World Oceans Day. World Oceans Day, an independent organization established in 2002 advocates for ocean preservation. Even earlier in 1992, there was discussion about a need to raise awareness across the world about the importance of a healthy ocean. Hundreds of visitors streamed through the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas on Saturday, June 8, 2019 to celebrate the oceans of the world.

We were excited to celebrate the health of our oceans at the Aquarium of the Americas because so many of Louisiana’s citizens rely on it for their livelihoods. Alongside partners such as BTNEP, our Outreach Team visited with hundreds of enthusiastic aquarium-goers from across the country. Our table was at the mouth of the Mississippi River section on the second floor, next to one of the Audubon Institute’s famed “leucistic” (partial loss of pigment, appearing white) alligators, Tchompitoulas.

Each family at the event was given an activity sheet as they entered, directing them to each of the different tables to collect stamps. To earn their butterfly stamp from CWPPRA, they had to learn the average number of minutes it takes to lose one acre, or a football field, of land in coastal Louisiana. On top of that, many of the younger participants were really excited to learn about the animals in our habitat toss game. Despite not being allowed to take the bean bags home, they still had fun learning about different coastal habitats and the resources they provide.

Endangered Species

Vanishing wetlands pose a threat to species who reside in these unique habitats for all or part of their life cycle. Population decline can be caused by a variety of threats, including invasive species competition, habitat loss, and overharvesting or over-predation. There are species who rely heavily on constant or predictable conditions in specific parts of the year such as seasonal rainfall, temperature cycles, and sometimes other species who migrate for part of the year. Populations subjected to too much stress for an extended period often experience population decline as well. In some cases, those species become threatened, endangered, or even extinct.

CWPPRA and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will celebrate and observe Endangered Species Day on May 17th, 2019, to celebrate and highlight the species and habitat protection efforts throughout the coast. Louisiana is home to 11 endangered species, including three species of bivalve mollusks, three species of sea turtle, two species of birds, two plants, and one fish. Of these, every single one is reliant on wetlands. All three bivalves (fat pocketbook, pink mucket, and tan riffleshell) are freshwater filter feeders who live in flowing water. They clean pollutants from the water before it reaches our coastline, improving water quality for our coastal residents. Sea turtles are among the most popular sea creatures and they rely on our coast for their nesting grounds. Leatherback (largest, deepest-diving, and most migratory), hawksbill (thickest scutes/shells), and Kemp’s ridley (smallest and rarest) feed on different creatures, but they seem to all agree on jellyfish. The two bird species on the list are the interior least tern and the red-cockaded woodpecker. Terns are fishing birds that enjoy the banks of the Mississippi River, whereas the woodpeckers utilize the upland hardwood forest ecosystems of northern Louisiana. The two plants are American chaffseed and Louisiana quillwort. Chaffseed is a semiparasite that relies on fire to proliferate in longleaf pine forests. Louisiana quillwort is a semiaquatic graminoid (grass-like plant that spends some time underwater). The lone fish species, the Pallid Sturgeon, is a ray-finned, bottom-feeding, freshwater fish that can live up to a century. They like the turbid waters of the Mississippi River and its distributaries.

Clearly, these 11 native species have adapted to Louisiana’s dynamic landscape and they each fill a different niche within their respective habitats, so a one-size-fits-all solution does not exist for their preservation. CWPPRA funds projects that help maintain or restore vital habitat for these species and the other species they rely on for food. If a species goes locally extinct, it can have a ripple effect that throws off pre-established balances throughout the ecosystem. Coastal protection has an extensive impact, protecting areas further upstream as well, so CWPPRA indirectly eases pressure on the inland species. Endangered species are one of many reasons our coast deserves to be restored and protected.

For more information about these species and other threatened and endangered species, visit the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s website: https://www.fws.gov/endangered/.

The featured image is from https://www.nature.org/en-us/explore/animals-we-protect/leatherback-sea-turtle/

Oysters

Oysters aren’t just delicious to eat, they are also a versatile tool to restore and protect the Louisiana coastline! Oyster reefs protect shorelines from wave energy, filter water, and improve habitat quality. Unfortunately, much of our country’s oyster production is unsustainable because of a combination of activities including over-harvesting, pollution, and habitat destruction through dredging and collection practices. As we restore oyster reefs, they will have positive environmental, economic, and cultural impacts.

In other areas of the United States, these harmful extraction methods have all but ruined the oyster industry. According to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, their estuary has lost more than 98 percent of its oysters with major economic consequences. [1] In Louisiana, we have not experienced nearly as much damage, so we can more readily restore our reefs. Some benefits we could gain from healthier reefs, according to our partners at BTNEP, include wave energy absorption, reduction of the Gulf Dead Zone, and improved habitat for nearly 300 species of fish, crustaceans, and mollusks. By supporting oyster reefs, you support fisheries as well as resiliency. A single adult oyster can filter up to 50 gallons of water per day, removing excess nutrients and lessening the coast’s eutrophication (nutrient pollution that leads to algal blooms) and dead zones (areas of low dissolved oxygen). [2]

Aside from the numerous important ecological benefits, the price tag for oyster reef restoration is cheaper other protection techniques. According to an article in Scientific American, the adaptation strategy of raising houses onto stilts costs more than the damages it will prevent. [3] Some of the most cost-effective protection methods cited in the article included wetland restoration (nearly a 10:1 protection to cost ratio), oyster reef restoration (just over 7:1) and barrier island restoration (about 5:1). Many of these restoration and protection strategies have been utilized by CWPPRA since the 1990s.

CWPPRA projects are synergistic approaches to protecting and restoring our coast, using the best available science to implement projects in areas of most need, as well as emphasizing cooperation between projects and their managing agencies.  Sustainable innovations in oyster reef restoration is just one way in which CWPPRA achieves its goal of wetland restoration.

[1] https://www.cbf.org/about-the-bay/more-than-just-the-bay/chesapeake-wildlife/eastern-oysters/

[2] web.archive.org/web/20170802173757/http:/www.noaa.gov/media-release/gulf-of-mexico-dead-zone-is-largest-ever-measured

[3] https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/rebuilt-wetlands-can-protect-shorelines-better-than-walls/

Featured Image from https://www.nature.org/en-us/about-us/where-we-work/united-states/florida/stories-in-florida/floridas-oyster-reef-restoration-program/

 

Goose Point/Point Platte Marsh Creation (PO-33)

Interior ponding and, to a lesser extent, shoreline erosion are the major causes of wetland loss in the project area. Loss rates were highest during the period from 1956 to
1978. Those high loss rates were associated with hydrologic alterations which allowed salt water to penetrate the fresher marshes. During the transition to a more brackish plant community, large ponds were formed. A narrow strip of land separates those ponds from Lake Pontchartrain. Although the shoreline erosion rates are relatively low, the shoreline is already breached in several areas, and marsh loss in the interior ponds is expected to increase if the shoreline fails.

The goal of this project is to re-create marsh habitat in the open water behind the shoreline. This new marsh will maintain the lake-rim function along this section of the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain by preventing the formation of breaches into interior ponds. Sediment will be dredged from Lake Pontchartrain and contained in cells within the interior ponds to create approximately 417 acres of marsh. In addition, 149 acres of degraded marsh will be nourished with dredged material. Marsh will be created to widen the shoreline so that the ponds will not be breached during the course of normal shoreline retreat.

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The project is located on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain between Fontainebleau State Park and Louisiana Highway 11 and within the Big Branch Marsh National Wildlife Refuge in St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana. The project area at Goose Point also includes a portion of the St. Tammany State Wildlife Refuge.

On February 12, 2009, a final inspection of the project site was conducted. All construction activities are complete. This project is on Priority Project List 13.

 

The Federal Sponsor is USFWS

The Local Sponsor is CPRA