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!

 

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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.

Writing on the Bayou

On Saturday, June 1, our CWPPRA Outreach Coordinator, Jennifer Ritter Guidry, attended the Bayou Culture Collaborative’s Writing on the Bayou workshop at the Terrebonne Parish Library in Gray, LA. Led by Nicholls State University English professor Dr. Michael Martin, the small group of writers shared their background in writing fiction, non-fiction and memoir, poetry and songs. After a discussion of types of writing styles and a brief examination of writing samples, we talked about Louisiana’s landscape and its sensorial aspects, and how to incorporate that in your writing. And then, we wrote about an experience within the Louisiana landscape and read our pieces to the group. Each story captured the essence of the landscape, from one person’s writing nook overlooking the bayou to another’s memory of pulling potatoes and driving the tractor with her father. Here’s Jennifer’s piece.

 

Louisiana’s landscape is its primary determining factor in all of its development—it drove early peoples to high ground to settle and offered multiple avenues for travel, dictated the types and variety of available food, discouraged European colonists who instead chose to impose control over the environment (New Orleans, anyone?). Landscape allowed for early roads to follow the numerous waterways and determined a mixed system for industry and transport.

The roads today in Lafayette seem to make no sense. The original grid of Vermilionville centered around the church has expanded into a tangled web of roads, intersections, alleys, and absurd traffic. The old joke is that the roads were mapped by a fellow who followed a car as it wandered through the area. In truth, first came the railroad, which avoided traversing the water at all coasts and instead paralleled it. Then came the roads, which had no other alternative than to mirror those riverine twists and turns.

It doesn’t matter where you are in Lafayette, you can always hear the late-night trains blasting through town, whistles at top volume. I grew up near the Vermilion River and as a determinedly introspective teen, my favorite thing to do was to sneak out of my bedroom window in the middle of the night and walk down to the river and watch the mist rising off the water.

 

Migratory Bird Festival 2019

A barrier island located on Louisiana’s Gulf Coast, Grand Isle isn’t just a first line of defense against storms but also a first stop for birds during their Spring migration north from Latin America. This special coastal environment brings in hundreds of people from across the nation and throughout the world to see these beautiful birds during the first pit-stop on their long journey across the Gulf of Mexico. In previous years, over 160 different species of birds were identified during the three-day Grand Isle Migratory Bird Celebration.

Louisiana’s coastal wetlands provide vital habitat for these migrating birds as well as those species who live in Louisiana year-round. CWPPRA projects work to restore our coastal wetlands for both birds and people. CWPPRA barrier island restoration projects, like TE-20 and PO-27, are home to beach-nesting birds such as Black Skimmers, Least Terns and Wilson’s Plovers. Marsh creations, like ME-31 and CS-81, provide habitat for rare species of birds such as the Least Bittern and the Black Rail.

At the Grand Isle Migratory Bird Celebration on April 13th, CWPPRA Outreach discussed coastal issues with passionate birders and Grand Isle locals. Several groups of birders played Wetland Jeopardy and other patrons enjoyed our habitat toss game. We met several educators and representatives of other outreach groups who do similar work to ours and share CWPPRA’s mission. Visitors had a wide array of tour options throughout the day, including guided walks, kayaking trips, and banding demonstrations. As each group returned, they would add all the species they observed to a checklist at the headquarters where we were set up.

Many of us here in Louisiana enjoy our coastal wetlands. From people to beautiful birds, CWPPRA protection and restoration projects work to enhance our wetlands for everyone.

Featured Image is a Summer Tanager. All photos courtesy of Gabe Griffard.

Lafayette Family Adventure Day

On Saturday, March 16, as part of Family Adventure Day, a fundraiser for Healing House, a non-profit in Lafayette offering grief counseling for children, families explored 42 stations around town. Each station offered a free activity that could engage family members of all ages. Our table was set up at the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) headquarters near the Cajundome. Some of our neighbors were the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS, one of our managing agencies), the Acadiana Park Nature Station, and LDWF .

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At our station, families could hold baby alligators and touch a few different animal hides with LDWF; play with Einstein, the albino corn snake from the Acadiana Park Nature Station; practice their fishing technique, plant seeds for pollinators, or identify different bird species using binoculars with USFWS. Our public outreach office brought our habitat toss game that highlights the differences between wetland habitats in Louisiana and why an animal species would live in one habitat but not another, as well as give some examples of species that use more than one type of habitat. We also brought plenty of educational publications.

An estimated ninety families passed through the LDWF headquarters during the day , so we saw about 300 people over the course of the event. Families visited locations like the Lafayette Science Museum, the UL Marine Survival Training Center, Bayou Vermilion District, and more. Our posters, magnet sheets and stickers were popular with the kids, and several families signed up to receive WaterMarks.

Family Adventure Day is an annual event, so be on the lookout for next year! We had a great day and we appreciate LDWF and USFWS for hosting us this year. We would also like to thank all of the families who came to support Healing House and learn about our area’s wildlife. Please enjoy the attached photos of families engaging with us and our neighbors.

 

2nd Annual Cook-Off for the Coast

Thanks to the Meraux Foundation, the second annual Cook-Off for the Coast played out beautifully on Saturday, February 9th, 2019. CWPPRA was one of many outreach and educational groups hosted at Docville Farm in Violet, LA for an afternoon of good food, good music, and great enthusiasm for coastal restoration. All profits raised by the event went to Chalmette High School and Nunez Community College coastal restoration organizations which will use the funds to continue propagating and planting black mangroves in St. Bernard Parish and installing artificial oyster reef breakwaters just north of Comfort Island east of the current delta. We were set up next to our partner CPRA and under the same tent as Louisiana Master Naturalists of Greater New Orleans, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, and the LSU AgCenter. Across the lot from us were Restore the Mississippi River Delta, CRCL, and various other restoration-minded groups.

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The theme for this year’s cook-off was wild game so all the food that was prepared had some kind of wild game in it, including tuna, oysters, hog, etc. Each of the cooking groups brought something unique to the table, including duck tacos, crawfish eggrolls, and deer/hog gumbo. As the public got tastes of the coast, they could wander through the exhibition of restoration/protection groups. At our table we had our #ProtectOurCoast poster series and stickers, some relevant issues of WaterMarks, and activity books for our younger visitors. Visitors could also compete in Wetland Jeopardy. After learning about coastal issues and restoration efforts, visitors could enjoy more food or go into the dance hall where Michot’s Melody Makers were playing their traditional Cajun music.

As the day came to a close, everyone gathered in the dance hall to award the best dishes as decided by the public. Awards were given for the best overall dish as well as best dish in 3 categories: Crawl, Fly, and Swim. With so many good contenders, the decision must have been difficult for the voting visitors. We would like to congratulate all the participants for getting involved with such a meaningful cause and preparing such delicious food. We’d like to thank the visitors and other exhibitors, as well as the Meraux Foundation, for the opportunity to share our love of wetlands and food- we cannot restore our coast without them.

 

World Wetlands Day Outreach Event

Getting out and working with students is one of our favorite things to do in the public outreach office, so we are so glad we were hosted by the South Louisiana Wetlands Discovery Center this past Friday, February 1, for World Wetlands Day. Located in downtown Houma, Louisiana, the SLWDC has a beautifully curated wetlands museum exhibit as well as warm and friendly staff. The event was mostly open to Houma area schoolchildren ranging from 3rd to 7th grade with a short period at the end during which the public could participate. Students cycled through and engaged with 7 tables that each had a different focus.

Going around the room, Restore or Retreat taught about coastal erosion with a small model of a barrier island’s sandy beach, then the USDA Agricultural Research Service had students match seeds to pictures of their parent plants. The next table was our host, the South Louisiana Wetlands Discovery Center, with a presentation about invasive species. They brought their resident nutria, Beignet, as an example. Next, the LSU Veterinary Teaching Wildlife Hospital brought two hawks and a screech owl, all of whom are residents at their school due to injuries. T Baker Smith demonstrated some restoration techniques like shoreline protection, vegetative planting, and marsh creation. After those techniques, Louisiana’s Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ) presented how it is important to treat wastewater and how wetlands act as filters, and BTNEP shared a few examples of animals with shells. We brought a game that uses bean bag animals to teach about how some species are confined to a specific habitat, but some animals can use more than one habitat.

The celebration started in response to the Feb 2, 1971 signing of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance Especially as Waterfowl Habitat, which is an international treaty to recognize wetlands as vitally important ecosystems. [1] On this day, organizations worldwide share a mutual goal to raise awareness and spread appreciation for wetlands near them. We appreciate the opportunity to get out and interact with students and we are proud to have worked with so many other enthusiastic and educational groups. Many thanks to our hosts, visitors, and colleagues- we appreciate all of the work you do to #ProtectOurCoast.

 

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LSU Veterinary School Students taught about wildlife rehabilitation with amputee birds of prey.
Beignet
Beignet, the resident nutria, cannot cause massive marsh damage from his little cage, but he can tear up some carrots.

 

[1] https://www.ramsar.org/about-the-ramsar-convention