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.

 

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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.
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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

Ocean Commotion 2018

The 21st annual Ocean Commotion event was held at LSU on October 25, 2018. Sponsored by the Louisiana Sea Grant, Ocean Commotion is an opportunity to learn about coastal and oceanic issues. Held at the LSU Pete Maravich Assembly Center, 65 exhibitors provided hands-on learning about Louisiana’s coastal environment, sustainability practices, our beloved oceans, and the organisms that live here. More than 1,800 students, teachers, and chaperones from area schools had the opportunity to look at zooplankton with the LSU Department of Oceanography, build a delta with LSU Sea Grant, and come face to face with animals from Bluebonnet Swamp.

CWPPRA Outreach staff were set up with our Mysterious Wetland Wonders. Students read clues and then reached inside boxes (no peeking!) to identify plant and animal relics. From invasive apple snail shells to magnolia seed pods to a turtle carapace, each item can be found in Louisiana wetlands. Our wetlands are home to a diverse array of plants and wildlife and provide us with recreation, economic benefits, cleaner water, and other ecosystem services. Protecting these wetlands helps protect all of the groups that depend on them for food, shelter, and fun.

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CWPPRA Outreach staff were set up with our Mysterious Wetland Wonders. Students read clues and then reached inside boxes (no peeking!) to identify plant and animal relics. From invasive apple snail shells to magnolia seed pods to a turtle carapace, each item can be found in Louisiana wetlands. Our wetlands are home to a diverse array of plants and wildlife and provide us with recreation, economic benefits, cleaner water, and other ecosystem services. Protecting these wetlands helps protect all of the groups that depend on them for food, shelter, and fun.

Wild Things

On Saturday, October 13th, the CWPPRA outreach team rolled up to the Southeast Louisiana National Wildlife Refuges Headquarters in Lacombe, LA for Wild Things. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service puts on Wild Things every year during National Wildlife Refuge Week to celebrate wildlife and getting out into nature. This year we brought our Wetland Wonders game, along with all our regular publications. We underestimated how popular our materials would be and quickly ran out of everything. We were set up on a beautiful day in the shade. Nearby, families could learn about wilderness survival, injured bird rehabilitation, native animal and plant species, and much more.

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The Wetland Wonders game was well-received by children and adults alike. We had a short lull around lunchtime but otherwise the boxes constantly had visitors. Our Wetland Wonders activity asks players to guess the object inside the box without looking at it. Players can feel inside and read clues that are on the front of the boxes. Many people start out timid from the mystery but play the game once they believe there is nothing alive or gross in the boxes. We enjoy events like this and we urge you to seek similar events for your family and friends. To find more events by the Fish and Wildlife Service, you can visit their website and search for your nearest Wildlife Refuge. Get out and #ProtectOurCoast!

Girl Scouts B.I.G. Event

On September 29, CWPPRA Outreach visited with local Girl Scouts at their big event; the B.I.G. (Believe In G.I.R.L.) Event, hosted by Girl Scouts Louisiana East. Hundreds of scout groups walked the grounds of the University of New Orleans, bouncing from activity to activity. The aim of the event was to introduce girls to STEM, life skills, the outdoors, and other potential interests. Participants could learn about trade schools, non-Newtonian fluids (oobleck), and even get on a Coast Guard helicopter. Our table was constantly bustling despite being at the corner of the event. Our activity books, #ProtectOurCoast posters, and stickers were flying off the table. Our Wetland Jeopardy game was also a big hit, with teams playing cooperatively or with head-on competition between scouts. Nearby, the UNO Environmental Science department had a table set up to demonstrate how wetlands attenuate storm surge and form our first line of defense, the Master Naturalists of New Orleans brought some fascinating insects and a diamondback terrapin, and the Great Coastalini from CPRA (Chuck Perrodin) revealed the Louisiana coastline’s disappearing act.

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Project Front Yard EcoSTEAM Camp

From July 16th-18th, the CWPPRA Public Outreach Team and special guests helped educate children about wetland resources during the inaugural Project Front Yard STEM summer camp at Girard Park in Lafayette, LA. Project Front Yard is an organization within Lafayette Consolidated Government that seeks to educate the public towards a more sustainable future. Our activities this week covered wetland plants, endangered species, and birding with groups split by age: 5-8, 9-10, and 11-14 years old.

On the first day, our team demonstrated how wetland plants transport gases through their tissues with the help of Carrie Salyers of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. Using plastic cups, straws, and a tray of water, campers had to get air into and out of the “leaves” (cups) and the “roots” (straws) while they were inundated. We also brought our Wetland Jeopardy board to test campers’ knowledge of Louisiana’s wetland flora, fauna, and benefits.

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Campers use pressure through straws to put air into a submerged leaf-cup

Tuesday morning, the children walked into their meeting room to a toothy surprise. Gabe Giffin from LDWF brought several young alligators from Rockefeller NWR for the campers to hold and examine. In another room, Carrie Salyers taught the campers about the biology of endangered whooping cranes. After discussing how Whooping Cranes use their beaks to catch food, Salyers, her CWPPRA helpers, and ULL’s Sam Hauser led an activity exploring how bird beak shapes are suited to eating different types of foods.

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Campers posing with an alligator hatched in 2017
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Each participant had a different utensil to attempt picking up different types of food and putting them into their “stomachs”

For our last day with the camp, Jessica Schulz, an ornithologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, brought a mist net to demonstrate how birds are captured and processed in the field. We set up outside in Girard Park and allowed the children to retrieve fake birds from the mist net, band their legs, and record some measurements to measure the health of the birds. While we were setting up, we accidentally caught a real house sparrow! The bird was released quickly and campers were able to see firsthand how effective mist nets can be!

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Carefully removing a male cardinal from the mist net
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House Sparrow that made its way into our mist net