What better way to spend a Friday afternoon than with jambalaya, Cajun music, and conservation? That is how the CWPPRA outreach team and many other organizations spent last Friday, April 20th, at the UL-Lafayette Fête de la Terre Expo. The expo showcased many wonderful local groups including, but not limited to, the Citizens’ Climate Lobby, the TECHE Project, and the Bayou Vermilion District, all hosted by the ULL Office of Sustainability.
Students visiting the expo could learn about how long it takes for different types of litter to decompose naturally, how solar panels are used to generate power, and whether or not to recycle different waste products. During their visit, they could grab free jambalaya, listen to the Cajun jam session, or decorate their very own reusable grocery bag. There are so many resources that help our community celebrate conservation, and the expo was a beautiful day for getting ULL students and faculty involved, interested, and informed.
Environmental awareness is an important factor in protecting the earth, and the Audubon Institute understands that. With the help of Entergy, the Audubon Zoo has hosted Earth Fest for over twenty years to date, celebrating conservation and environment-friendly practices.
This past Saturday, March 24, CWPPRA was one of many organizations to be represented at Earth Fest along with Wetland Watchers, EnergySmart, Sea Grant, and many more. Each of these organizations brought educational activities to be enjoyed by children and adults alike, such as demonstrations of energy-saving appliances, composting, and beekeeping strategies. Participants could paint with produce from a local farmer’s market, learn about the similarities in bone structures between humans and manatees, and get their faces painted. When they were not busy visiting the zoo enclosures or talking to organizations, guests could enjoy a number of local food vendors or live performers at the pavilion, including Grammy-winning Lost Bayou Ramblers from south Louisiana.
CWPPRA Public Outreach spent the day handing out informational booklets about restoration projects, posters from the Protect Our Coast series, and activity books, as well as playing our popular “Wetland Jeopardy” game with any and all who were interested. Many eager and interested visitors participated in the Earth Fest Earth Quest, a game that led them to ask questions to appropriate organizations in exchange for a stamp. 10 stamps earned them a prize of a young plant to take home and care for. Earth Fest had a wide range of attractions that hopefully inspired all visitors to be more conscious of environmental issues and to help in the efforts to live for a healthier tomorrow.
Families in the Lafayette area spent Saturday, March 10 exploring their community and trying a range of activities as part of Family Adventure Day in support of Healing House and the local non-profit’s work with grieving children. Outreach staff from the Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection, and Restoration Act collaborated with members of US Fish & Wildlife, NOAA, Louisiana Department of Wildlife & Fisheries, Acadiana Nature Station, and other groups to provide information and fun for the families who stopped by the Estuarine Habitats and Coastal Fisheries Center. Participants could hold juvenile alligators, make buttons and magnets, learn about local pollinators, and take part in other activities.
CWPPRA staff helped children think about the importance of different types of wetlands while matching native species to the correct habitat. Families could also get Henri Heron Activity Books and Protect Our Coast posters. A general theme of the activities offered at the Estuarine Habitats and Coastal Fisheries Center was citizen science, and participants learned how to use binoculars, identify birds and bird calls, and about a variety of on-line and app resources for identifying and recording what they see in their own backyards. These data can then be used by scientists to look at where certain species are, how those populations are doing, and when seasonal events like migration occur. Hopefully finding more ways to interact with the species and habitats outside will lead to more family adventures.
In some parts of the world, February 2nd is a time to make weather predictions, and, while some of that did happen in coastal Louisiana, students and informal educators also gathered to celebrate World Wetlands Day. Celebrated internationally each year since 1997, World Wetlands Day commemorates the 1971 adoption of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands and tries to raise awareness about the importance of wetlands to people and the planet; this year’s theme was “Wetlands for a Sustainable Urban Future.”
More than 100 students and educators gathered at the Bayou Terrebonne Waterlife Museum in Houma, LA for activities hosted by the South Louisiana Wetlands Discovery Center. Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection, and Restoration Act staff were in attendance to talk with students about the different types of wetlands we have in Louisiana. In addition to a scavenger hunt in the museum as they learned about the services that wetlands provide, students had the opportunity to get up close to wetland wildlife, learn about different wetland habitats, and think about how water moves through coastal and urban systems. Groups providing activities included Restore or Retreat, the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program, LSU Wildlife Hospital of LA, and the USDA Sugarcane Research Station. In addition to wildlife habitat, wetlands provide flood control, water purification, and sediment capture services, making them important for urban and rural communities.
On November 18th, residents and visitors in St. Bernard Parish were treated to live music, cooking demonstrations, and the chance to sample wild boar recipes prepared by teams vying for bragging rights. Hosted by the Coastal Division of St. Bernard Parish, the first Cook-Off for the Coast was held at Docville Farm in Violet, Louisiana with proceeds benefiting the St. Bernard Wetlands Foundation. In addition to evaluating the food of the six competing teams, visitors watched local celebrity chefs prepare everything from gumbo to snapping turtle and talked with a range of coastal organizations about the importance of protecting southeast Louisiana’s coastal wetlands.
Sinead Borchert and Mirka Zapletal from the Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection, and Restoration Act (CWPPRA) Outreach Office were in attendance with information about restoration projects in St. Bernard Parish, activity books, posters from the #ProtectOurCoast series, and recent issues of WaterMarks magazine. They also invited children and adults alike to match Louisiana wildlife with the correct wetland habitat. St. Bernard’s coast is vulnerable to storms, subsidence, erosion, and invasive species, putting wildlife habitat and coastal communities at risk. CWPPRA projects work to support Louisiana’s coastal wetlands and the people and wildlife that depend on these habitats.
Can you figure out the mystery coastal item based on the following clues? It contains a bivalve that a) makes pearls, b) is a filter feeder, and c) we eat here in Louisiana.
Over 1600 elementary and middle school students had the chance to read those clues at LSU Sea Grant’s Ocean Commotion on October 24 in Baton Rouge. Students, teachers, and chaperones then reached their hands into a box and tried to identify the item (oyster shell) they were holding. Other mystery items included a nutria pelt, cypress knees, an apple snail shell, and a magnolia seed pod- all from plants and animals that call Louisiana’s coastal wetlands home.
2017 marks the 20th Anniversary of Ocean Commotion, an annual event meant to give students the chance to get up close and personal with coastal and sea life and the challenges facing those environments. This year 70 exhibitors taught students about topics as diverse as boating safety, mosquito control, and microplastics. CWPPRA outreach staff talked with students about the diversity of species found in Louisiana’s wetlands and the challenges of invasive species, giving students an opportunity to think about how different species impact ecosystems in different ways.
On Tuesday, June 11th, the CWPPRA Public Outreach staff traveled to the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Marine Research Lab in Grand Isle, Louisiana to discuss Louisiana wetlands with teachers from around the state. The teachers participated in WETshop: a week-long, dynamic teacher workshop that allows teachers to work with educators and scientists to learn about Louisiana coastal wetlands, issues, and history. The focus of the summer workshop is to create wetland stewards of teachers in order for them to educate coworkers and students in their home parishes about coastal land loss. The workshop was sponsored by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program. During WETshop, the teachers get a firsthand look at the importance of wetlands through visiting coastal ecosystems, water quality testing, marsh tours of coastal restoration sites, and the opportunity to learn about fisheries management, coastal botany and ornithology, and invasive species.
The Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection, and Restoration Act’s Public Outreach staff participated in WETshop as coastal wetland educators. CWPPRA provided each of the twenty teachers with packets containing numerous publications and teaching resources, as well as posters from CWPPRA’s #ProtectOurCoast campaign. The public outreach staff also gave a presentation that highlighted causes of land loss, benefits of wetlands, CWPPRA’s history and success with projects, the Coastwide Reference Monitoring System, and different ways teachers can access and utilize wetland teaching materials.
Visit CWPPRA’s Education page to access coastal teaching tools.