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.

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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

Capitol Park Museum Outreach event

On July 7th, 2018, the CWPPRA Public Outreach team spent the day at the Capitol Park Museum in Baton Rouge, LA, talking to museum visitors. We were the special exhibit for the museum’s ‘First Saturday Family Program’ series. As the special exhibit, we were set up near the entrance, and we caught the eyes of all who entered the building. Visitors competed in Wetland Jeopardy, took silly pictures in our photo booth, and matched beanbag animals to their wetland homes! We also had Protect Our Coast posters, recent issues of WaterMarks, activity books, and other publications available.

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The Museum hosts many special exhibits, which can be found on their calendar here. https://louisianastatemuseum.org/museum/capitol-park-museum

We were fortunate to have this time in a great museum full of Louisiana history. The regular exhibits included Plessy v. Ferguson, sport hunting and fishing, the civil war, the Mississippi steamboats, and native tribal history. There were several exhibits on large local industries like farming, oil, and fisheries as well. Coastal wetlands are an important resource that all Louisianans share, contributing to storm protection, the economy, and recreational opportunities, and visitors to the museum had the opportunity to connect CWPPRA’s restoration work with the colorful history and culture of Louisiana.

Wetlands Outreach at the Creole Classic

Fishermen and spectators came together on Grand Isle, LA this past weekend to be a part of the 34th Annual Creole Classic Fishing Tournament, three days spent hoping to catch “the big one.” This annual event helps raise money for local charities while also giving thousands of outdoor enthusiasts an excuse to have fun on the coast. Held at the Bridge Side Marina in Grand Isle, the fishing tournament awards prizes in adult, child, and sponsor categories for fish like flounder, speckled trout, and bull red. While participants spend their days on the water, in the evenings they gather at the marina to weigh their catch, listen to music, and enjoy Cajun food.

0622181835a                This year the Creole Classic added a children’s activity area on Friday evening, coordinated by Restore or Retreat. Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection, and Restoration Act (CWPPRA) outreach staff set up the “Mysterious Wetland Wonders” activity, inviting kids (and adults) to guess the plant or animal relic (like an oyster shell or cypress knee) in the box by reading clues and feeling it with their hands. Kids also created Wilson’s plover chicks with LA Audubon and made prints of starfish and fish with Restore or Retreat. CWPPRA staff also had Protect Our Coast posters, WaterMarks, and Henri Heron Activity books available.

 

Coastal wetlands provide important habitat for a variety of fish species, helping Louisiana maintain its place as Sportsman’s Paradise. Unfortunately, these habitats are disappearing as erosion and subsidence take their toll on the coastal zone. CWPPRA works with our partners to protect and rebuild coastal wetlands so that fish, and the fishermen who pursue them, have a place to live and play.

Ocean Fest 2018

In acknowledgment of World Oceans Day (June 8, 2018)  Audubon Aquarium of the Americas (New Orleans) celebrated with their annual Ocean Fest event on Saturday, June 9th. World Ocean Day is an opportunity to recognize how healthy oceans impact our food, the air we breathe, our climate, and many other aspects of our lives. Unfortunately, our oceans face many challenges.

Families, couples, and individuals from across the state and around the world learned about ocean creatures, current ocean problems such as microplastics, and even a bit about Louisiana Wetlands. They had the chance to talk with people from the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program and LSU Sea Grant, learning both how the oceans support them and how they can better support the oceans.

0609181057CWPPRA Outreach staff were set up in the Mississippi River area and had a hands-on learning activity- the Mysterious Wetland Wonders. People of all ages had to guess which Louisiana wetland organism was inside the box only by feeling with their hands and reading clues — Of course none of the items were alive! — but each represented an influential component of Louisiana wetlands, from invasive nutria which destroy marsh to bald cypress trees which are important economically and for wildlife habitat.

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CWPPRA Outreach staff also had materials like the Protect Our Coast posters, stickers, and activity books available for the public, as well as literature about CWPPRA and recent issues of Watermarks. Citizens who had never heard of CWPRPA learned our mission in constructing projects that protect and restore wetlands and barrier islands in coastal Louisiana. CWPPRA projects may focus on land, but the connections between the Gulf of Mexico, the Mississippi and other rivers in Louisiana, coastal wetlands, and the communities that depend on those areas mean that each is an important part of what happens to the others.