Life at Brown Environmental Leadership Lab: New Orleans & Louisiana Gulf Coast
Ecology, Culture, and Sustainable Development for High School Students
We are outside a lot in this program. We interact with spectacular ecosystems and people and we learn through formal study, observation and reflection.
Several of our projects involve full days in the field and in the marsh, including invasive species removal, planting beach grass, kayaking through a salt marsh, and exploring the Gulf on a research vessel.
You can expect a moderate level of physical activity every day, and should be ready to get your hands dirty. Students need to come with appropriate sun protection – which means not just sunscreen but long sleeves, a broad-brimmed hat, and a reuseable water bottle (see packing list on Accepted Student page).
We will spend the first three nights at HandsOn New Orleans, a full-service volunteer center in heart of New Orleans. HandsOn House began in March 2006 in response to the need to house volunteers following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. It has since facilitated work for over 35,000 volunteers. Students will be staying in the HandsOn Bunkhouse in dormitory –style rooms with 5-9 other students of the same gender. Breakfast and lunch will be provided by the Bunkhouse and we will have dinners catered by local businesses. We will practice teamwork and our value of service to others by helping clean up after meals. This urban location will serve as a launch pad for our New Orleans activities such as a tour focused on the cultural history of the city, a trip down the bayou with local fishermen, and a meeting with community and state leaders on issues of wetland loss.
We will spend the fourth, fifth, and sixth nights at the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium (LUMCON) W.J. DeFelice Marine Center. This 75,000 square foot research facility in Cocodrie, 85 miles south of New Orleans, provides unparalleled access to the wetlands of the Mississippi River deltaic plain. Here we will meet with research faculty, observe active experiments, and carry out our own scientific investigations, both in the LUMCON laboratories and in the nearby estuary. Students will again be staying in dormitory-style rooms, separated by gender, with 3-5 other students. Dorm room balconies and a 65 foot observation tower provide panoramic views of the surrounding marsh.
We will spend the final night at a hotel in New Orleans to allow students to depart the following morning.
We are in the process of finalizing our 2015 schedule and will post it here as soon as it becomes available. The 2014 itinerary gives you a good sense of our program -- it will be similar but not identical.
- Arrival to New Orleans
- Orientation, team building, preparation for week
- Focus on Mississippi River hydrology, formation of the delta, efforts to control flooding, the major causes of wetland loss, and Louisiana’s plans for restoration and protection of land and populations
- Lectures, discussions, and a boat tour
- Leadership skills and environmental education and activism
- Local residents and representatives from the Atakapa-Ishak Native American tribe
- Staff from the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana
- Director of Leadership Programs, Brown University
Day 1: Introduction
Day 2: Exploring the Mississippi River Delta
- Focus on the social history of New Orleans and its contemporary social and environmental issues
- Tour New Orleans and learn about its different neighborhoods
- Learn about why the city flooded during Hurricane Katrina and efforts to reduce the impact of future storms
- Richard Campanella, geographer with the Tulane University School of Architecture and the author of six critically acclaimed books on the social and physical geography of New Orleans
- Advocates from MRGO must GO
Day 3: The Cultural Geography of New Orleans
- Understand the impact of Hurricane Katrina on Ninth Ward and other parishes, and see the status of rebuilding efforts.
- Participate in efforts to reduce the spread of invasive species since Hurricane Katrina
- Drive to the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium (LUMCON) Marine Center in southeast coastal Louisiana
Day 4: Social Justice, and Environmental Resilience
- Amy LeGaux, The Audubon Louisiana Nature Center
- Introduction to Louisiana’s wetlands and the research of the LUMCON Marine Center
- Explore wetlands by kayak and canoe
- Learn about the connection between oil and gas production and subsidence
- Alex Kolker, LUMCON Professor and expert on Louisiana’s coastal dynamics
- Murt Conover, LUMCON Educator
Day 5: Wetlands--Ecology and Loss
- Hear stories of resilience and community activism from Houma People in the Dulac Community
- Take part in a research cruise aboard the R/V Acadiana
- Take benthic and water samples, collect plankton, pull trawls, and identify species
Day 6: Health of the Terrebonne Bay
- Murt Conover, LUMCON Educator, and LUMCON staff
- Members of the Dulac Community
- Tour Port Fourchon, the hub of Louisiana’s offshore Louisiana oil and gas production, and learn about the impact of oil and gas production on Louisiana’s environment and economy
- Participate in a restoration project to rebuild a beach
- A representative from the Greater Lafourche Port Commission
- Restoration Manager at the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana
- Students depart from New Orleans airport
Day 7: A Sustainable Future for Coastal Louisiana?
Day 8 : Conclusion
Your fellow students
There will be approximately 25 students in the community. BELL students come from all over the U.S. and the world, and range from incoming 10th graders to graduated seniors.
Spring in New Orleans is cool and comfortable, with an average high of 72°F and an average low of 54°F. Evening temperatures at LUMCON can drop to the low 50s, however, so please bring layers to wear in early morning sessions.
Our meals will come from a variety of sources--some will be catered and others will be eaten at restaurants or while on the road—but we always emphasize fresh and healthy food. While we are at LUMCON, our meals will be prepared by the LUMCON kitchen staff. Throughout the course, students will have the opportunity to sample Louisiana’s delicious Cajun and Creole cuisine. We will work closely with our vendors to accommodate dietary restrictions and food allergies. Drinking water will be available throughout the day. Students must communicate their allergies on the Medical Authorization form before the trip. Dietary preferences, including vegetarians and vegans, should be indicated on the Guest Allergy Form
Staying safe and comfortable in the field
Our goal is to get to know the environments we visit through formal study and hands-on activities and experiments. We believe strongly in experiential education and learning-by-doing.
Students should bring warm clothing that can be layered for cool mornings and evenings or breezy boat rides. Clothes should be comfortable and students should be prepared to get dirty, especially when visiting wetlands. Students should also be prepared to work through light rain by bringing a raincoat. A full packing list will be provided on the Accepted Student webpage.
Our staff lives on site and is available to the students 24 hours a day for support and supervision.