Life at BELL: New Orleans & Louisiana Gulf Coast
Ecology, Culture, and Sustainable Development for High School Students
We are outside a lot in this program. We have some spectacular places at our fingertips and our goal is to get to know them both through formal study and also by spending time listening, observing, and relaxing in them during down time.
Several of our projects involve full days in the field and in the marsh, including conducting field experiments; planting beach grass, kayaking through a salt marsh, and riding 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).
We will spend the first three nights at Annunciation Mission, a full-service volunteer center in heart of New Orleans. The Mission began following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina and has since housed over 12,000 volunteers. Students will be staying in dormitory –style rooms with 5-9 other students of the same gender. Hot breakfast and dinner are prepared by the on-site chef. We will be using the Mission as a launch pad for our New Orleans activities such as a tour of the cultural history of the city, traveling down the bayou with local fishermen, and 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. 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.
Tentative Schedule Overview
- Arrival, 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
- Robin Rose, Senior Associate Dean, Founder and Former Director of Leadership Institute, Brown University
Friday, April 18: Introduction
Saturday, April 19: 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
Sunday, April 20: The Cultural Geography of New Orleans
- Learn about the impact of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on Vietnamese shrimpers and meet with community members involved in urban agriculture and aquiculture projects
- 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
Monday, April 21: Social Justice, and Environmental Resilience
- Daniel Nguyen, Environmental Justice Coordinator at the Mary Queen of Vietnam Community Development Organization
- Amy leGaux at 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
Tuesday, April 22: Wetlands--Ecology and Loss
- Take part in a research cruise aboard the R/V Acadiana
- Take benthic and water samples, collect plankton, pull trawls, and identify species
- Murt Conover, LUMCON Educator, and LUMCON staff
- 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 coastal restoration project
- A representative from the Greater Lafourche Port Commission
- Restoration Manager at the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana
- Students depart
Wednesday, April 23: Health of the Terrebonne Bay
Thursday, April 24: A Sustainable Future for Coastal Louisiana?
Friday, April 25: Conclusion
March in New Orleans is cool and comfortable, with an average high of 72°F and an average low of 54°F.
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. Vegetarian options will always be available, and 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 dietary needs on the Travel Itinerary and Dietary Restrictions form before the trip.
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. See the full packing list.
Our staff lives on site and is available to the students 24 hours a day for support and supervision.