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 mangroves, 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 and a broad-brimmed hat (see packing list).
We will spend the first three nights at Fountainebleau State Park, on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain. The 2,800-acre park offers hiking and nature trails, a beach, and a fishing pier. Our private group camp includes two large indoor dormitories with bunk beds and a central dining room. From here we have easy access to New Orleans.
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
- David Muth, Louisiana State Director, National Wildlife Foundation Coastal Louisiana Campaign
- Local residents and representatives from the Atakapa-Ishak Native American tribe
- Robin Rose, Senior Associate Dean, Founder and Former Director of Leadership Institute, Brown University
- 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
- 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.
- Tour the Caernarvon Freshwater Diversion Structure by airboat. Learn how diversions redirect where the Mississippi deposits sediment, helping to build land. Discuss the controversies surrounding diversion projects.
- Drive to the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium (LUMCON) Marine Center in southeast coastal Louisiana
- Daniel Nguyen, Environmental Justice Coordinator at the Mary Queen of Vietnam Community Development Organization
- Representatives from the City of New Orleans, neighborhood associations, Make It Right Foundation and other non-profits
- National Wildlife Federation representative
- Introduction to Louisiana’s wetlands and the research of the LUMCON Marine Center
- Explore wetlands by kayak
- 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
- 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
- The Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana’s Community Based Restoration Manager
- Students depart
Friday, March 22: Introduction
Saturday, March 23: Exploring the Mississippi River Delta
Sunday, March 24: The Cultural Geography of New Orleans
Monday, March 25: Natural Disasters, Social Justice, and Resilience
Tuesday March 26: Wetlands--Ecology and Loss
Wednesday, March 27: Health of the Terrebonne Bay
Thursday, March 28: A Sustainable Future for Coastal Louisiana?
Friday, March 29: 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 Medical Authorization 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. A full packing list will be provided.
Our staff lives on site and is available to the students 24 hours a day for support and supervision.