Day 14 – November 16
After a wonderful weekend of exploring the city of Lafayette and catching up on sleep, we returned to our usual busy schedule. Our morning began at the United States Geological Survey (USGS) Wetlands Research Center, only a few miles away from the Blue Moon Guesthouse. Gabrielle Bodin, the outreach coordinator, greeted us and gave us an overview of Louisiana coastal wetlands. She spoke about the wetlands’ functions and their economic importance to the state, including the fishing, hunting, timber, and farming industries. Gabrielle noted that it is the USGS that generally does the aerial mapping to delineate the land-loss that we have studied all semester. Interestingly, she also talked about a recent study done by a USGS scientist, who confirmed the correlation between oil extraction and the subsidence of land. We have discussed this connection many times in class and on the road and are excited to have some evidence.
Next, Dr. Thomas Michot, a scientist at the center, spoke with us about the USGS. It is a division of the U.S. Department of the Interior, along with agencies such as the Bureau of Indian Affairs, National Park Service, and Minerals Management Service. While biological research was once conducted within the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service, it was decided that non-biased scientific research should take place in a separate department, that is a department that is not also responsible for management. Thus, government research in hydrology, geology, geography, and biology now takes place under the USGS.
Our next host, Jacoby Carter, hails from our very own Harrisburg, PA. He showed us some of the experiments going on at center, involving crawfish, snails, and green tree frogs. He and his undergraduate students track the frogs by injecting them with fluorescent tags. We were sad to hear that Dr. Carter believes that nutria, the invasive and beaver-like rodents we’ve encountered several times this semester, may soon be found in our own backyard, or at least along the Susquehanna.
We finished up our time at the research center by looking at how the USGS produces maps. We decided that we are very happy to have digital map capabilities and no longer need to trace coastlines by hand.
The Lucers headed back to the Blue Moon to throw together our lunches (including a peanut butter and jelly omelet) before hitting the road again. We drove over to the Acadian Cultural Center, where Matthew, a student at LSU, showed us around. We learned about traditional Acadian housing, music, religion, and food. For example, the word “gumbo” or “gombo” comes from Africa as the word for okra; however, most people today don’t use okra in their gumbo. We watched two short videos: The Cajun Way: Echoes of Acadia and The Atchafalaya Swamp Revisited. The first film explained how the Acadians came to live in southern Louisiana. They moved from France to Acadie, which is now Nova Scotia, but were then forced out by the British because of religious discrimination. The second film was about how the control of the Missis sippi River changed the Atchafalaya swamplands and the way of life of the people living there. Today’s activities were yet another example of how the environment and culture of southern Louisiana are inextricably intertwined.
As I write this, Lucers are lounging on couches talking and reading, and wandering in and out of the kitchen, where a home-cooked dinner is being prepared by head-chef Cara. On the menu: chili, cornbread and a salad. I’m sure it’ll be a delicious ending to our time in Lafayette!