NOLA 2022 Reflection

I thoroughly enjoyed this class in all aspects. I gained a tremendous amount of experience through this class and our trip to New Orleans that I will continue to utilize for the next foreseeable years. Particularly, our research of the mesmerizing hardwood forest of Woodlands Trail parcel of Belle Chasse, Louisiana has really left an impact on me. Being able to see first-hand armadillos, fireflies, cypress trees, and sprawling ferns for example, inspired a new sense of wonder and curiosity in the natural world around us. This mesmerization is apparent in my choice of presentation, a poster delving into the function of cypress tree knees. The wetlands environment itself progressively becomes more captivating as I continue to learn more about it in my own time.

We learned not only of the environmental conditions of the Louisiana wetlands, but also of the cultural, economic, historical, and continually developing conditions of New Orleans and the surrounding area. Some of my favorite and personally most memorable events of the trip were our visit to the cultural center, trying all of the cultural dishes around New Orleans, eating in the rain, and when my sisters and I explored the French Quarter together in search of a voodoo priestess. It was incredible to have learned about the origins of the city of New Orleans and being able to see the sprawling complex it has developed into today. I think that starting the trip with a visit to the Lower 9th Ward was one of the best ways to remind us of the story of the New Orleans area and the importance of preventing history from repeating itself, a theme that can be applied to many topics surrounding New Orleans and Louisiana as a whole.

From the French Quarter to the Lower 9th Ward to the coastal marshlands of Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana is a place I will never forget. This trip was so impactful that my sisters and I plan on revisiting the city again at the nearest possibility.

New Orleans Reflection 2022

Wow, where do I begin? Before this class I had the privilege of visiting New Orleans once before for Mardi Gras 8 years prior. However, entering the city never gets old- the city holds a different kind of energy and you feel the magic upon arrival. For one, this city has incredible history seeping from every nook and cranny. The architecture is beyond beautiful as it exhibits a lot of French resemblance (this area was once under Napoleon rule before it was sold to the United States in the Louisiana Purchase for $15 million back in 1803, a steal of a deal). From the food, to the culture, and environmental dynamics, this place is truly a treasure to protect.

Beignets and coffee at Morning Call Coffee Stand.

I was a bit nervous about the trip not knowing if I could properly identify plants. The knowledge and wisdom our professors and assistant bestowed on all of us will last a lifetime. Before stepping into this class, I knew very little about the plant life of New Orleans or the broader Gulf Coast. Despite our collective ignorance, within days of arrival they had our whole class identifying plant species on our own.

Thicket of Blackberry, ye be warned!

One experience I will forever treasure happened on March 17, 2022. We had the privilege to learn about the art of garden cultivation and management of southern food gardens with our first installation in Buras, in the bird’s foot delta of the Mississippi River. Our class visited Buras to help families that suffered (most recently) from the recent destruction of Hurricane Ida. One family in particular, had their entire food garden stripped away by the hurricane’s winds. Disadvantaged and in need of support, our class stepped up to help. 

Vegetation plot in Buras; teamwork makes the dream work!

The fearless leaders took charge, directed, guided via sly humor, and ever-patiently facilitated the process from tilling to final. Pretty incredible work! The soil in the area was unlike anything I had ever seen; the sediment deposits from the hurricane made the surface soil layer super dense. Dr. John Lambrinos’ tutelage explained the soil’s high clay content and the associated huge potential to hold large amounts of plant nutrients. Let me tell you, tilling and gardening through all those fine particles was not easy. We formulated a well-devised plan which produced a fabulous garden by day’s end. To see the faces of the family we helped and to be embraced by their hospitality was priceless and unforgettable.

Beautiful evening after a long day of hard work, if only you could hear the cicadas humming.

Being a source of support and advice throughout our trip, Dr. Sean Anderson never ceased to impress those around him with his passion to perpetually further our education and restore balance to this world. After the pandemic, I’ve experienced a paradigm shift of my perspective. I now believe we need to recognize and show appreciation to those that are making positive changes on this planet. People like Sean, John, Tom, and Zach motivate hearts to promote environmental awareness and sustainability through resourceful action. I highly suggest applying to this trip, and if you go support the artists by buying merch or artwork from them. Keep the good energy flowing!

Street art from the French Quarter.

Final Blog Post – Amanda

New Orleans was one of the best trips I have been on. There was never a dull moment! New Orleans was like a different world with mini-ones inside of it. The city is separated into wards instead of counties and each one was sort of themed. A couple were the French Quarter, Lower 9th Ward, Irish Channel, etc. When we entered into different wards we could clearly see the differences between them. The French Quarter had multi-story buildings with balconies and most of them had flowers hanging from there. While the Lower 9th Ward was almost all shotgun houses and they were built on a sort of stilt/foundation where they were higher of the ground to potentially prevent the house from flooding. Everything there had a history, some bright than others and others not.
While we had free time to explore the city it was cool to walk down the streets physically. I could not just see, smell, and hear things, but also feel the energy of the crowd and streets. I am really into folklore and legends, so the energy vibes are one of the things that interest me. There was a different feeling to each ward sometimes each street. The streets and buildings have a very deep history and I can kind of feel that. The people there are definitely some characters. They themselves give a deeper story to the city and the wards. Each building has its own history and it was very interesting to hear about it. Each location we visited we learned about the history of them. The woodlands were also very interesting. There was a lot of wildlife and blackberry. Some animals include: alligators, ibis, cranes, armadillos, snakes, etc.

My NOLA Experience

By: Ashley Hollett

When deciding on the courses I would choose for my final semester at CSUCI, it was a toss up between field professionalism, the Hawaii field course to study whales, or the New Orleans field course. I ultimately decided on New Orleans for multiple reasons. I wanted to experience real culture, real food, real people, and above all real field work. The experience did NOT disappoint. 

When entering the city of New Orleans, one can feel the experience of the city. There was culture oozing from every part, from the lower ninth ward, to the french quarter, to the wetlands. The lower ninth ward gave perspective on how Hurricane Katrina affected the city, the french quarter had the music and the old school building that we all think about when we imagine New Orleans, and the wetlands gave a perspective of what the area had to offer with wildlife and plant species. The food was an experience of a lifetime! Being someone who is extremely picky, I let myself try exotic foods that I would otherwise never like alligator or frog legs (both were amazing!). People that lived in the area were above all the most amazing, nicest people
I have ever met! They were so welcoming and wanted to talk about our experience in the city. Above all, the people are what I will miss the most. Last, and definitely not least, the field work that my fellow colleagues and I conducted, was intense, hard, and so rewarding in all aspects. We were able to do real life field work, to really sweat and get our hands dirty. Towards the end of the trip, we really grew a great appreciation for New Orleans and for each other. 

I would HIGHLY recommend to all students to attend this field course with Dr. Sean Anderson. You will gain experience, knowledge and love for that amazing city.

Culmination of My NOLA Experience – Dorian

I really enjoyed going to New Orleans, Louisiana. We learned about the culture and history beforehand and were able to see it first hand in NOLA. The immersive learning experience allowed us to implement what we learned and resolidify our knowledge of this one of a kind, beautiful city. Seeing the diversity and difference in architecture as we traveled from one parish to another ingrained the impact the history had on shaping the city into what it is today.

I was lucky enough to have shared this experience with my brother and sister! It was amazing being able to walk through the French quarter looking for ice cream while laughing, seeing the characters that inhabit the city. Sitting on the edge of the Mississippi River watching the sunset on the last day felt like a wonderful way to end our journey together, but it most definitely will not be our last!

My Experience In New Orleans

The service learning trip to New Orleans, Louisiana, is a trip that I will never forget. I learned so many new things about the local culture, people, and myself. This trip enhanced my understanding of the field of Environmental Science and will be highly beneficial for me in my future studies. I was able to learn how to professionally conduct surveys analyzing the flora and faunal makeup of the region, install food gardens for those in need, and replant after the recent Hurricane Ida. 

It was an amazing adventure in terms of experiencing a new culture. We were able to experience the food, history, and meet the wonderful locals that resided there. The individuals we were able to meet were extremely friendly and willing to teach and explain to us about their culture. If I was given the chance to come on to this trip again, I would go in a heartbeat!

NOLA 2022 Reflection

Ever since I heard and attended meetings about the NOLA trip during my freshman year in 2017 up to now, I knew that’s something I really wanted to do before graduating from CSUCI. I’m grateful I applied and got picked to go this spring, on my last semester as an undergraduate!

The trip to NOLA was life changing for me as I learned so much about the culture, art, music, food, ecosystems, and so much more. For the first day we had the tour around NOLA and going to different places, I learned how hurricanes have impacted many homes and families who lived in the Lower 9th Ward. Their lifestyle is so different from ours, and it’s insane how they have adapted and are still reconstructing their homes from the most recent hurricane that took place, Hurricane Ida. I also learned that flood walls are not always the answer to protect homes, and levees way better for blocking water to prevent any sort of flooding.

I found the temperature changes to be surprising. If I can recall one day it was in the 30s as the highest temperature and the next day the highest would be in the 80s. Another thing I found surprising was how the blackberry would grow. Some of the blackberry we had to chop down was taller than me! Also, seeing a Cypress for the first time in person was astonishing as it was over or about 30 meters high and over 100 cm wide at breast height. Something else I found surprising was the way the community engages with one another. While walking around the French Quarter, there was a live band with a huge crowd of people celebrating a couple’s wedding. As the bride and groom were entering the reception, bystanders on the street stopped and cheered them on and danced to the band’s music. They were all singing and dancing along to the music, they all seemed supportive and joyful, that was a wholesome moment I witnessed first-hand.

Walking through the French Quarter

If anything, I miss the food from NOLA. Trying different foods and spices used there was an experience. Walking around the French Quarter and seeing lots of street artists such as musicians and artists painting/drawing right in front of you was a sight to see. Being in the woodlands collecting data that is beneficial for future use has a special place in my heart since my capstone project was all about restoration with the NPS and helping the environment around us. Knowing that our data will be used and saved for the future is such a great feeling because we contributed to an important study that has been going on for years, and we added more input to it. I miss being able to help people in the community like David with his yard work and cleaning his storage, and Carol with the food garden. I felt as if all the work we put out for the community will forever be remembered and appreciated by them. Many adventures took place with friends as we had museum tours, the Lower 9th Ward tour, exploring and hanging out in the French Quarter, trying new food, etc. I wouldn’t change a thing that happened on the trip, many memories were made and we are all grateful that we got this opportunity. I would go back to New Orleans in a flash as it was an experience from the moment everyone was at the airport ready to go.

Chopped a path through blackberry with a machete
Eating crawfish for the first time with jambalaya and salad!
My rating: 10/10 highly recommend

My Time in NOLA

This trip will forever by my heart as one of the best and hardest trips of my life. I’ve wanted to go on this service learning trip ever since I came to CSUCI in the spring semester of 2019. Unfortunately due to the pandemic, the trip was cancelled in 2020 and 2021. Since I’m graduating in May, this was my last chance and don’t regret a single second of it. I struggled with whether to go on the trip or not because my father had been in the hospital the entire month before we left. I went to go see him the weekend before our scheduled departure and he told me to go and tell him all about it as soon as I got back. I never got to tell him about it because he passed in the middle of the trip. I was asked if I wanted to go home, but I knew that he was there, in the middle of the Woodlands Conservancy with me and that he would have wanted me to finish the job.

The very next day we went out to the 9th ward and helped the Capstone Community Gardens clear out weeds, feed the goats, and cleaned up their storage space. The day after that we drove out to Buras and laid the groundwork for even more food gardens. Working for the people of New Orleans is exactly what my dad would have wanted me to do and I did my best to continue his legacy of helping people while still trying to mourn this deep loss.

I made friends on this trip that I will never forget and I will hold dear for the rest of my life. We met some wonderful people in NOLA that I hope to see again some day. In fact, I plan on helping the NOLA teams in the coming years (on my own dime) in any way that I can. I believe any student that has the ability to take this trip, no matter their major, should go out to NOLA to learn about the culture, the history, the people, the impacts, anything they can.

While the work was hard and the days were long, it was so worth it and I can’t wait to go again.

My memorial tattoo for my dad with the coordinates in Woodlands Conservancy where I got the phone call from my mom that my dad had passed.

Coffee and Beignets with Mark Samuels

On our 4th day we started by making a stop at the Morning Call Coffee Stand on Canal Blvd to chat with the owner of Basin Street Records, Mark Samuels, to learn about his time living in New Orleans before, during, and after Hurricane Katrina.

Mr. Samuels created Basin Street Records in 1997 when he agreed to release an album for New Orleans jazz trumpeter and vocalist Kermit Ruffins. He told us all about what it was like working with the local artists and everything he did to help them move their careers forward. Mark also talked to us about his personal struggles before and during Hurricane Katrina. While he was fortunate enough to not have lost everything, it did take time and determination to keep his company afloat while his house and office were rebuilt.

His story is one of sincere love for his craft and for the artists of New Orleans. This city is known for its music and Mark has helped keep that alive by signing several artists to his label, including Jason Marsalis, Jon Cleary, Lena Prima, and many others. For more information you can check out the label’s website at

Woodlands Conservancy: Orleans Audubon Society

While in NOLA, during our surveying at the Woodlands Conservatory, the Orleans Audubon Society was setting up nets to catch and tag birds. These nets were set up in the manner of a volleyball net. When the bird would fly into the net, the net would fold in on them successfully catching them. This sounds dangerous but this very rarely hurts the bird. The Audubon members check the nets every 20-30 minutes to ensure that the birds are not hurt and check if there are any. During the winter and summer they check on the nets every 10-15 minutes, due to exposure to the elements. They check more often because birds can not thermoregulate.

When a bird is successfully caught it is taken to a station to be analyzed and tagged. The station is a table that has a weight scale, tools to help tag the birds, and a computer for previous data collected. The previous data is needed to compare the birds presently caught to the ones in the past. If a bird was already caught then it is noted and can help them determine the age of the bird. There are different categories of age, 1 yearling, 2 yearling, adolescent, and adult. The previous data collection gives them a timeline of some of the birds that have been caught before. If they caught a bird the year before and it was 1 year old, it is now a 2 yearling. In order to find the birds in the data, the tags that are attached to one of their legs has a serial(identification) number on it. For all birds the tag is plastic, except for one. The Woodpeckers get metal tags so the bird can not easily remove the tag and potentially lose years of data.

The purpose of the Orleans Audubon Society is to track and note how many birds, what kind, age, and more of the birds that are captured. The Audubon Society is dedicated to the preservation and conservation of wildlife and wild places of the southeastern U.S. and fostering an understanding and appreciation of nature.