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At a loss for words

I am at a loss for words… Describing my experience in New Orleans is nearly impossible. It was incredible, wonderful, eye-opening, educational, humbling, and for me, a once in a lifetime opportunity that I will never forget. Our adventure was not merely a trip, it was a life experience. I was able to meet and listen to people who call New Orleans home, they loved to tell us their stories and they loved to see a group of people who cared enough to listen. Dr. Anderson really showed us all that what is truly important is being empathetic and having the ability to understand where others are coming from and even learning from their experiences. When we open ourselves up to this, we are more able to help and make more responsible and thoughtful decisions.

I returned from Louisiana excited to tell me family and friends about my excursion and what I had learned and what I had seen. Not only did I learn a lot, but those who I relayed the stories to, did as well. In class lectures were an amazing way to introduce us to New Orleans, but being there in person seeing the effects of Katrina firsthand is something that can’t be beat. Some of the most memorable parts of the trip, were when we attended live music performances around town. The culture was so alive and the artists had such pride in the music they shared with everyone. Everyone danced, everyone sang, everyone was happier than they’d ever been before. It was enlightening.

Lastly, I quickly grew t love my classmates. Everyone was so kind, caring and friendly. This made the trip even better. We all had a wonderful time together. Even when times got tough, we all worked through it together and encouraged each other to keep going and that all our hard work was more than worth it. I am proud to say that I made an entirely new group of friends; we were a family. New Orleans brought so much into my life that I wasn’t expecting. If I could relive it, I would.

NOLA 2017 Reflection

The Service Learning trip to New Orleans has, by far, been one of the best learning experiences. I am so thankful that I had the opportunity to go to New Orleans and learn about the culture, contribute to a long-term study, and learn about the strength and resiliency of New Orleanians. The 10 day trip went by in a what seemed liked a blink of an eye. Here’s a brief reflection on just some of things we did and experienced:

 

Lower Ninth Ward Levee Breach. Learned the truth about levees and why they failed. There is currently no museum for Hurricane Katrina. One has to wonder why it is not something that is talked about.

David Young founded Capstone Community Gardens in 2010. He provides fresh produce for residents who live in the Lower Ninth Ward. Capstone has provided 2,550 lbs of food for residents. We spent an afternoon helping David with weeding, planting and light carpentry work. His dedication to the people living in the Lower Ninth Ward is not only helping them to become healthier, but more food secure as well. I am glad we were able to help and I hope to continue helping by either volunteering my time or donating money/tools.

Woodlands Trail and Park is where the class collected data on native and invasive woody plant species. The data will be added to a long-term data set so that diversity of the plant species can be monitored and maintained.

Our class used band transects 50 meters apart that started in the middle of the trail and extended to the right 100m into the vegetation. Although the work was challenging, I am happy to have been able to contribute to the research. I was motivated to work hard because I know that the people of New Orleans appreciate the work that we do. We are helping to preserve one of the last bottomland hardwood forests in the area, which is a crucial storm buffer.

Chickie Wah Wah. Jon Cleary performed. I am thankful that Dr. Anderson took us to see so many great local artists. The music scene is alive in New Orleans, with performances being announced on the radio daily. I really enjoyed the jazz musicians that we saw at clubs and on the streets and I bought a few CDs so that I could have a little piece of New Orleans to take home and share with my family and friend. Fun Fact: New Orleans is the birthplace of jazz.

Crawfish Boil! Thank you to the Woodlands Plantation and Foster Creppel for being such a wonderful host. We all had a blast touring the former plantation and now gorgeous bed and breakfast. Foster showed us the gators and gave us a tour of the breathtaking grounds. We even met the Lieutenant Governor of Louisiana, Billy Nungesser. He was such a humble person who cares deeply for the people of Louisiana.

This is the old Surveyor’s house. It sleeps 8 people. The home has been updated with modern comforts, but it still has all the charm and beauty of an old Southern home. I loved spending the night here and waking up to watch the sunrise out on the front porch.

Dr. John Lambrinos is talking to us at a local resident’s home located in Buras. Last year the NOLA group helped out with the garden. John is explaining how fertile the soil is in the area. We unfortunately could not help with the garden because there were not enough supplies to get started. We needed to till the ground in preparation for planting. Hopefully next years group will be able to get some good work done.

Fun night at Rock n Bowl. We bowled and danced to great music and just before we left we were serenaded by a man with a ukulele! He even gave us rough cuts to take home! Another treasured memory with a great group!

We visited the Whitney Plantation which is a museum that focuses on the enslaved instead of the enslaver. It was founded in 1752 and operated until 1970. There were 354 slaves. New Orleans was a major hub for slave trade. I learned how dangerous sugar production is. It was a chilling experience, but I learned a lot and even purchased a couple books so that I could learn more.

Again, these are a just of few of the many memories I have. I could honestly fill many more pages with all that I have learned!

As I look through all the pictures and all my notes I am brought back to New Orleans. So many incredible memories that I will treasure forever. This was a truly unique and special trip and words cannot describe how thankful and appreciative I am to have been able to soak in the beautiful and special place that New Orleans is. I am deeply moved and humbled. I honestly cannot wait to go back. This trip has inspired me to continue to work hard so that I can continue to help people and do what I can to make this world a better place. I know how truly fortunate I am, and I want to use that to do good in the world. I hope to take home ALL that I have learned so that I can teach people and tell them about New Orleans. The spread of knowledge is so important, and sometimes the best knowledge is gained from simply talking to local people (they also tell some of the best stories).

A special thank you to Dr. Anderson “our fearless leader” — without whom this trip would not have been possible. Thank you also to Dr. John Lambrinos and Dr. Tom Huggins for their endless humor and knowledge. Thank you to Kevin Mapp (CSUCI Photographer and Videographer) for documenting the trip so beautifully! Thank you to Emily Welsh for all that she does. Thank you to Dr. Don Rodriguez and Dr. Dan Wakely for their continued support. Thank you to CSUCI’s Instructionally Related Activities Fund and the ESRM Program. Thank you to all of the people we met in New Orleans who took the time talk to with us and enlighten us. Last but certainly not least, thank you to my NOLA 2017 peers, everyone brought something special and unique to the trip. I am so grateful to have gotten to know each of them and to have shared in creating so many great memories. You ALL are awesome!

Final Thoughts on Our Experiences

Posted from Los Angeles, California, United States.

First off, thank you to Dr. A for another amazing trip. I am thankful for the opportunities to travel and gain hands-on experience more than I could ever explain. Each trip truly has shaped who am I and the things I want to accomplish in the world. I love that we are not just tourists when we visit New Orleans; our goal is not to watch from behind the glass but instead to interact and to live the life of someone in New Orleans for ten days. This is a lesson I plan to continue on no matter where I am. Although some field days got a bit tough and stressful I wouldn’t trade that for anything. These are the times we each are offered a platform to get a glimpsed of our strengths, weaknesses, and capabilities both as a team and individually. Throughout this trip I was also very thankful we spoke with a wide variety of people – from Doctors at Tulane University to musicians and average citizens who have pride in their city. It doesn’t always take a high ranking degree or formal education to allow contribution into a conversation that ultimately affects people of all backgrounds. Hurricane Katrina and its devastation is a lesson I hope not only each of us can learn from but also grow from.

Now Playing: “When You Get Back” – Jon Cleary & The Absolute Monster Gentlemen

Posted from Ventura, California, United States.

I still feel New Orleans in me with a weight similar to a very full belly, a heavy presence that leaves me wondering if it might be embedded in my belly forever. At no other point in my life have 10 days gone by so quickly. Never before have I felt so fulfilled from an amount of work that felt so small, in context. There is a part of me that is New Orleans, an itch I can’t ignore, but can’t yet scratch. I find myself wishing I’d brought more home. The voodoo doll from the French Quarter, cajun seasoning and sliced garlic from the cooking school (the vanilla bean extract was confiscated at the airport), bottle-cap framed ouija board from Dr. Bob’s, the “past cards” I’ll be sending away to parents and grandparents, the 3 CDs I acquired from musicians that inspired us all, the magnets on my fridge, the mud on the bottom of my suitcase, the crumpled up boarding pass in the front pocket of my backpack… I can put all these things in a pile in the living room but I can’t bring New Orleans home with me, at least not physically. I mean it honestly, though, when I say it’s a part of me forever.

New Orleans made me want to be a better musician. It made me want to forget the stupid little day-to-day things and focus on the important stuff. It made the “hard work” at home seem insignificant. I wanted to stay for a year and keep working, keep asking the locals to tell me their stories, keep learning about the history. I wanted to contribute. I learned things about gardening that I convinced myself I would re-create at home. I learned more about a history of a town with more stories than I could probably ever hear in one lifetime.

 

I did things I never thought I’d be able to do in less time than I would have ever imagined, like, for instance, when I was able to identify tree species by day 2, or hack through 100 meters of blackberry in an hour and a half. I got a taste of what strength really looks and feels like, and it was gone too fast. Does anyone know of any place around Ventura County where you can chop wood or hack at something with a machete, for recreation? Does anyone have anything invasive they need help tearing down? You have my number.

 

Do I know what it means to miss New Orleans? A Reflection

Posted from Camarillo, California, United States.

First of all, I’d like to start off by recapping some awesome moments from our NOLA symposium. These moments include Don and Dan signing my Don and Dan!

The legend!

Im his number 1 fan!

 

I’m also his number 1 fan!

And lets not forget the picture I painted of Sean wrestling an Alligator! I got the whole crew to sign it. I think Sean liked it!

(We had to take this picture 7 times)

It was a fun night filled with hilarious memories. I think the sound of Kevin (our photographer) laughing at the ridiculousness of my field how-to video made the whole event for me. Good food and good people all around! In case anyones interested, here the exact video:


But besides the amazing symposium and get together, I’d like to talk about my feelings towards our overall trip. I’ll begin by saying I went in with very high expectations. As most ESRM students grow through the program, one of the many things they learn is that the NOLA trip that goes out every year is one of the most amazing, life changing experiences. It is told time and time again that going out to meet the locals, performing service learning, and engaging in the New Orleans culture is an unforgettable time. It is also told that this trip is wild, full of hard work, and full of late night rewards. I was excited going in, as I’m sure was everybody else.

My initial thought upon entering the class was “holy crap, this is a lot of females!” We had 11 girls and 1 guy in our crew. I thought this would make for a hectic experience, but honestly I’m so happy that thought has been debunked.

It’s weird really. When you’re there in Louisiana, everything is going so fast. You’re meeting so many people every day, doing so many things. If you’re not working, you’re out and about. If you’re back at the house, you’re entering data or blogging. If you’re not asleep, you’re exploring bits of the night time as much as you can. And if you’re not doing any of those things, you’re probably squeezing in a 5 minute shower!

Every day is a different kind of crazy. Some days everyone is having the time of their life. But most days, people are tired and cranky. We’re all covered in sweat, mud, and pollen. We’re constantly changing gears. Its an emotional roller coaster. You’re so busy getting caught up in the sights and the places, constantly trying to take pictures and take in the experience. I know for myself, I was trying so hard to feel that connection with the people we were helping. It was there, and it resonated deep within me. When life is moving so fast, there isn’t really time to realize who you’re with and the things that are happening.

The only time I realized this was when we all spent the night with Katie from Woodlands Conservancy, making dinner and enjoying ourselves at her beautiful house. It was the only place we went to with a homestyle setting, where we were technically “out”. I’ve never laughed so hard, or conversed as long as I did in her living room, with anybody. All of us were just sitting around and bonding. It was the only night where all of us were in one place (not half in the ministry house, half at jazz clubs) having a good time. That night was really beautiful. And more-so, it made me realize the amazing people I was with on this trip. I loved all of the girls around me (Hayden too!). I loved and respected our amazing professors for taking us out and working so hard to get us here. I loved and respected Katie and her Husband, for letting us into their home and letting us work in the woodlands. I felt like all of us in that house were a huge happy family.

And that’s what I took away from this trip. Not just the places we went to, and the people we met. But more the relationships I made with my peers. The same people who might one day go back with me and know what it’s like to miss New Orleans. The same people who connected with the locals, the volunteers with me. It was truly such an important experience. And I also found out a lot about myself. I found out that I’m vastly interested in the history of New Orleans, and the geologic changes that have happened to shape the Louisianan coast. Every museum we went to, I’ve caught myself just lingering in the pre-colonial section, and following it all the way through to the late 1800s. The geomorphologic changes pre and post human colonization is amazing. And I would love to study more about how it continues to change in the future!

This was a place that I thought I would never visit growing up, and now it’s one of the most near and dear things to my heart. I want to say a special thank you to all of the girls (and guy) who came along on the trip, but more so to Sean Anderson, Donald Rodriguez, Dan Wakelee, Tom Huggins, Jon Lambrinos, and the IRA for making this trip possible every single year. I love you all!

Preparing for our New Orleans Celebration!

Posted from Camarillo, California, United States.

For our New Orleans + other IRA funded trip symposium, Daniella and I took it upon ourselves to make our featured meal: Jambalaya! We of course have never cooked for 100 people before, so it was a trip buying all the quantities and preparing the course. I just told her to buy 8 of every ingredient and we would get to town!

The station!

Our secret weapons: Mixture of spicy and normal cajun flavoring. We had to go through the whole bottle of hot sauce to get the same effect we had in NOLA!

We made two platters, normal and vegetarian. Just like in New Orleans, we winged the recipe again. I was going off of memory and Daniella was doing the same. The only ingredient we left out was the jumbo shrimp from Lake Pontchartrain, (Surprisingly hard to find in California! /joke). Because my tiny kitchen only had 3 average sized pots, we had to make 7 batches for each the meat and veggie platters. It was a lot of cooking, and my whole house was starting to smell Cajun!

The third batch

Master Chefettes! (and onion eye protection on my head)

By the end of the night we were close to winding up. All it took was chopping up some additional parsley bunches and making extra meat in case we only had the vegetarian platter left. We made too much meat, and rewarded ourselves by snacking on a few pieces!

Our dinner reward for cooking for 4 hours straight. Worth it

The end result was beautiful, tasty jambalaya! Everyone finished the platters the next day!

NOLA Reflection – Hayden

This trip will never be duplicated. There will be trips very similar to ours but no two trips are the same. I enjoyed learning more about how levees work and the different types. I was grateful to learn more about how the citizens of New Orleans had to deal with the hurricane and I was deeply saddened by how things are still not looking great for them on our current path. It was humbling to visit a town that has essentially been abandoned by the State because there was little hope of keeping the town for much longer. It was also great to see how areas around the center of the city has been doing better and to help people grow fruit and vegetables that they can eat and give to the people all around them. Most importantly it was rewarding to be able to go into Woodland Conservancy and do our vegetation surveys. I like doing things and feeling like that I am contributing to something larger than myself. Plus this helps the environment more as a whole since now people will have more data that is accurate. I thought it was cool to also learn more about the culture of the area. I remember hearing about stuff starting in New Orleans but actually going there and seeing it really helped me see how and why things started there. One of the most impactful moments for me was when we went to the Whitney Plantation. This really hot me hard because it was a plantation museum that was dedicated to the history of slavery that was going on there. This was the fist plantation to have this. It was humbling to hear the stories that happened to the slaves and the owners. One of things that I learned was to be grateful of what I have and that it hasn’t been taken away by a storm or by an earthquake. I am also grateful to be living in California where people are a little bit more environmentally aware but the people of Louisiana are learning more and more everyday and that is always good. A few things I will not miss is getting up early and not going to bed till late, and being busy all day and the humidity. With that said I wouldn’t change anything about the trip. It was a lot of fun and a great learning experience. Now I know a few more plants 🙂

From LA to LA

Posted from Camarillo, California, United States.

Being home for these past couple of weeks, has been a bittersweet experience for me. While it has been nice to sleep in past 7 AM and go to bed before 1 AM, I miss the woodlands, the French Quarter, the people of New Orleans, I even miss the blackberry and the adrenaline rush from hacking it all down with a machete. Hearing about this trip I heard of the difficulties I would face, how hard I would work, but most importantly, the sense of accomplishment I would feel walking away from New Orleans. But being here now, words could never express how truly impactful this trip was to me. I loved that it was so much more than touring the city and learning about what can be done, instead, we went out and did it.

Three to four transects, each 100 meters long, through blackberry taller than me, all in one day… working hard through the literal blood, sweat and tears… not for any other reason other than the shear will to help the people of New Orleans that flowed through us all. It didn’t take long for me to fall in love with the city and feel such passion for the injustice these people face. Because of this adventure of a life time, my eyes were opened to new perspectives and new experiences I never thought possible. As someone who loves the outdoors, being at the Woodlands Conservancy was right up my alley. But it was not just about being in nature that made this trip so amazing, it was the impact and the service that we provided while in New Orleans, in addition to the connections to the people made along the way.

My life has been forever changed, and just within the short few weeks being home, I have shared the stories of the New Orleans people, made a map in GIS of Hurricane Katrina and the levees, and showed others the amazing photos taken along our journey, all in the hopes of passing my love for New Orleans on to others. This trip was an experience of a lifetime and I truly feel so grateful for the opportunity to go with such an amazing professor and amazing classmates. Thank you to everyone who made this adventure not only possible but an incredible memory I will always treasure as a Voodoo Doll.

Don and Dan’s Adventures in NOLA

I’m sure many of you were wondering where Don and Dan were this whole time. Here is a recap of our adventures together throughout the trip!

Don buckled in and ready to go to LAX.

Don and Dan at the Open Air Levee Museum!

Smirking at the fishing banner… courtesy of Sean’s request

Don and I identifying Louisiana natives on our first Woodlands walk!

 

The weather sure is nice at the Open Levee Air Museum!

Admiring the green hues together

Hes behind me, isnt he?

Someone got a little too carried away in the tree identification….

Cooking up some Jambalaya for the team!

Dan and Don can’t wait for their 5 course meals at the cooking school!

Everyone having a great time now that we’re full

Don solo enjoying the set while John Cleary is taking a water break at Chickie Wah Wah!

Last night in NOLA seeing Johnny Sketch & the Dirty Notes with my homeboys!

Final day in NOLA. Reminiscing with smoothies and sunsets. Don and Dan have finally wrapped up their adventures!

 

 

 

 

 

Invasive Growth

Posted from Camarillo, California, United States.

Most of our students are recovering from this year’s trip by catching up on their other classes and their sleep.  We are still in the midst of entering all the vegetation data we collected this year, but some of it has been fully entered.  Chief among these are data from our individual tree growth study.

Tree 18 (tallow, Triadica sebifera, tag 1518) from our tree growth study on Trail C at Woodlands on March 26, 2107. We spray paint all our monitored trees green to make sure our managers don’t accidentally kill these particular invading individuals during their routine management efforts.

Monitoring Invaders Individual Growth

For the past several years, we have been trying to get a better handle on the exact growth rates of our invaders.  Doing so will allow us to better estimate how quickly a stand of unimpeded invaders might get to their “mature” canopy height.  While we sacrificed about one-third of our monitored individuals this past year to more precisely estimate standing biomass and correlate growth annual growth rings to allometric measures (DBH, height, etc.), we still have more than 60% of our individuals living and growing along Woodlands Trail’s Trail C.

Below are our most updated estimates of actual growth rates:

Diameter at Breast Height (1.5m above the ground)

Height of the Tree Apex

Our DBH measurements are the best estimate of growth given the fact we can consistently measure it easily and accurately.  While our estimates of height are good, many of these individuals are now more than 7 or 8 meters tall.  As such, accurately measuring the very top of these taller trees is difficult and introduces error into our numbers in recent years.  This may well explain the relative decrease in growth in height from this year’s measurements (the “2016” is the change between March 2016 to March 2017).

Note: some iPhones are having problems rendering our graphs.  As such, here they are in stagnant (non-html) image formats: