42 posts

Growth of Invasive Trees

Part of our work saving the bottomland hardwood forests is quantifying just how bad our invasive woody species actually are.  In that vein, we established a group of marked (natural recruits) invaders out on our Trail C at Woodlands Trail three years ago and have been looking at their demography each year since.  This allows us to estimate the rate at which these species couple take over the canopy if left unchecked.

We have marked all of our trees with spray paint and located their exact positions with our sub-meter GPS.  Last year we had the brilliant idea to actually put numbered aluminum plant tags on these suckers.  The only issue we discovered this season was the growth rate of these trees is such that these wires holding the metals tags to the tree sometimes could not keep up with the phenomenal growth in the girth of these trees.

Tree Labels on Trail C in March of 2015



Surveying Woodlands Trail: Getting Up and Running

Sunday saw both the let-up of rain and our hard core Service Learning switch get thrown to “on.”  We began with a morning of orientation about the ecology and management of the system and by noon were hitting our annual surveys in support of Woodlands Conservancy’s long-term conservation efforts.


Ants Farming Aphids

All kinds of wonderful wildlife can be found on an easy trek down the paths of Woodlands a Trail and Park.  From the Cardinals flittering from side to side to the killer dragonflies to the armadillos and ant farmers.  There is always something exciting and fun to see, hear, or experience.

But one example we spied today is a small colony of ants farming a clutch aphids.  The small black specks are apids beeing tended to by the numerous (and much larger) ants.  Akin to a farmer with a herd of cattle, these ants are “milking” these aphids on the newest stem of an older elderberry (total height = 3m tall, with this clump of insects at about 1.2m above ground).

Ants farming aphids on Elderberry


The New Frenchmen Street

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One of my favorite places to catch live music when I am in New Orleans is the epic street known as Frenchmen.  Five years ago this was a slightly sleepy spot where locals were common patrons of the establishments.  Over these past few years, we’ve seen a dramatic change across this little street.  What was once a relatively small number of bars, music venues, and pretty cruddy restaurants (NEVER go to the Praline Connection, but I digress…) has become a veritable place to be.  You can call it “gentrification” or “hipsterville plus a bit of gutter punk” or “economic revitalization” or “great thing getting ready to go bad” or even “a place back in the day when I was the guy who knew about this place…and now it’s all gone.”  But whatever you call it, it is certainly an up and coming locale.

I often describe this area as the “east end of the French Quarter” to my students who are just getting their bearings.  Technically speaking this is far out of the French Quarter (but still only about a 10 or 15 minute walk from St. Louis Cathedral), in the Faubourg Marigny (nearly in the Bywater).

Things really started to change about 2010.  Every year since the landscape seems to evolve into something almost unrecognizable with vacant lots or quiet houses/apartments giving way to a near-continuous array of businesses.  This was always a place for great music (with Snug Harbors‘ straight ahead jazz, The Spotted Cat‘s Washboard Chaz and Jazz Vipers, d.b.a.‘s John Boutte or Linnzi Zaorski, etc.) but the venues have exploded with spots such as Cafe Negril joining “old” guards like Blue Nile and Apple Barrel.  Another key sign change was afoot was the indie Louisiana Music Factory record/CD shop moving from its traditional home across the street from the House of Blues in the Quarter to 421 Frenchmen Street two years ago.

Many of the music venues here were free or very limited cover but have increasingly succumbed to the growing crowds of late.  Even The Spotted Cat has begun charging a (modest) $5 cover (“it’s hardly anything…you know it is still a great deal” said the doorman to me tonight).  Exploding rents here are driving all manner of hipster fare to cover the costs such as Dat Dog‘s hot dog stand on steroids, the fantastic Three Muses, and the kale- and Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie-loving The Marigny Brasserie.  But what really helps Frenchmen Street stand out is the fantastic visual art flare.  I knew something was up and that the proverbial worm had turned when I was able to get impromptu poetry from a few French (yes, an actual French man on Frenchmen Street) speed poets banging on a 1950s typewriter near d.b.a. in 2012.  The most conspicuous addition here is the Art Market.  A few years ago this was a little spot with a handful or artists next to The Spotted Cat.  It is now a destination in an of itself with probably 30 artists on any given night (Thursday through Sunday are the peak nights).

Next time you are in town, skip the idiocy of Bourbon Street (well, you can actually check out Irvin Mayfield’s Jazz Playhouse then leave) and head to a real New Orleans experience.

Frenchmen Art Market and Bill Murray

Frenchmen Street: The Spotted Cat

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Frenchmen Street: The Spotted Cat 29.964061, -90.057668



Exploring Frenchman’s Street

One of my favorite spots for live music in New Orleans is Frenchman’s a Street.  To the first time visitor, it is easiest to describe this location as “the eastern edge of the French Quarter.”  But actually this is past Esplanade, the Treme, etc.  

Ten years ago this had a high proportion of locals.  But over the past four years, it has seen a massive surge in popularity.  Call it “gentrification” or “development” or an invasion of the “tragically hip hipsters” or whatever you like. Rents have soared, folks like the Louusiana Music Factory have relocated (from across the street from the House of Blues in the Quarter), and others have simply sprung up to serve the now-selling crowds of tourists.  This is the nightlife spot for those interested in things other than the frat-boy, alcohol-drenched street like Bourbon.

One of the ways Frenchman has always differed from the more typical fare in the Quarter Nightlife scene is a tremendous concentration of music venues (Snug Harbor for straight ahead Jazz, DBA for acts like John Boutte and zlonnzi Zaorski, the Three Muses, Spotted Cat, etc.)

The Art Walk is an example of the unique mix of things here.  This spot was a lot five years ago when a few street artists started selling their wares.  Now you can chill on a frequently-rotating array of furniture, draw with chalk on the concrete floor, or just meander the stalls under a canopy of white lights.  The Art Walk is a must-see for anyone visiting Frenchman’s Street.