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Lauren Zahn 12 posts

Do You Know What it Means to Miss New Orleans? 💔

It has been two full weeks since our departure from New Orleans and not a day goes by that I do not reflect on my experiences.  Going into the class I did not realize to what extent the “service” aspect of our trip would include. I really enjoyed the farming and agricultural practices we were able to partake in and learning about how they compare to the practices we have here in California. It was such a great opportunity to learn new things not only scientifically, but about the culture of the people who come from the state/area and how they have dealt with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.  I was
surprised to discover the overall poverty level of the state of Louisiana.  Hearing people’s stories and physically seeing the destruction that is still evident in the neighborhoods was very impactful for me.  The people who were the most affected do not have
the money to rebuild or fix their homes.  It helped me to reflect on how fortunate I am to come from a place that only really has to deal with wildfires and the ground shifting beneath our feet.

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One of the highlights from this trip for me was trying the various types of foods and hearing the different music in the French Quarter.  Something that stood out to me was when one of my fellow classmates asked where there was good music and the person he asked answered him with, “Just follow your ears.”  I couldn’t help but laugh at that because it was so true;
around every corner there was something new and exciting.  Not only in the realm of music were there exciting things to be found, but throughout our whole trip we were faced with places and situations that made for intriguing lectures or experiences.
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Some of the most random things that I enjoyed were the fact that we were able to see the Mississippi
River and the Gulf of Mexico.  I was glad when Dr. A had us take that short drive down to the Southern-most tip of Louisiana after our full day of working on a garden because that is something that not many people can say they have done.  Throughout our whole
trip we were able to encounter and learn so many things that I would have never known or been able to experience if it had not been for this class.  I would like to thank Dr. A, Dr. Patsch, Dr. Huggins, Dr. Lambrinos (& Diana!), IRA, and CSU Channel Islands
for offering me this amazing opportunity to go outside of my main area of study (English Education) and learn and serve not only the environment but the people as well.  

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Day 11 Gumbo

Last day of NOLA was bittersweet.  I woke up early and attended an ecumenical church service with Sean and Dr. A.  It was held at Lake View Funeral home and the Zion Harmonizers were the musical guests.  It was a very different experience because the whole service seemed to evolve around the gospel music; the pastor said a few words and discussed scripture for a short while. The Zion Harmonizers were also a sight to see. The band consisted of 7 members and they were very passionate about their music. They have been around for 77 years and traveled all over the world to preform. This year they will play/sing in the New Orleans Jazz Festival.

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One of the lead singers from the Zion Harmonizers

After the service we went back to the hotel and we all entered our data from our transects the past few days while it steadily rained outside.  We did not quite finish but we got a lot done.
At 11:30 a.m. we had a de-brief with Dr. A, John, Tom & Diana and discussed the highlights of our trip. We then headed out to the French Quarter and had around four hours to mill around. I was with Dulce, Aspen, Patrick & Sean. We ate lunch at The Gazebo Cafe and walked around to different shops. One of the most unique parts of our day was when we ran into the Easter parade. I caught a carrot and a handful of beads. I also had the best beignet I have ever tasted from Café Beignet. We bought them and took them over to the river to eat.

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Aspen, Dulce, Patrick, Sean & Tearney

On a final note, this trip was an unforgettable experience.  I learned so much about the diversity that runs through the viens of the city.  New Orleans is unique in its people, cultures, foods and music. I was able to gain a better appreciation for local artists and cultural foods. All of the aspects mentioned are the Gumbo (to quote Dr. A) that makes NOLA so special.
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 When reflecting on our main mission, I felt that I learned much more then expected about wetland restoration, the degradation brought upon them by Katrina and the ways we can help to educate others about the wetlands themselves. The service we did in regards to farming and planting was eye opening in the sense that it doesn’t take many people to make make a difference or to show others that growing your own food is valuable in the areas they are living in. I hope that one day I will be able to go back to NOLA and continue to assist people who are in need of a friendly helping hand.

Day 10

Today we woke up and left our hotel at 8.  At 9 we started our transects.  About 10 minutes in it started to rain (more like pour).  When the rain had passed Michaela, Sadie and I made a”How-to” video on how we conduct our transects. In all, we worked for 10 hours today with a one hour break.  We did 8 transects and it went really well.  Overall, the time we have spent in the field has been very productive and a great learning experience.  I hope that tomorrow we will be able to enter all of our data and wrap up this awesome trip on a good note.  

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Day 9

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Yesterday we went to a non-profit farm called Grow Dat.  They grow crops for the local community and involve high school students in order to educate them and occupy their time after school and on the weekends.  For this service we pulled weeds and placed a plastic covering over the newly crafted rows.  When we were done we went back to the hotel and entered data.  We left at 5 p.m. and ate some fried chicken.  From there we went to see the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra featuring Irvin Mayfield.  It was a great experience because I have never seen a jazz band so large.  The variety of sounds was breath-taking. 
Following the show we were ushered to the VIP section were we met with Irvin and the other musicians.  I talked to the only female performer.  Her name was Emily.  She had been playing the trumpet for 14 years and had been with the orchestra for 4 years.  There was also music so we all danced together and had a great time.  This night was definatly one of the highlights of the whole trip for me.

Day 7

Yesterday we woke up to a beautiful morning sky, ate our breakfast and headed out to tour the plantation with the owner Foster.

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He told us the history of the buildings and how most of them have been moved from different locations onyo the plantation. We stayed in the old plantation house (it was thrilling and delightfully spooky) it was the original building from the 1800s.

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Foster fed the gators that live in his ponds and we all watched as the massive gators chomped down on a fish snack.

After the fun, we all went to a newly built pavilion and helped to coat it with an oil sealant to make the wood last longer. It started to rain so we headed out and grabed some lunch. Following lunch we went to the hotel, settled in and went to the city garden where we went to the Chinese Festival of Lights. We watched an acrobatic performance and walked around looking at the lights. The highlight of the night was everyone reading their Chinese sign (based upon birth year) and all posing by our animal.
From there we went to check out another local musical artist and ended the night with fresh beignets.

Day 7

Yesterday we traveled farther south to aid a man named Carol with creating a vegetable garden. After Katrina he was an active community servant helping others with rebuilding. During his service he saved his son from falling in a hole by pushing him away and falling in the hole himself. By doing this he broke many bone and had to have his knee replaced. As a result of his surgery he can no long bend over and plant his own gardens. We all came out and dug up a garden; we tilled the land and planted a big variety of vegetables.

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After we left Carol’s, we drove the the Southernmost tip of Lousiana and saw a Cyprus forest that I was being overtaken by saltwater intrusion from the Gulf Of Mexico.

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then headed to the Woodland Plantation where we partook in a crayfish boil. It was the first time I tried crayfish and it was delicious!

Day 6

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Jay William & I

Today we went to the lower ninth ward and assisted with a program called Capstone.  Capstone is a program that makes food gardens to support the local community.  As a part of our day we were split into a few different groups.  We started off weeding a small garden in the front yard of the house.  I planted a baby head of lettuce. 

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Next, one team was helping to improve the house of the founder David so he can get ready to paint it.  Another team was sent to a lot down the street to mow the lawn (mini forest) and clean the area.  I was with this group and I was one of the people who mowed the lawn.  It was very hard but really fun because it was very satisfying to see the end result.  The last group was a group that everyone ended up helping in the end because they had the duty of washing the clay rocks so they could be put in a filtration system for David’s Aqua Farm.  His Aqua Farm held 200 catfish and helped to support the growth of the plants.  David had two different types of lettuce and kale.

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After we left Capstone we went into the Central Business District and went to a law firm that discussed a case between 97 oil and gas companies and the SLFPA (Southern Louisiana Flood Protection Agency).  Our last stop was at the NOLA.org news office and we talked to a Pulitzer prize winning journalist who talked about what he deals with on a daily basis in regards to the politics and repercussions of Katrina.

Day 5: Field Day 2

Second day in the field was a success. Michaela, Sadie & I blew through 3 transects on Trail A and moved to Trail B where we did 6 more. (9 in total today!) We had quite a few invasive (Tallow & Chinaberry) in our Trail A transects and not as many on Trail B. Trail B was also not as difficult seeing also our first few transects were only 6 meters in length as opposed to 100m.

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So for those of you reading our blog, we are probably using many terms that may seem foreign to our readers. I will attempt to explain what we are talking about. A transect is the line that that we run through the wetland for 100 meters. The tape we run through the forest is the “transect” tape.
For myself, being the data recorder, I have many duties. On my data sheet I am I’m charge of recording the transect stop, the natural & exotic overstory, the understory’s percent of ferns & blackberry, the amount of leaf & wood litter, and if there is or is not a fallen log on the quadrant.  Now to explain all of these concepts.  The transect stop is the length of the recording.  For example, if the transect stop is at 4 meters, we are recording everything in between the last stop (2M) and 4 meters.  Our quadrant for that stop is 1 M on each side of the quadrant.  The overstory is the amount of cover over the quadrant we are observing; native percent is the amount of native vegetation that covers the area and exotic is the amount of invasive species that cover the space.  The understory is self-explanatory in that we record the percent of ferns and blackberry we observe.  The leaf and wood litter is just the amount of leaves and sticks/branches that cover the floor; this section is measured in centimeters.  The final section I am in charge of is whether or not there is a fallen log, which is also self-explanatory because I literally circle yes or no. 
The last section of the data entry that I complete is along with the help of Sadie and Michaela.  The space calls for the identification of all plants in the quadrant we are focused on.  This calls for the name of the species, the height of the vegetation and the DBH (Diameter Breast height).  The DBH is determined only of the vegetation is larger than your breast height.  If so, we measured the diameter of the steam/trunk.  I hope these explanations were helpful!

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Day 4: First Day in the Field !

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Today was our first day in the field. We went into English Turn and starred collecting data on our transects. I was paired with Michaela & Sadie. We started on 250M trail marker and team or transect tape 100 meters to the right at a 90 degree angle from the trail.  After Michaela had hacked through all of the blackberry,  Sadie and I began make observations within our different quadrants along the transect.  Sadie did a great job with identifying the plants and I was the one recording all of the data.

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Each quadrant was 1 meter wide on the left and right side of the transact tape. This process was related every 2 meters with the exception of the first two, which was from 0-1and 1-2.  We had to identify things such as the plant/tree species, the amount of overhead vegetation cover,  the amount of leaf liter/sticks on the ground and the percent of blackberry present.  We ended up getting through 2 transects. The plants we encountered the most were Box Elder, Elderberry, and our favorite,  Blackberry…. Tomorrow we will be doing the same thing. 

Day 3

Today was a full day of fun in the French Quarter.  We attended the New Orleans School of Cooking that was led by our host Michael. We formed teams & he walked us to the farmers market. There we  had a $20 budget to but whatever we wanted to make our assigned course. Patrick & Sadie were my partners and we were in charge of the entré so we decided to make a version of gumbo (the best we could seeing as we wanted to accommodate our vegetarian friends!) So we bought shrimp, onions, tomatoes, carrots, & mushrooms. Back at the school we peeled all the shrimp and de-veined them with Kiki.

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When everyone was done with their assigned course, we all gathered to eat together and as we ate each couse, the group who prepared it explained how they did it. The food was delicious!!!! Michael said he had never tasted a better red gumbo so that was exciting.
After the cooking experience we were let loose in the quarter to explore for the rest of the day. We stopped a lot to watch street performers (one of my favorite things to see!) We also went into the cathedral which was amazing. It was so intricate and detailed in the arcitecture. It was a result of the French influence in NOLA.
It started to rain pretty heavily so we stepped inside a coffee shop and played cards. When it settled down we made our way to Burbon Street to meet some others for food but got swept away when we saw Patrick, Jay & Michaela dancing away with the 2 line band barreling down the street. We joined in & it was one of the most fun moments I have EVER had.  There were so many people having a good time and the energy was amazing. Definitely a moment I will always remember (oh, and it was raining, how much better can it get?)
Once we were all together as a big group we went to D.B.A. where we saw John Boutte play/sing. It was a fun time! Overall an amazing day(: