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A brief reflection

I came into this trip not really knowing what to expect. I’ve heard nothing but amazing this about this trip, and I was so excited to go on it. I learned so many things and life lessons from this trip. Any expectation I had was beyond surpassed. The days spent at Woodlands were long, and tiring, but very rewarding. When feeling worn out or tired, all I had to do was look around (past all the blackberry) and see all the green, and that was enough to keep me going.Our days at Woodlands were spent surveying the area. We set up transects, and took count of native and invasive species. We got to see armadillos, snakes, turtles and even an alligator! Although the mosquitos were pretty bad, bug spray was there to save the day.The days we weren’t at Woodlands, we helped out planting food gardens. Our first garden was for our friend Carol, and the second was for Capstone Community Gardens. We were able to spend time in the French Quarter being able to experience the full culture of New Orleans. We got to see the Mardi Gras Indians, parades, and local musicians. All of these experiences were so amazing. We were able to fully dive into Louisiana culture in 10 days. While sitting on the plane ride home, I tried to pick my favorite part of the trip, and I honestly couldn’t. Each day was an adventure within itself. The days were long and often dirty. We sweat, got attacked by bugs, and got pretty dirty, but it was all worth it in the end. I learned many things on this trip, and will forever be grateful for the friendships that were made. Its hard to express how much fun the past 10 days have been. I now know what it is like to miss New Orleans.

Homeward Bound

Posted from Los Angeles, California, United States.

It’s 12:12am in New Orleans but as I write this on our plane that has started it’s decent into Los Angeles. While I’m eager to get back to my daily grind so I can get done with homework that is weighing heavy on my mind, I already am missing the Crescent City.

The ESRM New Orleans trip is advertised as the number one, must have experience within the department. After hearing story after story of all of the fun and shenanigans had on this trip, the expectations have been set remarkably high. Now, after paying my 10 day penance to the city and the blackberry, I can say that every single positive thing I’ve heard is absolutely true. The bar was set high, yet Sean was able to exceed every expectation.

From the difficulty of cutting through blackberry to the sheer fun of dancing and bowling at Rock N Bowl, every moment was just as trying, exciting, and fun as possible. As I look towards graduation and the potential of working in the field and/or of moving on to grad school, I look at opportunities such as this that have allowed me to see how each of them work for me.

All and all, I believe one of the biggest lessons Sean inadvertently taught us was the importance of having friends who share your passions with you. Watching him interact with Tom and John on the transects, at meals, and at shows displayed their genuine enjoyment of what they were doing and of each other. I look forward to continuing to work with the students on this trip and building the same kind of relationship this trio of trimates have

Sean and Tom enjoying the live entertainment at Rock N Bowl as they wait on their bowling shoes

John picking leaves from a plant for Tom and him to look at and discuss

Tom looking at leaves having a long winded discussion with John about the exact species of the plant.

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Tom, John, and Sean goofing around and having fun on a sea saw

Sean and Tom bowling together at Rock N Bowl

Rare Woodland Conservancy Trails Roadkill

While working on the trails today, the BAB working group found this interesting roadkill at 2500 m along trail A. Because these individuals have been squished beyond the point of ID, they may remain unknown in species. Drive safe on your trails out there!!

Helping Out at the Capstone Community Garden

We were fortunate to visit and help out at a community garden in Louisiana’s Lower Ninth Ward, called Capstone Community Garden. The man running the garden, David, moved to Louisiana post-Katrina to do what he can to help out the locals. The garden contains an aquaculture setup and a variety of livestock, and makes use of empty plots of land that have not had houses re-built on them yet.

Sea Shanties

Last night we packed all 14 students into Sean’s van and visited Paul Sanchez, a New Orleans local and American guitarist at Chicky Wah Wah. There he played an acoustic set alongside three other artists. One of the artists left from Chickie Wah Wah to Siberia where he played sea shanties alongside a men’s sea shanty choir.

Our group stayed behind at Chickie Wah Wah for the end of Paul’s set, then went with Paul to Siberia to listen to the sea shanties. We danced and sang along for the greater part of an hour before we realized it was nearly midnight and time for us to go.

We were still so excited from our time at Siberia that we bullied Dr Sean Anderson into playing more sea shanties for our drive back to the Mustard House. To our surprise (and delight) he was already prepared with songs that we had heard that night. Despite our lack of sleep, we all loudly sang along in our packed van to each shanty making it a fun night to remember.

Capstone Community Gardens

Capstone Community Gardens is located in the lower ninth ward, one of the neighborhoods most drastically affected by Hurricane Katrina. The organization’s mission is to tackle food insecurity in a sustainable and community oriented fashion. They achieve this by employing a variety of techniques, such a aquaculture (with goldfish and koi), gardening on multiple plots (15) throughout the lower ninth ward, raising animals (goats, chickens and ducks) for fertilizer, capturing rain water, beekeeping, and using solar energy.

At Capstone, we split into two groups. One group worked on gardening, and the other cleaned out the animal cages. The animal waste was dumped in the compost pile, which will later be used to add nutrients to the garden soil. The gardening consisted of pulling weeds, planting vegetables, and distributing mulch and bits of cardboard. David explained to us how important it is to focus on both of these aspects- the animals and the plants. The balance between them is key and is what makes Capstone so successful and productive. Since it’s opened, they have given away 16,000-18,000 lbs of food! It was wonderful to participate in such a kind and helpful endeavor.

Morning Call Cafe

Yesterday we had the pleasure of meeting Mark Sanders, the founder of Basin Street Records. In nostalgic fashion, we met at the Morning Call Cafe, where Mark worked in 1978 and we had coffee and beignets for breakfast. He spoke to us about his label, the music industry in New Orleans, and his experiences with hurricane Katrina.

Mark started his record label in 1998. He worked with local jazz greats like Irvin Mayfield, Bill Summers, Kermit Ruffins, and Jason Marsalis. By 2005, the label had six full time employees and a work space. Then Hurricane Katrina struck Louisiana, bringing devastation and chaos to all aspects of life in New Orleans. Temporarily, Mark relocated to Austin, Texas. Despite losing the work space, his home, and many other obstacles, he stayed steadfast in his determination to pursue his passion and share the sounds of New Orleans with the world. He managed to keep the label alive by working out of coffee shops.

Since then, the label has made a miraculous rebound and seems to be as strong as ever. Currently, they have 3 full time employees and work out of Mark’s home. They are still putting out albums and finding fresh new artists that exemplify the spirit and resilience of New Orleans.

Team Turning: Carol Arceneaux: Buras Garden Planting

On Wednesday we had the pleasure of planting a garden for our friend Carol Arceneaux at his property in Buras.

Buras is on a thin strip of land between the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico. Since Katrina only about 10% of the population has come back.

Carol’s property has several concrete slabs where homes once stood, he tells us that he used to have several neighbors on all sides of him.

Other than Katrina, the residents of Buras have lost their homes to several other hurricanes, Buras has a levees one each side so that when water flows over them it essentials becomes a bowl and the water has no where to go.

We first dug the perimeters of the planting bed, and turned all the soil manually with shovels. We then spaced our vegetables apart, planted them and watered them.

The soil here is rich and is one of the many reasons why these wetlands were converted for agricultural.