Tulane River and Coastal Center

Posted from Austin, Texas, United States.

  1. Today we visited the Tulane River and Coastal Center and were greeted by Amy Lessen, an assistant research professor at Tulane University. Amy studies the urban coast and works on projects that deal with sustainability, ecology, and diversity. She focuses on four major topics:
  2. Disease in a post trauma ecological landscape
  3. Community risk perceptions
  4. Landscape and vegetation
  5. Rodent populations and human health.

The most common theme regarding all four topics is abandonment. When places are abandoned after natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina, it impacts green spaces, invasives, open space, and diversity.

Amy explaining her work

Amy is trying to link these land use changes in human health with rodent demographic studies. Very little information is available for rat populations in the city of New Orleans, so she is establishing a database. She looks at two kinds of rats, Norway and Black rats.

The largest populations are found in the 9th ward, mainly due to abandonment, habitat gain, and water sources. Rats are a viable pathway for pathogen spreading, and increase risk perception depending on the size of populations in neighborhoods.

Amy is also looking at consortion with resilient gulf communities. Most of the impacts are from the BP oil spill. This project deals with human dimensions, health, engagement, and social networks. A big find with this project is that mental health issues in communities are largely caused by cascading effects of natural disasters.

She used an example with local native peoples, called the Isle Dejohn Charles tribe. This tribe resides on a small island in the Isle Dejohn Charles area. They have been hit hard by rising sea levels, frequent storms, and flooding. The oil spill has also contaminated the local fishing in the area. These people have decided to relocate from the island, and have secured urban housing by the state to migrate to.

All of Amy’s projects are fascinating because they deal with science in the humanities, which is her background. It’s often rare to see human ecology being explored in the case of Hurricane Katrina.

Here are more photos of the Tulane River and Coastal center!

View of the Mississippi from the Windows


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