NOLA 2023 Reflection

Before I came on the NOLA trip I did not know what to expect. I was nervous but excited knowing I would be traveling to a new state to help out the community as an environmental scientist. Reflecting now after those 10 days have ended I can say it was one of the most challenging but fulfilling experiences I have had so far. It was rough as we were outside for the majority of the time no matter if it was raining, hot, humid, or cold because we were there to get as much restoration done on limited time. This trip was fast paced but I enjoyed seeing all the places we saw and learning about New Orleans culture, it’s food and it’s people. Everyone was so welcoming and took the time to tell us their story and thanked us for the work we provided for them.

The part of the trip that really tested me physically was when we did transects at Woodlands preserve. I was not prepared at all for that type of work. It was definitely an eye opening experience as we had to go through bushes and bushes of blackberry vegetation covered in thorns. Being out there until the sun set was very draining especially when the mosquitos would come out in the evening. I have never been bitten by that many mosquitos ever. But even after all that there were times when I would stop what I was doing and I would just take in the moment and appreciate the nature around me. It really grounded me and gave me the motivation to keep on going knowing that the work I was doing was going to benefit this area for many years to come. I’m really thankful I decided to come on this trip as this is my last semester here at CSUCI. I learned so much and I will definitely take these experiences with me after I graduate and in my future career.

BBQ Dinner at Woodland Plantation

When our team visited Woodland Plantation – A Country Inn we were greeted by Foster Creppel who is the owner of this establishment. He had a few tasks assigned for our team to help him with around the property. I was assigned to help with removing weeds from areas that had been planted by the NOLA team from last year. After an hour or so of work our team gathered and took a little tour around the property. I was amazed by the beautiful natural aspect of the area and was fascinated with the alligators that live on the property. After the tour we headed back to have dinner as they had prepared a traditional New Orlean’s BBQ dinner for us. It consisted of Jambalaya, salad, crawfish boil with sausages and corn and for dessert some bread pudding. This was my first time trying Jambalaya which is a cajun rice dish with various spices that contains sausage, chicken and shrimp as well. The crawfish reminded me of shrimp and was tasty as well. To finish it off the bread pudding was just as tasty and I recommend anyone to try it if they have the chance. This dinner was the perfect treat after a day of hard work!

NOLA 2023 Reflection

I have never been more tired and sweaty than I was on this trip. It was truly an exercize in patience and exercize in general. However, this was truly a special experience. I was right in going on this trip and I feel like it has given me great experience as an environmental scientist and as a person. I now know that I can do more than work in just Southern California and I’m capable of taking what I know across an entire continent.

This was my first time ever taking an airplane. I wouldn’t say I enjoyed it but it wasn’t nearly as terrifying as I thought it would be. Turns out simulating high altitude air pressure puts me right to sleep. The worst part of all of it is really just the airport.

I also set out on this trip hunting for a hat since I left mine all the way in California. I managed to find the hat of my dreams at the Preservation Resource Center of New Orleans. Lucky for me I found it on day one and it didn’t leave my head for the rest of the trip. Nearly every picture of me on this trip features this beautiful hat from a very cool organization. Once this hat and I were together I felt like I was prepared for most anything.

What I was not prepared for was the mass of blackberry covering most of the preserve. Good luck and godspeed to those who go next year, it may be worse. And bring some paperclips. That’ll help keep all your data organized.

Van Life-NOLA edition

There were so many key players that made this trip a memorable one, from the professors to my peers, community partners, but most importantly to the van! Reflecting back on the trip, the ESRM van truly brought people together. We all bonded and laughed over the various times we would all jump up when we would drive through a pothole. Not to hate on the NOLA streets but at points, it felt like we were on a mini rollercoaster. The ESRM van was able to bring lots of fun memories to the trip and allowed all of us to get closer to one another.

Working at Woodlands Preserve the van allowed us to carry our equipment for the day but most importantly carry our snacks for the day after a long day of charging! After a long day or a long drive, most of us took advantage of the van for a quick power nap. (Proof below)

Picture by Denise Aguilar

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

March 23, 2023 | Le Petit Theatre

After a long day of transects, and walking through a bunch of blackberries, the class could finally relax and catch a laugh. This would be my first time watching a play live so I was very anxious to see what Cat on a Hot Tin Roof was all about. From the second I sat down I was captured by the set design, a simple bedroom, and on stage left a door that separated the room from the outside. Something else that caught my attention was the projections in the background and the sounds used in the scenes. Part of me wants to believe that because the set was easy on the eyes it allowed my other sense to pay attention to the meaningful details that tied the scenes together. I distinctly remember in the scene of Big Daddy’s birthday, at night you could hear the crickets just like in real life. Small details like such allowed me to feel much more invested in the show, on top of already being invested in the juicy family drama that was unfolding literally right in front of me. After watching, I understand the hype around the play and I appreciate its artistic way of making a social comment.

My NOLA Experience

Attending the NOLA trip was so amazing and was also the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. It was exhausting, it was fun, it was beautiful, it was eye-opening.

The last full day, at 84 degrees and 95% humidity

This trip gave me a lot of varied experience: monitoring, construction, public education – even cooking!

I think the best thing I got out of this trip was the solidification of my dream job. At Fishstock, I was able to interact with the public and teach them about some of the fish that reside in the Gulf. I had an absolute blast and was even pulled aside and interviewed by the Plaquemines Parish government about my scientific background and more.

This woman’s face while I described how batfish ‘walk’ with their fins was priceless.

Here I am in the latter half of the interview describing the relationship between dinosaurs and fish with the help of two of our living primitive bony fishes: the aligator gar and the spotted gar.

I’m also grateful for the other students I got to know on this trip. Everyone was kind, fun, encouraging, and passionate. I think a lot of us will stay friends for years to come.

Em Richter listening in on a conversation I’m having over my gar phone.
Rai and I in the ESRM van

Em, Christian (OSU), and I snap a quick sunset selfie in the van.

Day 6 – A Sunny Day in Buras for Gardening

On March 22, 2023, we traveled about two hours southeast to the town of Buras to install a community garden on the property belonging to Carol and his family. This project had partnered with him in the past but the previous gardens that were installed had failed due to high saturation of water in the soil from storms. The soil in this area is very clay heavy which can compact tightly and make it difficult for plants to grow roots in it so they tend to fail. It can be difficult to work with but luckily Carol had tilled the ground prior to our arrival and we were ready to plant! Christian, our botanist student from Oregon State, led the charge, showing us how to loosen the root ball of each of our vegetable and herb starts so that the plant knows it has more area to grow out its roots and establish itself in the ground. He directed us where in the field to plant certain plants based on the sunlight it would receive and the amount of space the adult plant would take up. The chosen vegetables were: bell peppers, cucumbers, eggplant, squash, corn, basil, thyme, cilantro, and orange trees. We got them in the ground and added fertilizer to help give them a boost. It was a great team effort on such a nice day and I hope we get some updates to see how they do, providing much needed healthy foods to the surrounding community.


Fishstock, held on March 25, 2023, was a fishy festival dedicated to educating the public about fisheries, native species, and conservation. It had many booths dedicated to wildlife and fish education, also known as ichthyology. At the table we volunteered at, we were able to let younger children borrow preserved specimens and draw them on paper. Those were hung up for the rest of the festival to see. We also volunteered at the worlds largest fish specimen preservation, which had more specimens than the Smithsonian.

Alumni Guest Speaker: Vanessa Van Heerden

We were fortunate enough today to listen to a presentation from Vanessa; who just finished her PHD. She graduated from CSUCI with a bachelors in Environmental Science and Resource Management.

Vanessa talks about how the unique program at CSUCI set her up for success In her career to come. Many of the things she learned while earning her Bachelors stayed with her for her entire career, such as GIS mapping.