History of New Orleans cooking and folklore

Saturday, March 18th we spent the morning near the French Quarter learning about the history and culture of the food in New Orleans. Our lovely chef and tour guide showed us around the area and talked about the history behind buildings, people, food, and music. Each one of us learned how to cook a special dish from New Orleans and we all got to share the delicious food with each other. My group and I made the Crab Corn Chowder which was my favorite!!! Everything was so flavorful and we all left thoroughly satisfied with the experience. It was really interesting learning about all of the history behind everything and how the city is such a close knit community.

Day 1 – Woodlands Conservancy Preserve, Preservation Resource Center of New Orleans, Lower 9th Ward Levee, & French Quarter Saint Patrick’s Day Parade

First day in New Orleans was a whirlwind! We were welcomed to the Woodlands Preserve with a thunderstorm, listened in on Dr. A’s orientation and Tom’s botanical identifications, heard a presentation from Nathan with the Preservation Resource Center of New Orleans non-profit organization regarding historical architecture and incentivizing residents in maintaining them, visited the devastating site of flooding during Hurricane Katrina’s landfall in the Lower 9th Ward and the unfortunate insufficient rebuilding done, and ended the day with a free couple of hours at a parade in honor of Saint Patrick’s Day in the French Quarter!

Tom in his element
Eating some fresh mulberries gathered by Zach
At the Preservation Resource Center of New Orleans with Nathan
On top of the floodwall of the levee

Day 1 – Woodlands Conservancy Preserve Overview

Welcome to Woodlands Preserve!

Some quick safety notes to start with:

  • It is okay to leave your non-valuables in the pavilion near the parking lot. Valuable items can be left in the Van. 
  • Machete training will take place on our first day in the field.
  • DO NOT mess with any reptiles. Act as if they are all dangerous and/or venomous.
  • Be aware of blackberry brambles and possibly poison ivy.
  • Both vehicles have first aid kits but make sure to inform Zach of any items you use. 

We are working on the Woodlands Preserve site with Woodlands Conservancy. The 649-acre parcel of land was initially owned by the Plaquemines Parish (functionally equivalent to a county). For 18 years Woodlands Conservancy managed this property and maintained trails under the parish. On January 18, 2022 the protection of the property, now known as Woodlands Preserve, became protected in perpetuity for future generations via acquisition of the property by Woodlands Conservancy and the donation of a conservation servitude to Land Trust for Louisiana. There is more information about it on their website here

This area is a swamp. Swamps are forested wetlands and marshes are herbaceous wetlands. Typically swamps transition into marshes as you approach the coast. Unfortunately there has been a lot of habitat fragmentation in the New Orleans area. The Mississippi River naturally saturates these wetlands with water and deposits large amounts of sediments along its banks. Levying the Mississippi has caused the ground to sink and water to stagnate. The soil has been compacting with little addition of new sediments. 

When Hurricane Katrina hit this specific swamp it clearcut the dense overstory canopy layer. This also occurred when many invasive species were seeding. This spread invasive seeds throughout the preserve that now had a lot of sunlight in its understory. 

Within the next week we will be monitoring the preserve using band transects and permanently installed plots. We also have a drone that will monitor the canopy from an aerial view. Hopefully later in the week we will get the opportunity to use camera traps and sticky traps to observe some of the fauna in the area.

Here’s us waiting to get our day started in the pavillion

NOLA 2023 Pre-Trip Reflection

Ready for NOLA 2023!

I’m thinking about New Orleans and I am full curiosity, and excitement. My bag is tightly packed and ready to go. I always get the feeling I’m forgetting something, but I don’t think I could squeeze anything else in if I tried. I’ve spent weeks thinking about this trip, I really think it will be a trip I remember for the rest of my life. Not only am I going to do work that I am passionate about with my fantastic classmates and mentors, but I will be going to a place with some of the richest culture and history in the world. I am very grateful for this opportunity that I’ve been given. This will give me hands on learning experience that will be useful especially in my future in Environmental Science. I am excited at the people I am going to meet, and the connections that we will create. I plan on working hard and giving my full effort to the work we will be doing on this trip. I know that it will probably be hard work. I want to to follow in the footsteps of my mentors who have been working with the people in New Orleans for years now. I will have nothing but love and respect for the people, wildlife, and everything else in New Orleans.

New Orleans Pre Trip Reflection

The thought of visiting New Orleans next week has me feeling a variety of emotions. First of all I am very excited that I will have the opportunity to experience a totally different environment than what I am used to. This will be my third time traveling out of the state but my first time traveling via airplane. I am quite nervous about that because I do not know what to expect. I’ve heard how hectic things get at the airport so I am hoping everything goes smoothly. I can’t wait to see the view once we are on the airplane as it has always been something I have wanted to see and experience.

Once we arrive to New Orleans I just want to learn about its culture, history, cuisine, and the stories of the people who live there. I’m thrilled to begin helping the community any way I can. I know it will be challenging and tiring but at the end I know it will all be worth it. I’m just happy I have the opportunity to go on this trip on my last semester here at CSUCI.

NOLA 2022 Reflection

I thoroughly enjoyed this class in all aspects. I gained a tremendous amount of experience through this class and our trip to New Orleans that I will continue to utilize for the next foreseeable years. Particularly, our research of the mesmerizing hardwood forest of Woodlands Trail parcel of Belle Chasse, Louisiana has really left an impact on me. Being able to see first-hand armadillos, fireflies, cypress trees, and sprawling ferns for example, inspired a new sense of wonder and curiosity in the natural world around us. This mesmerization is apparent in my choice of presentation, a poster delving into the function of cypress tree knees. The wetlands environment itself progressively becomes more captivating as I continue to learn more about it in my own time.

We learned not only of the environmental conditions of the Louisiana wetlands, but also of the cultural, economic, historical, and continually developing conditions of New Orleans and the surrounding area. Some of my favorite and personally most memorable events of the trip were our visit to the cultural center, trying all of the cultural dishes around New Orleans, eating in the rain, and when my sisters and I explored the French Quarter together in search of a voodoo priestess. It was incredible to have learned about the origins of the city of New Orleans and being able to see the sprawling complex it has developed into today. I think that starting the trip with a visit to the Lower 9th Ward was one of the best ways to remind us of the story of the New Orleans area and the importance of preventing history from repeating itself, a theme that can be applied to many topics surrounding New Orleans and Louisiana as a whole.

From the French Quarter to the Lower 9th Ward to the coastal marshlands of Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana is a place I will never forget. This trip was so impactful that my sisters and I plan on revisiting the city again at the nearest possibility.

New Orleans Reflection 2022

Wow, where do I begin? Before this class I had the privilege of visiting New Orleans once before for Mardi Gras 8 years prior. However, entering the city never gets old- the city holds a different kind of energy and you feel the magic upon arrival. For one, this city has incredible history seeping from every nook and cranny. The architecture is beyond beautiful as it exhibits a lot of French resemblance (this area was once under Napoleon rule before it was sold to the United States in the Louisiana Purchase for $15 million back in 1803, a steal of a deal). From the food, to the culture, and environmental dynamics, this place is truly a treasure to protect.

Beignets and coffee at Morning Call Coffee Stand.

I was a bit nervous about the trip not knowing if I could properly identify plants. The knowledge and wisdom our professors and assistant bestowed on all of us will last a lifetime. Before stepping into this class, I knew very little about the plant life of New Orleans or the broader Gulf Coast. Despite our collective ignorance, within days of arrival they had our whole class identifying plant species on our own.

Thicket of Blackberry, ye be warned!

One experience I will forever treasure happened on March 17, 2022. We had the privilege to learn about the art of garden cultivation and management of southern food gardens with our first installation in Buras, in the bird’s foot delta of the Mississippi River. Our class visited Buras to help families that suffered (most recently) from the recent destruction of Hurricane Ida. One family in particular, had their entire food garden stripped away by the hurricane’s winds. Disadvantaged and in need of support, our class stepped up to help. 

Vegetation plot in Buras; teamwork makes the dream work!

The fearless leaders took charge, directed, guided via sly humor, and ever-patiently facilitated the process from tilling to final. Pretty incredible work! The soil in the area was unlike anything I had ever seen; the sediment deposits from the hurricane made the surface soil layer super dense. Dr. John Lambrinos’ tutelage explained the soil’s high clay content and the associated huge potential to hold large amounts of plant nutrients. Let me tell you, tilling and gardening through all those fine particles was not easy. We formulated a well-devised plan which produced a fabulous garden by day’s end. To see the faces of the family we helped and to be embraced by their hospitality was priceless and unforgettable.

Beautiful evening after a long day of hard work, if only you could hear the cicadas humming.

Being a source of support and advice throughout our trip, Dr. Sean Anderson never ceased to impress those around him with his passion to perpetually further our education and restore balance to this world. After the pandemic, I’ve experienced a paradigm shift of my perspective. I now believe we need to recognize and show appreciation to those that are making positive changes on this planet. People like Sean, John, Tom, and Zach motivate hearts to promote environmental awareness and sustainability through resourceful action. I highly suggest applying to this trip, and if you go support the artists by buying merch or artwork from them. Keep the good energy flowing!

Street art from the French Quarter.