Youth hear ecology lessons at wetlands camp

Johnny Morgan  |  7/16/2018 9:01:04 PM

(07/16/18) NEW ORLEANS — Twelve youths from Plaquemines and St. Bernard parishes learned the basics of wetlands ecology at a wetlands camp on July 11-14.

The 4-H junior leaders were interested in the wetlands and how they affect life in south Louisiana.

The camp was conducted by 4-H agent Wayne Burgess, Louisiana Sea Grant marine extension agent Dominique Seibert, AgCenter extension associate Corinne Bird and adult volunteer Brenda Bulot.

As part of the three-day camp, they visited the tip of the state at the mouth of the Mississippi River.

They spent time testing the water at Chef Menteur Pass in Orleans Parish and they got a chance to fish for their dinner.

The wetlands camp is patterned after Marsh Maneuvers, a camp held in southwest Louisiana. Individual parishes can send 4-H’ers to the camp only once every four years.

“We wanted to provide an opportunity for students during the in-between years,” said Burgess, who works in St. Bernard and Plaquemines parishes.

This is the first year for the program, but Burgess said he hopes to make the camp an annual event.

“I like what Mark Shirley is doing with Marsh Maneuvers, which takes four 4-Hers from each parish for four weeks each year on a four-year rotation basis,” he said. Shirley is an LSU AgCenter and Louisiana Sea Grant area fisheries agent.

Burgess said he wanted to show these students what’s happening to the marsh in their own backyards.

“We have coastal erosion issues that we could show the 4-H’ers without them having to wait for the next four years,” he said.

Seibert said this has been discussed since she was in 4-H, and now it is a reality.

“There is an opportunity here to teach about wetland loss, water quality, and we’ll be doing some fishing and canoeing,” she said.

While at Venice, the group got a lesson about the invasive scale affecting Roseau cane. They also learned about GPS applications and water sampling, Seibert said.

As part of the camp, the youth took a canoe trip in the bayou off Chef Pass to learn about ecosystems, wetland habitats, species diversity and food web relationships.

One highlight of the camp was to learn about fish otoliths, or ear bones of fish, and how they are used for age and growth studies.

Samantha Jordan, a senior at the New Orleans Maritime and Military Academy, said she found the camp to be very informative.

“When we went out to Venice, we learned how to track turbidity and how to identify the different kinds of cane,” she said. “We also did night fishing and we learned to cast nets.”

Elena Templet, a junior at Chalmette High School, who has been in 4-H since fourth grade, said she sees the program as a great learning experience that she’d like for others to experience.

“I got involved in this program because I am the St. Bernard Parish junior leader president,” Templet said. “This program has given me an opportunity to learn some new things about wetlands and just reinforces why I joined 4-H.”

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Dinah Maygarden, director of the coastal education program for the Coastal Education Research Facility at Chef Menteur Pass in Orleans Parish, explains the geography of the area during a 4-H wetlands camp that was held July 11-14. Photo by Johnny Morgan/LSU AgCenter

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Corinne Bird, LSU AgCenter extension associate for youth wetlands, prepares to teach a lesson on water turbidity during a 4-H wetlands camp at Chef Menteur Pass in Orleans Parish. The camp was held July 11-14 and taught the youth about ecosystems, wetland habitats, species diversity and food web relationships. Photo by Johnny Morgan/LSU AgCenter

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