On the Geaux

lsuDeath Valley – Baton Rouge, LA

usSaturday means game day in Death Valley! And yesterday we were finally able to take place in this signature Baton Rouge tradition. We spent pre-game at a Duck Unlimited tailgate with several folks from my department and the Department of Coast and the Environment. After burgers (a veggie-burger for Mere) and a few beers, we headed over to Tiger stadium to see our tigers take on the other cats just a state over in Alabama, Auburn University. Death Valley is quite an immaculate sports venue, seating up to 102,000 tiger fans every weekend in the fall. After a very rough start, we were elated to see LSU pull off a 4th quarter 24-23 win. Oh and the band was excellent too! Not nearly as much pizazz as Purdue but they sounded great and had a “horror” themed halftime show. Definitely will need to attend another game this fall.

Sunday morning we spent out in Fontainebleau State Park where Meredith was running the North Shore Half Marathon, her second half marathon ever. It was an early start at 7am but I was happy to catch the sunrise over Lake Ponchatrain immediately after the start of the race. I also made sure to spend some time exploring the park while waiting for Mere to finish. It offers some spectacular views of cypress beaches and freshwater wetlands.

Of course Meredith finished strong, even if it had hit 88 degrees by the time she was finish. It was not her best time but it was not far off and anyone who has every tried running in the southern heat would agree that it’s an achievement in and of itself. Of course I couldn’t be more proud of her. One big perk about this venue is the access to the lake which makes for an easy way to cool down after racing. We’ll be returning to Fontainebleau again actually in two weeks for a trail run 5K I am signed up for. Hopefully I can produce similar success. We were on the geaux quite a bit this weekend but we had a great time. I’m looking forward to next weekend already.

 

 

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One Year Anniversary

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Our wedding day.

365 days (and then some) have occurred since we got married! It has been a whirlwind of a year to say the least.

From leaving the familiar comforts of the Midwest and moving into the deep (humid!) south of Louisiana, to saying goodbye to our handsome first pet, Puddles, to in turn taking in a rambunctious 6 month old kitty named Redd. While several components our lives have had quite a shake up since September 10, 2016,  there’s no one else I’d rather do it with than Meredith.

We decided to spend our first anniversary weekend in New Orleans running the Saints Kickoff 5k Run. Not the way I would imagine most couples spend their anniversaries’ but it was perfect for us. The run was a blast. We had perfect weather (thanks to the cold front from Irma) to kick off the New Orleans Saints football season. The race went through\ downtown New Orleans and finished in the Mercedes Benz Superdome 50 yard line. Roughly 4,200 people came out to race and celebrate the start of the NFL season, though our excitement was not enough for the Saints to win their home opener, The following day we also treated ourselves to our other passion in life: good food. We made a stop by The Company Burger (NOLA) for lunch after our race, which included a Cinnamon Toast Crunch milkshake. Then we had brunch the following day at The Overpass Merchant (Baton Rouge). They were outstanding. Oh and we also played some tennis. We were gonna play best of three sets but decided to end it at as a friendly 1-1 draw for our anniversary.

I admit I feet a bit guilty that we could not spend more time than we did celebrating our anniversary due to our chaotic schedules. However I think it was perfect for us and I feel pretty confident that we’ll have plenty more years to make up for it. Cheers to next year and many more to come. I love you, Meredith and I always will.

DeYoung Family Visit

Disclaimer: This post was written by my loving wife, Meredith.

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Evelyn, Nathan, Elizabeth, and Jameson DeYoung on top of the Louisiana State Capital Building

dinosaurMeredith and I had been counting down the days until the DeYoung family would be in town for a vacation. They ended up driving all 973 miles  from Fort Wayne, IN to Baton Rouge in one night, arriving around 10pm, leaving enough time to unpack the car and have a small snack before bed. Unfortunately Meredith had to work the next day, so she was not able to join us for doughnuts at Tiger Deauxnuts or tour the Louisiana Art and Science Museum with us. The weather was also surprisingly cold for this time of year: in the 60s, cloudy, and extremely windy which did not make for a great initial introduction to the South. But for dinner we warmed up with a traditional southern dish, red beans and rice with andouille sausage.

Friday the weather started to warm back up so we made a trip out to the Bluebonnet Swamp Nature Center to see some wildlife – including lots of turtles, some snakes, and even a barn owl. We were all mesmerized watching the full grown owl gracefully glide between cypress trees. After lunch and a mini nap we made a stop at the LSU lakes to play on the beach, feed the birds, and play on the large playground. While out that way we also showed them some staples of LSU’s campus including Tiger Stadium, Mike the Tiger’s habitat/statue, and the Indian burial mounds – which made for a fun time climbing up them to then run on down. And what better way to finish the day then to stop at the local snowball stand. We couldn’t decide what flavor Evelyn should get, so she ended up getting a rainbow. An excellent decision. I tried my favorite flavor for the first time that day, kiwi.

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On our way to the market

Every Saturday morning in downtown Baton Rouge is the farmer’s market, located only two blocks from home. On top of that if it’s the first Saturday, they add in live music and several booths of local artists. So we spent the first part of our morning listening to music, exploring booths, and trying some gelato made from Ponchatoula, LA strawberries. After everyone had woken up a bit, we walked down to the levees to visit the USS Kidd – a U.S. Navy destroyer ship commissioned in World War 2 that is now stationed permanently on the Baton Rouge Mississippi River levees as a memorial to Louisiana WWII veterans. It is the only existing destroyer ship to have not been remodernized, retaining it’s original WWII appearance. The Kidd also has a special mooring system allowing the Kidd to float with the regularly fluctuating water level in the Mississippi River. We took a self-guided too that gave us access to walk nearly every inch of the ship.

Liz and Nate picked a great weekend to tour the Kidd, because also in port and available for a tour that weekend was the El Galeon, an 16th century Spansih Galleon Replica ship. Galleons were boats that took the lead role in trade and cultural routes from the 16th to 18th century. The specific replica was constructed in 2009 and has since covered 48,000 nautical miles. That evening we strolled through Arsenal Park – located just one block north of us – the park was an important military post during the Civil War. In fact, it was the site of the Battle of Baton Rouge in September 1779, the only battle of the Revolutionary War fought outside the original thirteen colonies. The kids were pretty tuckered out after our long day of walking so we set up the Eno hammock and ate some desert under the palm trees.

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You’ll never catch us ridin’ dirty

On Sunday Nate had a biking road race in LaPlace, LA just outside New Orleans. Nathan is on a very competitive cycling team back in Fort Wayne, IN in which he is required to enter so many races a year, so he decided to go rouge and participate in a race down here. He did awesome, taking 1st in his category. I was just proud of him for surviving the heat/humidity down here. Following his ride we stopped by District Donuts, an artisan doughnut shop in New Orleans known for over 100 different types. That day we tried key lime pie, whiskey ginger, chocolate sprinke, and classic vanilla. We decided to spend the rest of our time in New Orleans at the the Audobon Zoo. Even with all the choices in animals, Evelyn was probably most excited to ride the carousel and I felt truly blessed that she chose me as the adult to ride with her. Meredith’s favorite part was the Louisiana swamp section, full of wading birds, turtles, Louisiana black bear, and even a leucistic white alligator. Leucistic is a genetic mutation that causes translucent skin and blue eyes in alligators. Out of the projected 5 million American alligators in the United States – they believe there are less than 15 with this genetic condition.

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Future Lady Tiger? Evelyn does not agree

The next day Meredith went back to work and the DeYoung family started their drive back to Indiana. We are so grateful they made the trip to see us and it was an honor showing them our favorite parts so far of Cajun Country. We are expect our next visitors in early July – Meredith’s parents!

Semester in Review

The semester has finally come to an end and I have to say I’m more than pleased with these past few months. For starters, I  received an A+ in all three of my classes. Not sure I’ve ever been able to say that. It turns out classes are much easier to study for and succeed in when you are actually interested in the material. I am planning to ask the professor of my wetlands biogeochemistry class to sit on my graduate committee because his background in the chemical processes in soils in southern Louisiana will be invaluable help in my research. Plus he has kept in touch with several of his past graduate students which have gone on to work for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, one of the two federal agencies I would like to work for once I graduate.

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Camera shy

I’ve also got about 5 months of sampling under my belt with only 7 more months of pulling water samples hopefully. But for now my undergraduate student, Skylar, and I have fallen into a smooth routine so that we complete sampling regime in under 12 hours start to finish. On top of that, the Mississippi River has been in a flood stage the since last week so I’ve been pulling samples  twice a week and will continue to do so as the river’s flow rises, peaks, and falls. And on top of that I’ve also recently been assisting Skylar with applying for an undergraduate grant to complete her own small research project. If she is awarded it, her and I will be adding three more sites to our sampling regime. A few weeks ago I went out doing some recon on potential new sites and ran into an alligator that was sunbathing in the middle of the road. He was easily 10 feet long. Of course he ran away as soon as I pull out my phone to document proof. While it’s very time consuming, I will miss doing field work once my data collection is complete as there’s no better way to learn science than by doing it.

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Picture isn’t the best quality but it’s all I got

In April I was fortunate enough to present my preliminary research of floodplain influence on metals transport in the Mississippi-Atchafalaya River System at the 11th Annual Louisiana Surface Water, Groundwater, and Water Resources Symposium hosted by the Louisiana Geological Survey. There were around 100 professionals/ students in attendance at the conference which was over Spring Break…… While the results of my research were very preliminary, it was still excellent experience getting up and communicating my research to others. I’ll spend this summer continuing to analyze  about two and a half years worth of data on 30 different types of metals as well as other river parameters. I hope to have a draft paper of my this research submitted to a journal publication by the start of fall semester. The week following this presentation I was also awarded a grant from the Louisiana Environmental Education Consortium to help support my data collection. It’s a very small amount relative to the cost of my work  however if there is one thing that I’ve learned about research since starting here,  take any form of help you can get.

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Mississippi River – Baton Rouge, LA

So between passing all my classes, receiving grant funding, and presenting at a statewide conference, I’m am actually very happy with how things have started here. I had no idea I would be able to achieve so much in only one semester. Makes me feel prepared and excited for the road to come. And a lot has happened already since the closing of the semester. Meredith and I got to enjoy a “staycation” in Louisiana with the DeYoung family and only a day after they left I headed out west for a backpacking trip with my brother. I have a backlog of writing to do, good thing I have a week left of “vacation”.

WE DID IT

gataaaaaa

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If you zoom in to the right based of the tree you can see our new friend

It finally happened. Meredith and I went kayaking last weekend on Lake Martin in western Louisiana. The lake is famous for it’s stunning swamp habitat and immaculate diversity of birds and wildlife. We decided the most appropriate way to explore this habitat would be via kayak, so we arrived early in the morning to beat the heat of the day. After about 30 mins on the water, I instructed Meredith to back her kayak up into a large gaping hole in the side of a tupelo tree while I got into position to take her photo. After I had taken a few shots something drew my attention off to the right side of the tree. I quickly realized what the object was and was even quicker to tell Meredith not to panic while paddling around the tree…because she was about to see her first alligator. We were both slightly skiddish turning the corner to meet our new reptilian friend, a baby alligator only about 3 feet in length, but he turned out to be more interested in capturing the morning sun than us. Needless to say, I was pretty dang excited to finally see what I had perceived as the “highly elusive” American alligator. We ended up seeing 15 in total.

 

signBut there’s so much more to Lake Martin than alligators,  it’s also a nature preserve managed by the Nature Conservancy and is home to the United States largest wading bird rookery, or nesting habitat. A large portion of one side of the lake was actually roped off due to bird nesting season. But that didn’t stop us from seeing dozens of birds including little blue herons, roseate spoonbills, egrets, and whistling ducks. One of my favorites birds we frequently saw were anhingas, a black bird similar to an egret that lacks oils most waterfowl have to wick water off of it’s feathers. So following any time it dives into the water, it has to spread it’s wings out to air dry which is quite a fun spectacle. Unfortunately, between our GoPro and cellphone cameras we didn’t anything with a strong enough lens to capture any decent shots of the birds. You’ll just have to go visit some day.

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Showing Drew the U.S. Geological Survey’s data gauge on the Mississippi River

In other news we had our first visitor, Drew Lange. Meredith and I both got to know Drew through rowing at Purdue and we have continued to remain good friends. He now lives in Houston, TX and accompanied his sister to Baton Rouge just for one evening. We took him to the boardwalk on the Mississippi River and had dinner at Canes because we love cheap food. Drew was a great warm-up before my sister and brother in-law, Elizabeth & Nathan, visit next week with our favorite niece/nephew combo, Evelyn and Jameson. You’ll get lots of pictures of them in the future. We’re both very excited not only to show them our new home, but to see family for the first time in nearly 5 month.

 

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Louisiana is growing on us

 

Bleu Skies

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Probably the second best photo I’ve taken in Louisiana. Fontainbleu State Park

With exams and presentations slowing down, I’ve finally found time to write about one of my favorite adventures we’ve had since moving here: heading out to Fontainbleau State Park in Mandeville, LA, on the north side of Lake Pontchartrain. The park is located just on the east side of the famous Lake Pontchartrain Causeway bridge, a 24 mile bridge (the largest in the United States) venturing across the lake and into New Orleans. Meredith didn’t let me drive over it, as we would have spent an hour just traversing the bridge to New Orleans and back, but I’m sure we’ll do it some day.

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Stand of cypress trees and imported sand

The park itself I thought was gorgeous. It’s main feature is a small beach with a patch of large cypress trees growing over it. It looks quite tropical! I was somewhat sad to find out that the sand is actually imported to make the beach more visually appealing, but I guess it makes sense because the soils in that portion of Louisiana are a very dark muck color. We did find some very appealing minerals underneath the trees though. The park also featured almost ten miles of trails through forest and on a swamp boardwalk which we saw several species of fish, frogs, and turtles. No alligators though, maybe one day.

Following our morning at the park we traveled into downtown Mandeville grab a cheap lunch. Mandeville was an inviting combination of Florida beach town mixed with Holland, Michigan, topped with a pinch of southern charm. Palm trees, small shops, and restaurants all withing walking distance to Lake Pontchatrain and beautiful houses all elevated about one story about ground level. We decided on lunch at the Rusty Pelican. The entire restaurant was decorated with various pelican and nautical themed decor which was fabulous. We also grabbed beignets at the famous “Cafe Du Monde” on our way back home. Meredith loved them but I was slightly skeptical. I’m partial to the beignet fingers at Coffee Call back in Baton Rouge.

One of my favorite southern novelties though has to be snoball stands. In the midwest we have snowcones and shaved ice, but snoballs take this dessert treat to a whole new level. The  concept is similar, a shaved ice base and with a surgary syrup for flavor. However snoballs ice is much more finely shaven and somewhat blended with the syrup. You can also get a “cream” base where sweetened condensed cream is blended into the ice and syrup. At the stand we prefer to visit, there’s almost 100 flavors and about a dozen toppings ranging from sweetened condensed milk to fresh strawberries, marshmallow fluff, or even stuffed with ice cream. Essentially there are endless combinations.  Meredith’s favorite is “tiger’s blood”, a strawberry coconut flavor” with sweetened condensed milk on top. I’m working my way through trying all of the cream based flavors with my favorite so far being mint chocolate. It also helps that they’re only $2 a piece. Fortunately we’re at the very start of snoball season, so we have all summer to explore new flavors and stands across the state.

 

To the Bayou, to Berries, and Beyond…

meredith

I honestly just wanted any reason to post this picture

I feel like this picture of Meredith accurate represents how our lives have been as of late: a bit chaotic. I’ve been keeping busy between sampling, preparing for a conference presentation in a month, and drafting a grant proposal to help fund my research. I also aced my first official graduate school exam. Meredith on the other hand started her new job this week at North Oaks Hospital and has begun training for a half marathon she wants to run a few months from now. But within all of this chaos, we’ve made it an effort to squeeze in time to indulge in our love for the outdoors.

Our fist outdoor trip was about an hour west to the Atchafalaya National Wildlife Refuge, 15,000 acres of bottomland forest, wetland, and bayou managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Since the refuge is composed primarily of a braided stream network with wetlands, much of the refuge is only accessible by boat but we were able to find a few hiking trails. Several locals were out fishing and even some frog hunting (frog legs are supposedly a delicacy down here). There were also numerous houses and cabins located in the basin. I can certainly appreciate the desire to live in such a remote location, but I don’t think I would feel safe living in a “swamp” known for it’s very flashy water levels.

A few weeks later we decided to check out a boardwalk hike through swamps located in the outskirts of Baton Rouge. This park is managed by BREC, East Baton Rouge Parish’s local form of a parks department. It’s the beginning of herptile (reptile and amphibian) mating season, so we saw numerous frogs, turtles and snakes. I’ve honestly never seen more than a handful of snakes in the wild in my life, so to see so many was actually really exciting. Didn’t see any gators but I’ve heard that there is another BREC park that you are guaranteed to see some. Definitely will be checking that out soon.

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Tangipahoa Parish

This past weekend we drove out to Tangipahoa Parish, LA to forage for Louisiana’s state fruit: strawberries. It’s actually still about a month early for strawberry season in the south however crops have popped up a bit early due to the mild winter we’ve had here. Strawberries are the leading fruit-crop for Louisiana, bringing in over 11.5 million dollars in sales within Tangipahoa Parish alone. But the real money-makers for Louisiana are sugar cane and rice, are crops unique to the south. I admit driving out to the rural part of the state gave me a slight sense of nostalgia, missing those rows and rows of corn and soybeans back in the midwest, but it was also nice to see some crops with some color other than green!

 

 

Mardis Gras in Review

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Krewe of Spanish Town

The statement, “to the rest of the world it’s just another Tuesday” could not be more correct. Mardi Gras this year was on Tuesday, February 28.  LSU acknowledges Mardi Gras as an official school holiday leaving me with no classes Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday during the week of Mardi Gras and the public schools in New Orleans are fortunate enough to get the full week off in observance.It’s also no uncommon for adults to schedule a their vacation time to fully celebrate and engage in the holiday.

Mardi Gras celebrations began January 6th – Three Kings Day – the 12th night after Christmas, marking the end of the Christmas season and the official start of Mardi Gras.  Meredith and I started off the celebrations with getting a King Cake from our favorite donut shop. We devoured the round pastry covered in icing and decorated with purple, green, and yellow colored sugar. Much of the Mardi Gras season you’ll see everything king cake flavored, ranging from king cake coffee, king cake vodka, king cake beer, king cake cookies, to king cake Blue Bell ice cream. You’ll also find a wide array of Zapp’s potato chips in all kinds of Mardi Gras flavors.

Over the span of Mardi Gras both New Orleans and Baton Rouge host a multitude of balls and parades. The greater New Orleans area hosts 70 parades over the span of the Mardi Gras Season, and Baton Rouge itself has 6 parades over the span of two weeks, one of which was in our neighborhood – Spanish Town. Meredith and I were able to make it to 4 of the 6 parades in Baton Rouge with our favorite being the Spanish Town Parade. At all the parades it is a competition to catch as many beads and take aways (stuffed animals, tokens, and even light up swords) as possible with everyone being your competition. Parents build elaborate ladders to position their children several feet in the air to catch beads, people fight over highly coveted take aways, and there is no shortage of drinking as our city has a very relaxed open container policy. Meredith and I caught our fair share of beads of all sizes and managed to snatch up a few prized take aways.  I think in total we caught 120 beads, 4 stuffed animals, various candies and food, and 4 specialized beads.

flocked upThe Spanish Town Parade is geared towards adults, filled with political satire, and represented by Spanish Town’s neighborhood mascot – the flamingo.  This year’s theme was, Come Hell or High Water, Slippery When Wet (in leu of the  flooding Baton Rouge experienced in August 2016) . We saw our fair share of Trump and Hilary jokes, jazz bands dressed in all out pink, and locals dressed in drag. The parade didn’t start until noon but come 6am people were already out, eating and drinking, DJs playing music, and people staking their spots along the parade route. Meredith and I attend a party hosted by a fellow LSU renewable natural resources student and had the opportunity to make a lot of new friends from the LSU community. The parade had over 40 floats, each decorated to fit the theme, and the streets jam packed with people making it hard to just about move anywhere. After that parade, Meredith and I both agreed Mardi Gras is something everyone should experience once in their lifetime. Maybe next year we’ll be brave enough to venture to New Orleans.

Writing and photo credit for this post goes to my lovely wife, Meredith. I’ve been very busy with school and research lately, so Meredith stepped in to update our friends and family. Also, be sure to congratulate her on her new job as an occupational therapist at North Oaks Hospital!

The Heart of Cajun Country: Atchafalaya River

atchafalaya-mapAs I’ve mentioned in previous posts, my research at LSU will focus primarily on hydrology and the biogeochemistry of the Atchafalaya River, a 137 mile distributary of the Mississippi River. The Atchafalaya River Basin is home to the United States’ largest continuous wetland/swamp ecosystem and has a very interesting past that I believe plays an important role in its ecology and chemical processes.

Geomorphologists, or scientists that study the relationship between physical land features and the earth’s structure, believe the Atchafalaya formed in the 15th century as a product of the Red River’s channel naturally intercepting the Mississippi. As a result the Atchafalaya began draining water from the Mississippi River. Over time the Atchafalaya continued to intercept more and more water from the Red and Mississippi Rivers, so much in fact that it would have completely re-routed the majority of the flow of the Mississippi through it’s channel, which would not have been good for transport and commerce up the Mississippi. However, in the 1960s the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers intervened and built a control structure to regulate the amount of flow the Atchafalaya receives from the Mississippi. This structure, along with several others, is still used today to ensure the Atchafalaya is receiving around 30% of the flow of the Mississippi and may be used as a flood-release gate if water levels are to get too high in the Mississippi.

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The Red and Mississippi Rivers once ran paralell to one another. The natural convergence of the two rivers in the 15th century formed the Atchafalaya River. The construction of leveels, addtional channels, and flow control mechanisms between the three rivers has greatly altered the ecology of southern Louisiana. Picture courtesy of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

It’s amazing that engineering has been able to prevent the overtake of the Mississippi River by the Atchafalaya. There’s no doubt these engineering feats have preserved the larger channel necessary for moving large freight and commerce up the Mississippi. Additionally, the flood-release structures have been opened multiple times to prevent flooding along the Mississippi downstream in Baton Rouge and New Orleans. However, it has not been without consequences in the Atchafalaya River Basin.

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Atchafalaya River – Calumet, LA – photo cred to my grad student colleague, Emily DelDuco

Prior to the intervention of humans, the Atchafalaya River Basin was composed of numerous small braided streams that were interconnected by wetlands. These wetlands were home to multiple species of waterfowl, fish, and plants and assisted in preventing the loss of Louisiana’s coastline via  coastal erosion. In the mid 20th century many of these wetlands water sources were diverted due to construction of water control structures, levees along the main channel of the river, and canals/pipelines  to support oil and gas exploration. Consequently, these wetlands were segregated, deprived of a water, and have dried up. We are fortunate that a stretch of 1.4 million acres of wetlands still exists today where the Atchafalaya drains into the Gulf of Mexico, however, it is only a portion of what existed merely 200 years ago.

Now, this brief post has been simply a snippet of the history of human intervention in the Atchafalaya River. It is by no means  a comprehensive analysis of how these ecosystems have been altered or the consequences of those alterations. But it is information like this that will hopefully allow me to tell a more comprehensive story of the hydrologic and chemical processes occurring in the Atchafalaya River today. Louisiana’s stories, politics, management, issues, and community views relating to water resources are so very different from Indiana’s, and I’m just happy to be a part of it.

Sundays are for Samplin’

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Nearly the entire haul

The day I had been eagerly awaiting for weeks finally came this past Sunday: my first day of fieldwork. And there was certainly no shortage of work leading up to this day as instruments needed calibration, lab equipment required restocking, and bottles needing washing. Lots of bottles. Around 60 bottles needed to be washed, bathed in acid, rinsed several times with de-ionized water, and laid out to dry. It’s a very lengthy process but it’s necessary to ensure that we have the cleanest container possible to collect our samples.

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Myself, Songjie, and Emily (two other graduate students studying under Dr. Xu) departed at 6:30am Sunday with the goal of sampling my 7 sites spanned across southern Louisiana. My seven sites include: 4 on the Atchafalaya River, 2 on the Mississippi River, and 1 on the Red River. The trip is around 350 miles of driving.

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Site 6 – Songjie using our “C-sense” instrument to collect carbon dioxide pressure data on the Atchafalaya River

At each site I collect six samples in plastic bottles and one in a glass vial. These samples are then sent to laboratories to identify the concentrations of various chemicals and elements, like phosphorus, nitrogen, carbon, and metals. I also use four different instruments at each site to measure various ambient parameters, such as temperature, turbidity (how dirty the water looks), and dissolved oxygen . In total, I’ll be collecting over 20 parameters at each site, however, my research will likely focus on various forms of carbon, as well as concentrations of trace metals.

It was a long day consisting of unload, sample, packup, drive for about an hour along the levee’s built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, repeat, but it is precisely the kind of field experience I wanted to get from conducting research in grad school. Our first site took around two hours as Emily and Songjie took their time in showing me the ropes. But by the end of the day, the last site took around 30 minutes. It’s a good thing I’m catching on quick because Emily is only going to join me for one more trip, then it will be just me and my new undergraduate student helper that starts next month. I’m just happy to have someone else to wash those bottles from hear on out.

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Sunset over the Atchafalaya River in Morgan City, LA