Iberville 4-H students attend environmental science programs

Staff Writer
Plaquemine Post South
Iberville 4-H'ers Jacques Comeaux, Elise Persick, Marie Comeaux and Madeline LeBlanc held baby alligators at the Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge in Cameron Parish during Marsh Maneuvers.

PLAQUEMINE - Local 4-H'ers represented Iberville Parish at Marsh Maneuvers, a week-long camp at the Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge in Cameron Parish July 8-12.

Marsh Maneuvers is one of many educational opportunities

offered through the LSU AgCenter's 4-H Program and is held with the cooperation of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and the Louisiana Sea Grant Program.

Four sessions of camp were funded through the Youth Wetlands Education Grant from Louisiana's Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority through the month of July.

4-H'ers learned about the biology of estuarine organisms, the conservation of renewable resources such as alligators, menhaden and shrimp as well as the consequences of coastal erosion.

The students learned about Louisiana's Master Plan for Coastal Protection and Restoration and participated in a coastal restoration project.

During each week of the program, participants led a stewardship project to transplant several thousand smooth cordgrass plants into a shallow water area near an abandoned oil field canal close to Avery Island. By summer 2014, several acres of re-vegetated marsh will be created through their efforts.

"Each week, the group is composed of 16 teens from several different parishes," Mark Shirley, the director of the camp and a Marine Extension Specialist with Louisiana Sea Grant said. "We give these young people the opportunity to see and do things that they may never have done if not for this camp. The students get to ride an airboat one morning and also take a ride to the beach at Joseph's Harbor to see why 40 to 50 feet of shoreline each year are being washed into the Gulf of Mexico."

4-H'ers learned to throw cast nets, held alligators, caught and boiled blue crabs, grilled fresh fish, and visited the coastal wetlands.

Animated lectures and demonstrations were intermixed with the outside activities to help students learn about the challenges that Louisiana's coastal environment faces.

Participants learned about the various functions and tremendous value that Louisiana's wetlands provide to people across the nation. They also learned about some of the coastal restoration methods outlined in Louisiana's Master Plan for Protection and Restoration.

Natalie McElyea, a Wetland Education Specialist with the LSU AgCenter, spoke to the group about Louisiana's efforts to re-introduce the Whooping Crane back into its historic range in the southwestern parishes of the state.

McElyea dressed one of the students in a crane costume that the biologists use to work with the birds. She also spoke about the telemetry technology that is being used to follow these birds as they use different wetlands habitats for feeding.

Jacques Comeaux, Marie Comeaux, Madeline LeBlanc, Elise Persick and Iberville Parish 4-H Agent Christina Zito represented Iberville Parish at Marsh Maneuvers.

Local participants were eager to share their newfound knowledge and skills with local youth, so they assisted the LSU AgCenter Extension Service Staff in Iberville Parish with designing and implementing the Science Ba-YOU Funshop Series.

4-H'ers from across Iberville Parish attended the special interest workshop series throughout the month of July. The educational series focused on teaching local youth about digital photography fundamentals, environmental science, green living strategies and Louisiana's coastal wetlands.

They learned basic photography elements, such as lighting, composition and color at the "Photography 101" Funshop on July 5.

Participants worked in teams to practice their photography skills by participating in an Instagram Scavenger Hunt and created terrariums to learn about the water cycle, fished in goo to learn about Louisiana's agricultural resources and designed flower pots using recycled materials to learn about green living strategies at the "GREEN Science" Funshop on July 19.

Participants traveled to Bayou Sorrel for a "Walk on the Wild Side Swamp Tour" field trip to celebrate the end of the Science Ba-YOU Funshop Series on July 25.

Atchafalaya Basinkeeper and Executive Director Dean Wilson and his son Albert Wilson hosted a swamp tour in the Atchafalaya Basin and taught 4-H'ers about local wetlands.

The Atchafalaya Basinkeeper is a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting and restoring the ecosystems within the Atchafalaya Basin.

The organization's mission is to protect the Atchafalaya Basin's long term health and sustainability. 4-H'ers learned about the various ecosystems that thrive in the Atchafalaya Basin.

They also learned about water quality, bird migration patterns, alligator hunting, the crawfishing industry, cypress logging operations and dredging.

The tour guides spoke about the threats to the long-term integrity of the Atchafalaya's ecosystems, such as poor water quality, excessive sediment and unsustainable cypress logging.

4-H'ers also learned about the many conservation efforts that are in progress to protect and restore Louisiana's precious wetlands.

For more information about exciting opportunities like the Marsh Maneuvers Program, the Science Ba-YOU Funshop Series and Youth Wetlands Education Programs, contact your local LSU AgCenter Extension Service.