Down in the Bayou

So, this is Louisiana.

Well, here I am living it up at the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium (LUMCON) in Cocodrie, Louisiana!

A quick tidbit I have learned over the weekend is that ‘cocodrie’ means crocodile in French and the Acadian, or French Canadian, settlers (whose descendents we all know as Cajuns) of the area not having a word for alligator named the area Cocodrie although there are no crocodiles in Louisiana.   My roommate Alicia, who is the site coordinator for the Duke Engage group down here, spent the other night researching alligators and crocodiles.  Apparently Florida is the only state with both alligators and crocodiles.  I mentioned that we should watch “Crocodile Dundee” and maybe go knife shopping.  She told me the alligators apparently won’t attack you so many meters away from the water.  So I guess we’ll just be running instead of studying Paul Hogan’s methods.

This is my first time to visit this part of Louisiana, so there are a few things I’m slowly picking up on such as the correct enunciation of certain words.  For example, about 15 miles north of us is Chauvin, La where the Bayou Grace Community Services group in which we are working with is located.  I think I have pronounced ‘Chauvin’ every way but the right way when explaining to friends and family what I will be doing this summer.  To set the record straight and hopefully remind myself for the next time I say it, it is pronounced ‘shoh-vaen’.

We are deep in salt marsh and fishing camp country about 85 miles southwest of New Orleans.  When I arrived down here on Thursday night, it was about 9 p.m. and all we could see were dimly lit mast and porch lights reflecting on the surface of the water.  Our dorm rooms have floor to ceiling length windows and the building is elevated about 15 feet off the ground, so the next morning I woke up to a breathtaking view of miles and miles of marsh and a beautifully lit morning sky.  I suppose I forgot where I was for a moment while waking up, because I was in a bit of disbelief in what I was seeing.  I suppose you can read all you want about percentages and statistics referring to Louisiana’s coastal wetlands, but it doesn’t really hit home until you see it with your own eyes.  I’m not much of an early bird, but this is the kind of place that inspires you to wake up and make the most of the day.

I’ve only been here for a couple days, but it’s already been an adventure filled with New Orleans jazz, sand dune fence construction in Grand Isle with the Barataria-Terrebonne National Esturary Program (BTNEP), a salt marsh geology and ecology workshop here at the LUMCON and of course a crawfish boil with our new friends from the Bayou Grace Community Services group.  We were schooled on how to eat a crawfish the right way and I’m sure this is only the beginning to what we will discover this summer.