Visiting the Bayou

Mason André

In the beginning of the semester I took a trip to Turtle Cove Environmental Research Center and explored the landscape of southern Louisiana. Turtle Cove is associated with Southeastern Louisiana University and their mission is to facilitate and support a better understanding of Southeast Louisiana’s coastal wetland environments through research, education, and public outreach activities and programs for Southeastern’s students, faculty and staff as well as the greater University community.

IMG_4803As an architecture student, my goal when visiting was to understand wetlands, how they impact those around them and what kind of structure is necessary to design a building that wouldn’t be destroyed by the elements. The project at hand was a lookout tower, located deep within the marsh on the boardwalk built by Turtle Cove.

Upon arriving, we were taken up many stairs into a tiny room where we got a breakdown of the land. Dr. Robert Moreau, a professor for Southeastern and manager of Turtle Cove, went into detail about maintaining the wetlands, land loss in the area and the local citizens who work hard to maintain their life there. We (my 33 classmates and I) became well informed of the marsh and learned new information in regards to all the species living there and how storms affect every aspect of life around Turtle Cove.

After the informative lecture, we were taken on a pontoon boat to actually get to the part of the research center we were there to see. We drove through narrow canals, passing numbers of shack-like houses, sunken boats, and shelters that had been destroyed by the elements. At one point we passed a floating alligator that has recently died – definitely not something I’ve been exposed to!

We reached the ERC and walked through the building and out to the boardwalk. I had NEVERIMG_4811 seen such large grasshoppers. Those were cool yet horrifying at the same time! We were more or less 1 ft off the marsh, surrounded by plants and creatures. The research I gathered was entirely comprised of strong things growing out of the water, bugs hanging off branches and the constant amazement that I had that we were SO close to walking through the marsh.

After the boat ride back we were walking to our cars when we were instructed to walk into a nearby building because it was “cool”. We walked inside and found ourselves staring at a full grown alligator being skinned! It may have looked like (and smelled like) a crime scene, but it was actually very interesting to see how normal the people who live there and do that kind of thing every day acted.

The trip, which led to my design of a lookout tower with very sturdy support and piles that dug over 20 ft into the ground, was very eye opening to me in many ways! Being from Illinois, I have never been so far in the bayou or seen how people live down there. The authenticity to their life and the interaction they have with the environment really is amazing. The bugs and animals that surround the marshland are well-established and make you feel like you’re intruding on their lives. I have a new appreciation for the coast and ever since visiting I’ve been well-aware of the land loss occurring and what can be done to help save the coast.

For more information on Turtle Cove Environmental Research Center you can visit this site.

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