Nicholls State University’s commitment to environmental research and education has reached new heights with the establishment of a dedicated wetland at the Nicholls Farm. As per this news release from the University, this initiative, which is made possible by the generous support of Ducks Unlimited and the Natural Resources Conservation Service(NRCS), aims to conduct research on coastal restoration and other related projects.
The wetland at Nicholls Farm plays a crucial role in the reduction of nutrients that find their way into the Gulf of Mexico. By pumping water from Bayou Folse into the wetland, the plants in this newly created ecosystem act as natural filters, effectively removing nutrients. The water, now free from these pollutants, is then returned to Bayou Folse. This process helps mitigate the impact of nutrient-rich runoff, which is a major issue faced by Bayou Folse due to factors like fertilizer use and home septic systems.
Ducks Unlimited, an organization dedicated to habitat conservation, is thrilled to be a part of this endeavor. Cassidy LeJeune, the Director of Conservation Programs – South Louisiana, expressed their gratitude to the NRCS for allowing Ducks Unlimited to contribute to this vital project. LeJeune also looks forward to future collaborations with Nicholls State University, highlighting the potential for further impactful work in the region.
Situated just three miles south of Nicholls’ campus, the 277-acre Nicholls Farm serves as an exceptional environmental research and education center. Equipped with state-of-the-art facilities such as labs, classrooms, greenhouses, shade houses, and storage barns, the farm also boasts a 7.5-acre pond specifically dedicated to the production of wetland plants. These resources provide an ideal setting for students and faculty to engage in hands-on research and learning experiences.
Nicholls biology students and faculty members have already been actively involved in coastal restoration efforts through the farm. They have successfully cultivated and harvested over 35,000 plants, including black mangroves, beach dune grasses, and coastal oak trees. These plants are then replanted along the coast and barrier islands, contributing to the preservation and restoration of these vital ecosystems.
Professor and Head of Biological Sciences, Quenton Fontenot, recognizes the wetland’s significance beyond nutrient removal. He emphasizes that the wetland will serve as a valuable resource for student learning activities and community engagement. By providing multiple opportunities for research and educational initiatives, the wetland at Nicholls Farm becomes a catalyst for fostering environmental stewardship among students and the local community.
The urgency of coastal restoration efforts in Louisiana cannot be overstated. Over the years, the Barataria-Terrebonne basins alone have lost around 600,000 acres of land. Louisiana faces the highest rate of wetland loss in the country, with approximately 80% of the nation’s coastal wetland loss occurring in the state. This alarming trend has led to the conversion of over 2,000 square miles into open water, an area roughly equivalent to the size of Delaware.
To address these challenges and safeguard the coast from future storms, Nicholls is planning to open its Coastal Center. The groundbreaking for this $21 million project is scheduled for the fall of 2023. The Coastal Center, located at the corner of Colonel Drive and Ardoyne Drive on the Nicholls campus, will work in conjunction with the Nicholls Farm. The center will serve as a real-world testing ground for coastal research, ensuring that the knowledge gained can be directly applied to restoration efforts in the region.
Collaboration lies at the heart of the Coastal Center’s mission. Scientists from various organizations, including the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, the Water Institute of the Gulf, and Nicholls’ Biological Sciences and Geomatics departments, will have a shared space to collaborate and advance research. By pooling their expertise, these experts aim to repair and rebuild Louisiana’s receding coastline, contributing to the long-term sustainability of the region.
The Nicholls Farm and the upcoming Coastal Center exemplify Nicholls State University’s dedication to becoming a leading center for coastal restoration research in Louisiana. These initiatives highlight the university’s commitment to environmental stewardship and its proactive approach to addressing the pressing challenges facing the coast.
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