By Robbie Trosclair
The Nicholls Farm, started in 2006, has since become a project to grow wildlife that is necessary for the protection of our coasts. Following my recent podcast with Quenton Fontenot, Professor and Head of Biological Sciences, I also got the chance to sit down with Keith Chenier. He’s a 5th year Marine and Environmental Biology double major who also works at the Nicholls Farm. We got to talk about all of the efforts the Farm is doing to keep Louisiana’s coast intact.
Chenier is so passionate about this project because he grew up with it. After Katrina, Chenier said that he started to realize how hard Louisiana got hit and how it’s important to do his part to keep it flourishing. Attending Nicholls made him realize how fragile the coast could be without help. He’s loved to fish in Grand Isle all of his life and he’s now doing his part to make sure it’s still there for the next generation.
I also spoke to Coral Foster, a graduate student also studying Marine and Environmental Biology. She told me that the farm is unique simply because it exists. “ Not many smaller sized schools have access to or owns a piece of land like the farm. It provides many opportunities for the school and the biology department,” said Foster. “The Nicholls Farm is helping to make the coast a better place through the research going on there and the plants grown there. The plants are used for coastal restoration projects. The restoration projects and research are helping to create land reversing coastal land loss, return collapsed ecosystems to a more stable functioning state, and restore the natural ecosystem services of a landscape.”
The Nicholls Farm’s main contribution is all of the flora grown there that is relocated to our coasts and barrier islands. Among the plants grown are black mangroves, beach dune grasses, and saltwater-tolerant oak trees.
The mangroves are a tree that grows on top of the water. The seeds are left on the surface and the roots find their ground. The mangroves are a huge buffer for hurricanes and help slow down winds before they can get to the mainland.
The beach dune grasses and oak trees help hold the soil together, but, the oak trees are unique. It’s a special breed of oak that grows on the coastline and also on the Farm. It can survive the brackish water that is bountiful in Louisiana, unlike most oak trees.
The Nicholls Farm recently received irises directly from the Greater New Orleans Iris Society to help keep the Louisiana native flower plentiful. However, moving the irises to the coast and any plan to move wildlife to its necessary position have been halted due to safety measures put in place to avoid the spread of the Corona Virus.
The Nicholls Farm does an amazing service to Louisiana’s coastal community. On their own budget, they grow what the state needs to keep from floating away. The Nicholls Farm grows the necessary plants to keep Louisiana alive but also does its part to help us preserve its beauty and culture. If Louisiana’s coastline is saved but there isn’t any culture left, what’s the point?
If you’re looking to help do your part in #SavingtheBoot, specifically with the Nicholls Farm, you can find them on Facebook by searching Nicholls Farm. Also, remember to follow our Facebook and Instagram, @savingtheboot