Christmas trees deployed in wetlands

Senior biology major Matthew Hoover loads Christmas trees into the back of the pontoon boat

Senior biology major Matthew Hoover loads Christmas trees into the back of the pontoon boat
The Lion's Roar/Ian Fischer

This past Friday, instructor of biological sciences and Director of Turtle Cove Environmental Research Station Dr. Robert Moreau and three students from his class took Christmas trees which were donated to scientists for research to the Turtle Cove Environmental Research Station.

On Mar. 4, the trees were stacked up in the back of the research station, which sits on the bank of Pass Manchac. According to Moreau, scientists will come in at a later date and place the trees into ditches created by loggers. The effort is all part of a five-year research program to test whether or not the Christmas trees can be used to collect sediment and turn the ditches into restored marshland. 

“It was a nice, beautiful day to take Christmas trees out in the marsh,” said Moreau. 

Moreau took the crew on a tour of the marshlands behind the research station to a logging ditch where previous Christmas trees were dropped off. There was a flood earlier in the year which, according to Moreau, killed much of the marsh grass. Despite this, Bull’s Tongue, a species of marsh grass, was growing out of some Christmas trees from previous deployments in the ditches. 

The three biology students attending enjoyed the opportunity to have hands-on experience at the research station and on the boat. They were senior biology majors Kristen Holmes, Matthew Hoover and Amanda Bergeron. 

“It’s nice to be able to see what you’re learning in class actually does something,” said Bergeron. “As a biology student it’s nice to be out in nature and see it rather than just read about it.”

According to Moreau, an estimated 35,000 Christmas trees have been dropped off in the past 20 years. The program used to be much bigger, but budgetary changes caused a change in strategy.

“I really like the idea of this new experiment that we are doing, because I think that has a lot of value,” said Moreau. “In coastal Louisiana, one of the biggest problems is, in terms of wetland loss, canals and salt water intrusion. So, I’m very excited about this project and if it does work then maybe it’s something we can hand over to the Governor’s CPRA, Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority as a program that can be used around the state.”

Turtle Cove Environmental Research Station is only accessible by boat. Moreau and his crew had to load the trees from their boat launch site in Galva Canal, then travel down the canal and into Pass Manchac where the research station is located. It takes nearly 30 minutes to reach the research station, with active wildlife along the way.

Bergeron wished she would have had the opportunity to catch a ribbon snake the crew encountered during the drop off. Moreau was close to catching it but the snake slipped away under the research station. According to Moreau, the snakes enjoy the warm sun in the cool air. Both snakes and alligators were visible on the boat trip. 

At the research station, Moreau talked about the history of the station. It was originally a hunting lodge built by a logging businessman Edward G. Schlieder in 1908. The university acquired a 99-year lease for it from the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries in 1981. Moreau has been in charge of the station since 2001 after his predecessor, Dr. Robert Hastings, retired.

Moreau said the area is favored by Gov. John Bel Edwards who comes to hunt and enjoy the nature. 

To find out more about the Turtle Cove Research Station and the Christmas tree drop off, visit the university home page and look under academics and academic programs, Turtle Cove. 

 

Dr. Robert Moreau describes the experiment to biology majors, Amanda Bergeron , Hoover and  Kristin Holmes.

Dr. Robert Moreau describes the experiment to biology majors, Amanda Bergeron , Hoover and  Kristin Holmes.
The Lion's Roar/Ian Fischer 

 

 

 

The marshes of Turtle Cove

The marshes of Turtle Cove. 
The Lion's Roar/Ian Fischer