Apr 17, 2014 11:21 AM by Dave Fields

Bayou Vermilion becomes LPSS classroom in UL's Drains to Coast program

The Bayou Vermilion became a classroom Wednesday for students from Comeaux High, Lafayette High, and David Thibodeaux STEM Magnet Academy who learned about a water quality issues as part of the University of Louisiana's Drains to Coast program.

Approximately 80 of the students were in the Comeaux High contingent.

The students, who scooped up in buckets tied to lengths of yellow rope to perform chemistry tests, also cruised the waterway in large wooden boats, getting a bird's-eye view of the area's watershed.

"The key is for students to buy into coastal restoration, for the next generation to understand the importance of water quality," said Clair Coussan, an undergraduate student in UL's School of Geosciences, who assists in the program's coordination.

The field study, coordinated by the UL's Institute for Coastal Ecology and Engineering, fosters research on restoration of the nation's wetlands and estuaries.Julianne Llewellyn, a Comeaux High School freshman, explained that testing the water's nutrient, oxygen and sediment levels will help her comprehend concepts she's learning about in her science classes.

"We've seen it on paper, and learned about the math and science behind it, but seeing it up close definitely gives you get a better understanding," she said.

Comeaux High students will use computer software to analyze the data gleaned during their Wednesday work, said Lisa Ranney, long-time Comeaux chemistry teacher.

"Once we bring the knowledge back to the classroom, it makes students a little bit more excited about learning," she added.

The Drains to Coast program is funded by a $99,121 grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Bay-Watershed Education and Training Program.

The environmental education project involves collaboration with the Bayou Vermilion District, Lafayette Parish School System, Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium, and the Louisiana Sea Grant College Program. About 600 students from Lafayette Parish schools are expected to participate in the two-year Drains to Coast program, said Dr. Whitney Broussard, the grant's principal investigator and a research scientist at the Institute for Coastal Ecology and Engineering.

"It's great to see so many students engaged and hopefully this will spark an interest in many of them," Broussard said.



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