CROWLEY – The Crowley Rotary Club, at their Tuesday meeting, hosted guest speaker Dr. Mark Shirley of the LSU AgCenter. Shirley was there to speak about the important topics of coastal erosion and coastal management. “Obviously, it’s gotten everyone’s attention in the last three weeks,” said Shirley.
Shirley stated that it is the next generation who will inherit this problem, and hopefully they will come up with remedies for it. For the time being, however, Shirley is doing his part to influence the next generation to care about the problem.
Marsh Maneuvers is a 4-H Youth Development Program that Shirley is involved with. This program is a week-long experience that teaches kids in the 4-H program about biology and coastal problems.
The program was started in 1987 with Vermilion Parish High School kids, and now hosts four kids from four different parishes per week. Taking place in the summer, Marsh Maneuvers makes Rockefeller Refuge its place of study.
The teens study the biology of the region, catching shrimp and crabs and looking at different species of fish and the food web, and how everything in nature relates to something else.
“It’s all tied together,” said Shirley.
The teens study resource management, which directly relates to the biology of species in the area. They also study conservation, which is the wise use of a natural resource; preservation, marsh reduction from storm surge, and coastal marsh loss from subsidence, digging canals, salt water intrusion.
The teens also participate in a coastal restoration project, placing species of plants along the coast to help create two or three acres of marsh land.
“I’m still digging mud out of my ears,” joked Shirley.
The teens take a Wetlands Knowledge assessment test when they first arrive at the camp, and one when they leave. According to Shirley, the test scores improve on average about 22 percent. The proof of the programs success is in the numbers.