Help Count Birds for Science during Audubon’s Annual Christmas Bird Count

December 11, 2015 | Posted by lbourg in Birds, Climate, Science, Wildlife

The National Audubon Society invites birdwatchers to participate in the longest-running citizen science survey, the annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count (CBC). From December 14 through January 5, birders and nature enthusiasts in Louisiana will take part in this tradition, many rising before dawn to participate.

BUFH  - wing feathers

Buff-bellied Hummingbird wintering in Louisiana swamp. Photo: John Hartgerink

“Louisiana is home to millions of birds each winter, including waterfowl, shorebirds, and songbirds. Understanding how the populations of these birds are changing is revealed through CBC efforts, which is critical for knowing how to best ensure their survival,” says Dr. Erik Johnson, Director of Bird Conservation for Audubon Louisiana.

Each year, the Audubon Christmas Bird Count mobilizes over 72,000 volunteer bird counters in more than 2,400 locations across the Western Hemisphere. The Audubon Christmas Bird Count utilizes the power of volunteers to track the health of bird populations at a scale that scientists could never accomplish alone. Data compiled in Louisiana will record every individual bird and bird species seen in a specified area, contributing to a vast citizen science network that continues a tradition stretching back more than 100 years.

To date over 200 peer-reviewed articles have resulted from analysis done with Christmas Bird Count data. Bird-related citizen science efforts are also critical to understand how birds are responding to a changing climate. This documentation is what enabled Audubon scientists to discover that 314 species of North American birds are threatened by global warming as reported in Audubon’s groundbreaking Birds and Climate Change Study. The tradition of counting birds combined with modern technology and mapping is enabling researchers to make discoveries that were not possible in earlier decades.

In addition to counting up some of our more common birds, Louisiana CBC participants also look for vagrants – birds that normally spend the winter elsewhere, but made a wrong turn somewhere along the way. Last winter, Louisiana CBC volunteers found a total 254 species of birds, including amazing vagrants like Lucy’s Warbler, Ferrugineous Hawk, and Brown Boobies. What unusual birds will be found this winter?

Birders of all ages are welcome to contribute to this fun, nationwide citizen science project, which provides ornithologists with a crucial snapshot of our native bird populations during the winter months. Each individual count is performed in a count circle with a diameter of 15 miles. At least ten volunteers, including a compiler to coordinate the process, count in each circle. The volunteers break up into small parties and follow assigned routes, counting every bird they see. In most count circles, some people also watch feeders instead of following routes.

Want to get involved?


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RESTORE Council Votes to Approve Priority List of Gulf Restoration Projects for Funding

December 9, 2015 | Posted by jhebert in BP Oil Disaster, Federal Policy, Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council, Media Resources, Restoration Projects, RESTORE Act


RESTORE Council Votes to Approve Priority List of Gulf Restoration Projects for Funding

(December 9, 2015 – Biloxi, Miss.) Today, the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration (RESTORE) Council voted to approve its first Funded Priorities List (FPL) – a compilation of restoration projects the Council will prioritize for funding and implementation following the 2010 Gulf oil disaster. This set of projects will be funded by a portion of RESTORE Act dollars designated for ecosystem restoration from the Transocean Clean Water Act settlement.

National and local conservation organizations working on Gulf of Mexico and Mississippi River Delta restoration – Environmental Defense Fund, National Wildlife Federation, National Audubon Society, Ocean Conservancy, The Nature Conservancy, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana and Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation – released the following statement in response to today’s announcement:

“We congratulate the RESTORE Council and staff on their efforts to finalize this Funded Priorities List. Our organizations look forward to continuing to monitor projects as they move into the implementation phase.

“Additionally, now that the BP settlement is near final, the RESTORE Council and the Gulf states have a tremendous opportunity ahead to achieve broader meaningful restoration and lasting resilience for the essential ecosystems of the Gulf. However, with certainty around funding levels, the Council will be faced with difficult decisions. In order to make progress toward comprehensive restoration, the Council will need a science-based process for prioritizing future projects, with a focus on more large-scale proposals. With the first BP settlement payments on the horizon, it is essential that the Council promptly turn its attention to updating the Comprehensive Plan, so that it can serve as a tool to guide future investments around the Gulf. We stand ready to assist the Council and staff as they undertake this critical next step.”

Media Contact:

Emily Guidry Schatzel, National Wildlife Federation, 225.253.9781,
Jacques Hebert, National Audubon Society, 504.264.6849,
Elizabeth Van Cleve, Environmental Defense Fund, 202.553.2543,
Rachel Guillory, Ocean Conservancy, 504.208.5816,
Andrew Blejwas, The Nature Conservancy, 617.785.7047,
Jimmy Frederick, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, 225.317.2046,
John Lopez, Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, 504.421.7348,

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The pledges are in, and the winner is… The Louisiana coast!

December 7, 2015 | Posted by Elizabeth Van Cleve in Restore the Coast

By Elizabeth Van Cleve, Communications Manager, Environmental Defense Fund

Thank you RTC

In the lead-up to Louisiana’s fall elections, the Restore the Mississippi River Delta Coalition sponsored the Restore the Coast community engagement campaign, to highlight the important role Louisiana’s elected officials play in coastal restoration. This nonpartisan education campaign asked Louisiana voters to sign a pledge urging leaders to: be a voice for coastal restoration, protect existing and secure future coastal restoration funding, and support Louisiana’s Coastal Master Plan.

The goal of the campaign was to demonstrate the importance of coastal restoration as a central issue for all candidates. Our hope was – and still is – to send a clear message to public officials: Louisianians want leaders who will prioritize coastal restoration, by keeping restoration dollars for restoration and continuing the forward progress made through the coastal master planning process.

Thanks to Louisianians like you, we secured more than 13,555 pledge signers – exceeding our goal of 10,000! Thank you for signing the pledge, sharing it with family and friends, and helping elevate this important issue that affects us all.

Although the 2015 election season is over, our fight to protect and restore the coast is not. We will continue needing your support as Louisiana transitions into a new administration and starts a new legislative season. We are dedicated to continuing our efforts to urge leaders to make coastal restoration a priority, protect coastal restoration funds for restoration, and advance restoration projects.

Here are some highlights from this fall’s Restore the Coast campaign:

Coastal Issues Forum and candidate engagement

In August, the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana hosted the first-ever Coastal Issues Forum. All four gubernatorial candidates participated, and all four made campaign promises to prioritize coastal restoration and support the master plan – including sediment diversions.

In November, our coalition sent a letter asking both final candidates to provide their positions on how they would handle key coastal issues while in office. Both Senator Vitter and now Governor-elect John Bel Edwards sent responses indicating they would protect coastal funds for coastal restoration and protection. See their full responses.

Polling shows voters care about coastal restoration

Polling conducted this fall showed that an overwhelming majority of Louisiana voters – 94 percent – indicated that a candidate’s commitment to protect and restore Louisiana’s coast would be important to them when they voted.

That same poll found that 90 percent of Louisiana voters want the next governor to ensure funds currently dedicated to coastal restoration are not spent on anything but coastal restoration, and 87 percent want the next governor to work to identify and secure additional funding for future projects identified in the Coastal Master Plan.

Public engagement, outreach and online activities

Our coalition field staff tabled at a number of events this fall, encouraging voters to sign the Restore the Coast pledge. We also debuted three new “What Would You Miss?” interactive boards, which asked participants to write or draw what they would miss if the Louisiana coast disappeared. Check out our videos of the boards in action!

On Nov. 10, we hosted a Restore the Coast Online Day of Action to spread the word and encourage voters to sign the pledge at and share it with their friends and family via email, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Thanks to our fans and followers, this fall, we reached more than 1 million people online with our Restore the Coast messaging! We couldn’t have done it without you – thanks for helping spread the word and elevate this important issue.

Next steps

As the new governor transitions into power and the new legislative session begins, our work if far from over. Check back for updates on what’s next for the Restore the Coast campaign and how you can get involved to ensure the new governor keeps his promises to prioritize coastal restoration, protect coastal funding for coastal restoration and protection, and support the Coastal Master Plan.

Together, we can #RestoreTheCoast.

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New sediment counter shows amount of uncaptured sediment passing through LA every second

December 2, 2015 | Posted by lbourg in coastal restoration, Restoration Projects, Science

By Alisha Renfro, Staff Scientist, Restore the Mississippi River Delta Coalition, National Wildlife Federation

There’s less sediment moving down the Mississippi River than there used to be. Much of that missing material is trapped behind dams built upriver of Louisiana. Despite the reduction in sediment it carries, the Mississippi is still mighty with approximately 90 million tons of sediment passing the city of Belle Chasse, La. each year1. Tragically, much of that mud and sand will be carried past the sediment-starved wetlands and barrier islands of the delta – where it could have great benefits – and out into the Gulf, leaving us with a missed opportunity to restore health and resiliency to our coast.

sediment counter

Photo: CPRA

The new sediment counter, published on the homepage of our website, shows the tons of sand and mud in the water that moves pass the USGS gage in Belle Chasse, La every second. For this counter, the sediment is estimated using the relationship between sediment and the flow of the Mississippi River at Belle Chasse for years 2008 to 2010, as described by Mead Allison, Ph.D. and others in the appendix of their 2012 paper, “A water and sediment budget for the lower Mississippi–Atchafalaya River in flood years 2008–2010: Implications for sediment discharge to the oceans and coastal restoration in Louisiana.” For more specific details, see “How we calculated uncaptured sediment.”

While there is no single solution for restoring our coast, it is vital that we treat sediment as the precious resource it is and maximize its capture and use for coastal restoration. The 2012 Coastal Master Plan identified two types of projects, marsh creation and sediment diversions, that use sediment to build and maintain land. Marsh creation projects dredge and pipeline sand from the river to strategically build new land. However, reliance on this project type alone means missing out on the mud that makes up at least 70 percent of the sediment that the river carries. Sediment diversion projects tap into both the sand the mud carried by the river to build new land and to help sustain the existing wetlands, that in the absence of sediment input, would continue to rapidly disappear.

Using these two types of restoration projects we can use the sand and mud – the foundation and lifeblood of the delta – to create a healthy and more resilient future for coastal Louisiana.

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Job Openings: The Water Institute of the Gulf

November 30, 2015 | Posted by lbourg in Job openings

The Water Institute of the Gulf is a not-for-profit, independent applied research institute dedicated to providing advanced understanding and technical expertise to support management of coastal, deltaic and water systems, within Louisiana, the Gulf Coast and around the world. Its mission supports the practical application of innovative science and engineering, providing solutions that benefit society.

Interested in working for the Water Institute? Good news, they are currently hiring for the following positions. Click on each position for more information on job duties and instructions on applying.

Communications Associate

Data Manager

Coastal Ecology Research Technician 

Research Positions

Graduate Research Assistant in Coastal Ecology

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