Undergraduate students at the Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine have partnered with science students at Nunez Community College in St. Bernard Parish, La., for a service-learning project focused on coastal restoration.
“We want to use treated wastewater to grow cypress in an area to act as a buffer for future storms that might come that way,” says Andrew J. Englande, professor of global environmental health sciences at Tulane.
Senior Katherine McDowell takes water samples at a pumping station site in St. Bernard Parish. (Photos by Bridget Smith)
It’s a big project involving Tulane, Louisiana State and Southeastern Louisiana universities, along with Nelson Engineering, the New Orleans Sewerage and Water Board and St. Bernard Parish, Englade says.
The plan for restoring the 30,000-acre marsh in St. Bernard is to plant cypress trees and pump treated wastewater in from nearby sewerage treatment plants. Fresh water and nutrients will reduce salinity in the marsh and enhance tree growth. A demonstration pilot project has been started, but it will take several years before the full marsh remediation project is up and running.
Tulane and Nunez students under the mentorship of Englande and Klaus Heyer of Nunez Community College have made a series of field trips to take and analyze water samples.
Back in the lab, teaching assistant Yue Xu, right, instructs students on analyzing the water samples they collected.
“We are trying to get an idea of what the background conditions are, so when we do start adding the treated wastewater, we have an idea of what the changes will be,” says Englande. “We are monitoring salinity; bacterial content, e.g. fecal coliform bacteria; organic content and a whole host of other water-quality parameters.”
The innovative service-learning course “affords wonderful opportunities to bring students together from both Tulane University and Nunez Community College to work on a coastal restoration project that will, no doubt, truly make a difference in our local community,” says Jeffrey Johnson, associate dean for graduate admissions and student affairs for the School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine.
January 11, 2012