University of New Orleans Shea Penland Coastal Education Research Facility (CERF) Introduction to CERF
GPS Coordinates: 30° 4’ 7.936” N; 89° 48’ 7.622” W 
At 9am Saturday morning, May 18, 2019 the temperature at the CERF was 81 degrees Fahrenheit, and partly cloudy. University of New Orleans (UNO) Shea Penland Coastal Education Research Facility (CERF) is located about 30 minutes east of New Orleans, LA. CERF is a field station for the University of New Orleans Pontchartrain Institute for Environmental Sciences (PIES). It is a working lab with graduate and postdoctoral level research ongoing year-round. The CERF is uniquely situated between the Lake Borgne and Lake Pontchartrain Estuaries on the Chef Pass tidal inlet. The CERF is located in the middle of one of the best learning environments in the nation for undergraduate biological and environmental sciences. The Pontchartrain basin is one of the most dynamic estuaries along the Gulf coast. The CERF is also located less than a quarter of a mile from the nation’s largest urban wildlife refuge, the 23,000-acre Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge. 
Native species of the Lake Pontchartrain Basin
Common reed, Roseau, Phragmites australis — native
Roseaucane reed is a large perennial grass found in wetlands throughout temperate and tropical regions of the world. In several states it is considered an invasive weed, displacing other plants. Its height ranges from 6 – 12 feet, making it the tallest grass in southern marshes and swamps. The stems were used for arrows, weaving mats and for carrying nets by some of the first peoples of North America.
Big cordgrass, Spartina cynosuroides native
Spartina cynosuroides is a species of grass known by the common name big cordgrass and/or salt reed grass. It is native to the East Coast and Gulf Coast of the United States, where it grows in coastal habitat such as marshes, lagoons, and bays. This species is a rhizomatous perennial grass which can grow up to 10 feet tall. The leaves are up to 24 inches long and up to an inch wide. The ligule is hairy. The stem can be ¾ of an inch in diameter at the base. The inflorescence contains up to 40 spikes each up to 3 inches long. This grass grows in flooded saline soils such as those in salt and brackish marshes. It is associated with marsh-hay cordgrass (Spartina patens) and common Roseaucane reed (Phragmites australis). 
Both of these species are often used in marsh restoration activities in the Lake Pontchartrain Basin.
Blue crab, Callinectes sapidus — native
Callinectes sapidus (from the Greek calli- = “beautiful”, nectes = “swimmer”, and Latin sapidus = “savory”), the Blue Crab, Atlantic Blue Crab, or regionally known as the Chesapeake blue crab, is a species of crab native to the waters of the western Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico, and introduced internationally. Blue crab is of significant culinary and economic importance in the United States, particularly in Louisiana, North Carolina, the Chesapeake Bay, and New Jersey. 
Common rangia clam, Rangia cuneata — native
Rangia cuneata clams inhabit low salinity estuarine habitats and are, as such, most commonly found in areas with salinities from 5-15 PSU. Along the Mexican Gulf coast, they form the basis for an economically important clam fishery. A combination of low salinity, high turbidity and a soft substrate of sand, mud and vegetation appears to be the most favorable habitat for Rangia clams. The valves of Rangia cuneata are thick and heavy, with a strong, rather smooth pale brown periostracum. 
Reflection Changing coastal conditions in Louisiana
Louisiana changing coastal conditions are thought to be a result of the following:
- Hurricanes & Tropical storms
- Sea Level Rise
- Coastal Land Subsidence (Sinking)
- Flood protection projects (like flood walls, MRGO rock wall, & levee construction)
- Coastal restoration projects (like river diversions, dredge & fill, marsh creation, shoreline stabilization)
- Increasing Salinity
- Decreasing Salinity
- Increased Coastal Flooding
- Habitat & Wetland Loss 
What to do? I don’t have all the answers; heck, I don’t even have all the questions… But I’m loving the journey!
Did you know that the best way to support conservation efforts in Louisiana is to simply buy a fishing or hunting license? Whether or not you fish or hunt, those dollars are matched by the Federal Government and are used to maintain Louisiana’s beauty for nature lovers, hikers, birders, boaters, kayakers and others. I got mine.
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About the Author Eugene Brill
Eugene Brill does not hold a PhD in Environmental Science, Botany or another scientific field. He earned an MBA in business/marketing and is a mentor to startup entrepreneurs… but he’s a dedicated Wannabe Naturalist, an avid gardener and an amateur nature photographer. He does not ‘speak’ in taxonomic groupings, species and genera; but can communicate clearly with ‘Joe Public’ in language everyone understands. Eugene is constantly improving his ability to translate nature science into plain English. He loves to share knowledge, believes that Nature Deficit Disorder (NDD) is real, agrees that ‘forest bathing’ (fully clothed, off course… ?) makes us happier, healthier and more creative. He subscribes to the teachings of Edward O. Wilson and the Biophilia Hypothesis.
His heroin: Rachel Carson author of Silent Spring. The book The Uninhabitable Earth – Life After Warming by David Wallace-Wells scares him…
If you enjoyed in this article, you obviously care about climate change and the environment and you may enjoy this article about what is a wannabe naturalist.