Open house draws 1,000-plus

Relay 1, Rain 0: Weather can’t stop fund raising event
April 29, 2015
Oil, gas workers to meet with legislators
April 29, 2015
Relay 1, Rain 0: Weather can’t stop fund raising event
April 29, 2015
Oil, gas workers to meet with legislators
April 29, 2015

You could touch starfish, hold a baby alligator, race a fiddler crabs, ride on an airboat, go on a scavenger hunt, watch a film and eat a chili dog – all on the same day – at the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium open house in Cocodrie.

In spite of a threatening weather forecast, over 1000 visitors turned out for the 30th anniversary celebration of the research vessel Pelican Saturday at LUMCON.

“The open house is a chance for us to share our science with the community” said executive director Nancy Rabalais. “And our research vessel, Pelican, is the busiest ship in the Gulf. She has worked as far north as Maine and as far south as Venezuela and was the first ship on site at the BP oil spill. We call her the Pelican-do.”

AS Rabalais spoke shrieks and laughter issued from children at a nearby table, gathered for the tou-lou-lou or crab race, sponsored by Nicholls State University. “The kids are obsessed with these races” said Gary LaFleur, advisor to the biology society at Nicholls.

“Tou-lou-lou” is the Cajun word for fiddler crab.

In the Phytoplankton Lab, senior research associate Wendy Morrison showed a lad named Peter Pellegrin how to use microscopes to see creatures invisible to the naked eye. Up in the LUMCON tower, overlooking the Terrebonne marsh, 10-year-old Olivia Boudreaux said she learned something new. Crabs, she said, are blue and not red.

“Crabs are blue before they’re boiled,” her grandmother, Dena Redmond, said with a smile. “These kids grow up just seeing the red ones at the crab boils.”

The festival was a flurry of activity.

In the crafts area 7-year-old Reese Fisher and 8-year old Jacob Calis put the finishing touches on their fish paintings, while in the fisheries lab, Alexander McCollam learned that “blue crabs represent 75% of all shellfish caught in the Gulf.”

Others watch as lionfish, an invasive and poisonous species that has gotten a foothold in the Gulf and south Atlantic, gulped minnows for lunch.

For the children and their adult guests lunch at the cafeteria consisting of chili dogs, chips and punch was free.

A favorite place for the children was a “gator nursery” where they kids interacted with baby alligators. Twelve-year-old twin brothers Anthony and Elijah Billiot proudly demonstrated the proper way to hold them.

“Today I learned that alligators have stronger jaws than crocodiles” remarked Anthony.

Elijah learned “that earthquakes cause rivers to move.”

“This is how we show off LUMCON,” Nancy Rabalais said, emphasizing that “it’s important to our state on so many levels.”

Terrebonne Parish President Michel Claudet agreed.

“What a great organization and institution we have here in our parish,” he said. “I encourage everyone to come and visit.”

Rabalais noted, however, that state budget talks currently taking place in Baton Rouge could have a profound effect on the consortium’s future.

“If the state budget gets passed with massive cuts to higher education LUMCON will be adversely affected,” she said. “Our ability to continue our work here will be in jeopardy.”

Open House