Dutchtown High students help Coastal Roots Program

Darian Graivshark
Students from Dutchtown High, LSU Ag, and the National FFA Organization begin planting the trees at Blackwater Conservation Area.

There are 50 schools in 21 Louisiana parishes that participate in the LSU Coastal Roots Program. One of those schools is Dutchtown High.

On December 4, students from Dutchtown High took a field trip to the Blackwater Conservation Area to plant hackberry and loblolly pine trees in an effort to help coastal restoration in the habitat. Students from second grade through high school are able to take part in this project while becoming environmental stewards of natural resources.

The hackberry and loblolly trees are planted at Blackwater because that is what is needed in that area. Those trees are what is native to that land. What is planted will always depend on the area and what grows most predominantly there.

"Each school has a different site that they will go help for restoration," Lindsay Seely, Environmental Science teacher at Dutchtown, said. "Blackwater is one of our areas. We are actually a part of a pilot program where LSU will be taking tree ring samples and using that data for research on how hurricanes can affect the plants."

The Coastal Roots Program has been around for the last twenty years, but this year is the first year that science has been added to it.

"The students that are here today will be videoing their progress to understand tree growth," Mark Schafer, Associate Professor of Sociology and Agricultural Economics at LSU said. "This will help us with assessing their understanding of science in this area of study."

The Blackwater Conservation Area has lakes that have been sculpted out with twenty years of restoration. It has river access and has new trees constantly being planted due to the constant introduction of new plants to the species.

Students were to plant the trees at least two feet away, in every direction, from another tree due to the small area that they were planting in. After they successfully planted the tree, they had to flag them so they could be found again.

A dibble shovel helped students with the digging of the holes for the trees. A dibble fits the shape of the cone that the plants are in, and it helps get the plants into the ground without killing it. Typically, you can hop on a dibble like a pogo stick on the bars at the bottom, and you can tell when it is all the way in the ground when you can't fit your foot underneath those bars.

Coastal restoration efforts is something that Seely tries to do with her students every year, and it's something that the students can look back on in five years to see how much their trees have grown.

Follow Darian on Twitter @dariangshark.