Human Coast Rolling Seminar

The LSU Human Coast Initiative, with funding from Louisiana Sea Grant, hosted a bus load of university students and faculty on an exploration of the state’s coastal region. On August 1, 26 scholars boarded a bus for a three-day “rolling seminar” organized to boost the role of humanities and social sciences in understanding the state’s coastal crisis. Craig Colten and Jessica Parfait represented Geography & Anthropology.

The rolling seminar brought together faculty and students from LSU, Tulane, ULL, and UNO to visit various coastal research institutes, to meet with community groups, and to engage with each other in order to uncover locally based research issues and foster the creation of cooperative research among universities.

The tour included stops at UNO’s Shea Penland Coastal Research and Education Center, Tulane’s River and Coastal Center, the Studio in the Woods, Plaquemines Community Care Center, Plaquemines Health Center, LUMCON, and South Louisiana Wetlands Discovery Center . Topics discussed included environmental processes in the coastal region, mental health and community well-being, issues facing fishing families, cultural preservation and restoration, use of design to foster equity, community activism, resettlement of threatened coastal communities, arts as a way of understanding coastal issues, participatory research, and the challenges of communicating with public audiences.

For decades, excellent science about the biophysical environment has exposed the complex processes driving land loss and has contributed to formulating plans for restoring the littoral wetlands. Yet, the expensive plans have neglected a fundamental and essential part of the story – the people who live in the coast. There has been excellent research in the humanities and social sciences, but never with the sustained backing or coordination provided by the sciences. To address this shortcoming, the LSU Human Coast Initiative seeks to foreground research into social, cultural, political, and economic aspects of this pressing issue. The rolling seminar was one step toward that goal.

Trip leader, Craig Colten, reports that there was abundant conversation among the participants and there is great enthusiasm for a repeat event to continue the dialogue.