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Press Release

U.S. Department of the Interior
U.S. Geological Survey
National Wetlands Research Center
700 Cajundome Blvd.
Lafayette, LA 70506

Contact: Gabrielle Boudreaux Bodin
Phone: 337-266-8655
Fax: 337-266-8541
For Release: May 13, 1998

National Wetlands Research Center Celebrates Wetlands Month

From recruiting Lafayette's legendary chefs for a nutria cook off to hosting school groups and scientists, the U.S. Geological Survey's National Wetlands Research Center is buzzing with activity during May, National Wetlands Month.

The public can learn more about these and other wetlands activities of the center by visiting its exhibit at Vermilionville May 16-17, when the Lafayette living museum celebrates National Wetlands Month.

The center kicked off its wetlands celebration by attending Governor Foster's Wetlands May Day Celebration 1998 "Committed to Our Future" in Baton Rouge. Earlier this month, the Governor signed documents proclaiming May as Wetland Protection and Restoration Month in Louisiana.

The center is also celebrating wetlands month by announcing several new programs.

Dr. Robert E. Stewart, center director, has announced the center's upcoming Nutria Cook Off. Center staff, working with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, will be visiting area restaurants to sign up chefs in a program to provide them with nutria meat. The state and federal program is aimed at finding a market for nutria, a South American native that damages wetlands by eating plant roots needed to hold soils together.

The chefs will use the nutria meat to create new recipes. The program will culminate in a cook off contest at the center this fall. Additionally, the chefs will be featured on the center's web page and in other media.

"This effort shows one way we can control a nuisance species that both is useful and enjoyable" Stewart said. "Nutria meat is an excellent source of protein, and it tastes like rabbit."

Another new program started this month is the center's partnership with the National Space and Aeronautics Administration's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. NASA's Biospheric and Hydrological Science Branches will combine forces with expertise at the wetlands center to address wetland problems.

Stewart said, "NASA technology will enable center researchers to help solve some very important issues, such as wetland restoration or reducing the nutrients that cause the so called 'Dead Zone' in the Gulf of Mexico, by allowing a look at those natural resources from a larger scale."

Visitors to the center this month include members of the Society of America Travel Writers, sponsored by the Lafayette Convention & Visitors Commission and the Lafayette Natural History Museum. To celebrate wetlands month, center tour guides are offering some special programs, including ones linking wetland science to literature.

Area schools celebrating wetlands month with tours and educational programs at the center include Moss Bluff Elementary, Anderson Middle School, South Rayne, Carencro Middle School, Jeanerette Elementary, St. Joseph School, St. Charles Street Elementary, St. Peters School, Forked Island-E. Broussard Elementary School, Plantation Elementary, Center Street Elementary, Crowley Middle School and Mother of Peace School.

Additionally, center staff have visited Woodvale Elementary's Louisiana Gumbo Symposium and classes at Crowley Middle School.

Scientific lectures scheduled for wetland month include seminars on researching Florida wetlands by USGS scientists Drs. Russ Hall, Ronnie Best and Don DeAngelis, as well as a seminar by representatives of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. All seminars highlight the need for cooperative work on understanding, protecting and restoring wetlands and other important ecosystems.

Also in May, the center will be the site of the USGS central regional bureau information needs meetings. This annual meeting brings together officials of Department of the Interior natural resources agencies such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service. They meet to discuss what kind of research USGS scientists can provide to help these agencies manage fish, wildlife and habitats under their jurisdiction. Special awards to outstanding individuals in the natural resource field will also be awarded during the meetings.

For more information about work at the National Wetlands Research Center, call 337-266-8500 or see the center's home page at

As the nation's largest water, earth and biological science and civilian mapping agency, the USGS works in cooperation with more than 2,000 organizations across the country to provide reliable, impartial scientific information to resource managers, planners and other customers. This information is gathered in every state by USGS scientists to minimize the loss of life and property from natural disasters, to contribute to the conservation and the sound economic and physical development of the nation's natural resources and to enhance the quality of life by monitoring water, biological, energy and mineral resources.

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