BAYOU Studies

Welcome to the Center for Bayou Studies

What is Bayou Studies?

The Center studies the environment and culture of the Louisiana river basin referred to as the “Bayou Region”. The Bayou Region encompasses the parishes touched by Mississippi River tributaries and the South Louisiana marshland.


CBYUS focuses on a region that is at risk of cultural extirpation due to land subsidence, coastal erosion, sea level rise, and hurricane impacts that have led to insurmountable economic burdens causing the dispersal of extended families and communities. Over the last fifty years, this region has lost an average of one acre every 30 minutes.

The Bayou Region offers boundless opportunities for ecological research because of its diversity of life on land, in the wetlands, and within the waterways. Topographically it presents profound challenges for both wildlife and human settlement due to the fragile nature of its delta foundations and the persistent threat of land loss.


“The land and the people are one.”

The Bayou Region is home to a number of divergent American cultures, such as the Cajuns, Creoles, and Houmas.

Although there are many shared characteristics of the Bayou Region, there are also very specific differences among each of the bayous. Erudite linguistic studies have shown that even villages along the same bayou utilize different words and pronunciations for similar objects or activities. Historically, the sub-cultures of each bayou have avoided mixing with other bayou sub-cultures, leading to a richness of diversity in accents, tribal lore, music styles, culinary practices, boat design, and subsistence methods. The Center for Bayou Studies aims to preserve these distinct cultures for the reference of future generations.


Preserving Bayou Culture, Serving the Community, and Supporting Nicholls

From its position in the bayou country of south central Louisiana, the Center for Bayou Studies will be the eminent center for cultural and scientific study of Louisiana bayous and bayoulands.

It will be an interdisciplinary and inter-collegiate center of collaborative intellectual expertise interested in fostering new scholarship on, and new sponsorship of, projects aligned with its mission.

The Center will:

  • Provide leadership on public presentations of global bayou and bayouland issues.
  • Collect and preserve cultural material for scholarly research and for posterity.
  • Facilitate collection and preservation efforts of regional historical and genealogical societies and collaborate on scholarly interpretation.
  • Exhibit artifacts and ideas that inform, inspire, and challenge common understanding of bayou peoples, bayou environments, and bayou culture.
  • Create public programming serving Nicholls and its communities.
  • Develop and support the cultural economy of the bayou region.
  • Advance the educational mission of Nicholls by providing opportunities for academic collaboration as well as workforce development for students, the general public, and regional stakeholders.


The University offers a minor in Bayou Studies after successful completion of 18 hours of courses that include content about local or regional history, literature, culture, language and geography. Nine hours must include IDST 201 (Bayou Region Field Explorations) and ENGL 426 (Bayou Culture) as well as either ENGL 427 or HIST 371.

Required Courses (9 hours)

IDST 201Bayou Field Explorations
ENGL 425Bayou Culture

ENGL 427


HIST 371

Louisiana Literature


Louisiana History

The remaining nine hours can be chosen from the following list, with at least three of those hours coming from GEOG 375, SOCI 204, or SOCI 395:

Electives (9 hours)

BIOL 215Pirogue Biology
CULA 401Culinary History of the South
CULA 279Cajun and Creole Cuisine
ENGL 326Intro to Folklore
ENGL 490Language and Culture
FREN 102Elementary French II
GEOG 375Geography of Louisiana
HIST 371Louisiana History
HUMA 303French Literature in Translation
SOCI 204Cultural Diversity of America
SOCI 395Racial and Cultural Minorities

Students may substitute up to six hours of other special topics or themed courses that have a main focus or theme that addresses bayou studies or, more broadly, Louisiana. Approval of department head of Interdisciplinary Studies required for substitutions.


Bayou Studies Symposium at the Rougarou !

This year the Bayou Studies Symposium will be hosted as part of the Rougarou Festival in downtown Houma, Open to the Public with Fee Admission. …

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Center for Bayou Studies Events Fall 2018

There are so many events during this Fall 2018 Semester that we wanted to just go ahead and list them here, with featured posts coming …

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Give-N-Day provides new method for supporting your favorite Nicholls Projects

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The Louisiana Folklore Society Events for March 9th to March 10th

Board Meeting March 9th: 12:00p.m. – 1:30p.m.  At the Terrebonne Parish Main Branch Library. Box Lunches will be available for $8. Tour of the Bayou …

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Reception Tonight: William Guion Oak Tree Photographs Ellender Library 1st Floor

Tuesday Feb 20, Opening Reception for Live Oak Tour Photographs, Ellender Library 6-8.  

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Tonight: CBYUS Film Screening “On Our Watch” by Jonathan Evans 6:00 pm Peltier Hall, March 1, 2018

Tonight: Peltier Hall 6:00 pm, Thursday, March 1 Film screening of “On Our Watch” the award winning feature documentary about coastal erosion in Louisiana featuring …

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Free Cajun Jam 6-8 pm Feb 28, 2018

Bring your instrument and bring your family to the Venetian Restaurant in downtown Thibodaux to the Free Cajun Jam, sponsored by the Cajun Music Preservation …

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Free Cajun Music Jam Tonight 6-8

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2017 Louisiana Swamp Stomp Saturday Nov 4, Raceland

Everyone is invited to attend the FREE 2017 Louisiana Swamp Stomp, hosted by the Cajun Music Preservation Society at the Lafourche Central Market, Saturday Nov …

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La Fete des Vieux Temps Oct 7, Raceland

Center for Bayou Studies will be hosting a listening booth, and presenting talks about ongoing projects at Nicholls including the Chauvin Sculpture Garden and using …

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Monday Oct 10, Donner-Peltier Distillery with the Swamp Stomp Cocktail Contest 5-9

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Audubon: The Film Thurs, Oct 13, Gouaux Auditorium 6 pm

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Bayou Studies Resource Center

The Bayou Studies Resource Center on the first floor of Ellender Memorial Library houses a collection of cultural material that can be accessed with permission from the library circulation desk.

In the Resource Center, you can find:

  • Films by local filmmakers
  • Regional literature
  • Instruments to scan archival material
  • Instruments to conduct interviews
  • Architecture models, Native American basketry, and other artifacts

The films and literature stored in the Resource Center are included in the main library database search. Ellender Library has also compiled a list of useful websites on this page.

Contributing Faculty

Dr. Gary LaFleur Jr. – Director
Assistant Dean of Arts and Sciences
Associate Professor, Biological Sciences

233 Gouaux Hall
Phone: 985.448.4715

Dr. Robert Allen Alexander
Head of Interdisciplinary Studies
252 Elkins Hall
Phone: 985.448.4096

Dr. John Doucet
Dean, College of Arts and Sciences
McIlhenny Professor of Human and Environmental Genetics
111 Gouaux Hall
Phone: 985.448.4721

Clifton P. Theriot, M.L.I.S., C.A.
Archivist, Library Co-Director
233 Gouaux Hall
Phone: 985.448.4715

Dr. Shana Walton
Assistant Professor, English
246-C Peltier Hall
Phone: 985.448.4458

The Center for Bayou Studies (CBYUS) is comprised of an interdisciplinary team of faculty at Nicholls State University dedicated to generation of knowledge and learning through focused study of diverse aspects of the bayou region of south central and coastal Louisiana.

Chef John Folse Culinary Institute

Chef Marcelle Bienvenu
Chef Randy Cheramie


Department of Art

Dr. Jill R. Chancey, Art History


Department of Biological Sciences

Dr. Allyse Ferrara, Fish Reproduction and Coastal Ecologist
Dr. Quenton Fontenot, Larval Fish Biologist and Estuarine Ecologist
Dr. Marilyn B. Kilgen, Seafood Safety and Microbiology
Dr. Earl Melancon, Oyster Ecology, Estuarine Ecology


Department of Economics

Dr. Laura Coogan, Maritime Economics


Department of Government and Social Sciences

Ms. Tina Granger, Sociologist


Department of History and Geography

Dr. Paul Leslie, Historical Liaison to Laurel Valley National Historical Site
Dr. Stephen Michot, History, Political Science and Military Studies
Dr. Paul Wilson, History of Southeastern Louisiana and World War II


Department of Languages and Literature

Ms. Tiffany Duet, Instructor of Literature
Dr. Richmond Eustis, Environmental Journalism, Environmental Literature
Dr. Todd Kennedy, Film Studies
Dr. Lance LaPlante, Novelist and Author
Dr. Becky LeBlanc, Louisiana Literature
Dr. Robin White, French in Louisiana Cajun Culture

Projects and Affiliates

Research Projects by CBYUS Contributing Faculty

Fruit Stand Map by Chris Adams

This map of local harvest products available from roadside stands represents more than 275 miles of road surveyed and 44 roadside stands identified during the September – October 2013 survey period.  Collectively, more than 27 harvest products were available from these roadside stands.  Each 1 mile segment is color coded to show stand density for the 3 mile stretch centered on that segment.

Subsistence Project by Shana Walton & Helen A. Regis

Shana Walton (Nicholls State) and Helen Regis (LSU) conducted a preliminary study of subsistence practices in Lafourche and Terrebonne parishes for the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. The need for research into subsistence was revealed when federal officials were challenged with processing damage claims filed for subsistence losses after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Subsistence practices in Louisiana had not been well documented prior to the event.

This project developed and tested research methods for study of subsistence living. Data was gathered on harvesting, exchange, and consumption through participants logging these activities. Information about the familial and cultural aspects of subsistence was gathered though oral histories, interviews, and focus groups.

Their findings are compiled into a 300 page report. This report is the property of BOEM and is not currently available to the public.

Rhetorical Mapping: Oil & Land by Scott Banville, Samantha Carpenter, Brittney Courteaux, J.D. Johnson, Lexi Marcell, Kelli Sarre

Undergraduate English students collected data from oral interviews of residents in the bayou delta region of South Louisiana. The oral interviews were conducted by an earlier set of students in 2009 – 2010 as part of an oral history project called “Stories of Oil and Land” sponsored by the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program. The original project sought to collect perspectives of various residents about local industry, oil mining, and coastal erosion.

Information about the interviewee’s location, vocation, subsistence activities, religion, ethnicity, native language, military service, level of education, etc. was gathered and charted onto a table. From this table, the students created a series of interactive data visualizations using Google Fusion Tables, showing shifts in land use as well as concentrations of religions, ethnicities, hobbies, and vocations, looking to find links between these factors. The visualizations, like the original interviews, show the impact of the petroleum industry on life in South Louisiana.


Cajun Music Preservation Society

Established in 2014 by Quenton Fontenot, Allyse Ferrara, Misty McElroy, and Tysman Charpentier, The Cajun Music Preservation Society works to promote, preserve, and enhance awareness and appreciation of traditional Cajun music.

Much of the popular music in the Nicholls service area has roots in Cajun French heritage, but historically the infiltration of country and western music has uniquely made Cajun music of the bayou region into a “Lafourche-style” idiom. In addition, the proximity to New Orleans infused a dominating influence of rhythm and blues into the art form. As a result, Swamp Pop is alive and well in the Bayou Region at the expense of appreciation for traditional music. Yet there remain vestiges of a Lafourche style of Cajun French Music. This project aims to preserve this style by increasing awareness, providing performance opportunities, and supporting student involvement with Cajun Music and Cajun Dancing.

Chauvin Folk Art Festival + Blessing of the Fleet

Each year, Nicholls holds the Chauvin Folk Art Festival at the Chauvin Sculpture Garden in conjunction with the annual Blessing of the Fleet celebration to celebrate the region’s rich folk art tradition. The festival features original paintings, pottery, jewelry and sculpture as well as food and live music.


Center for Bayou Studies

Office Location:
Ellender Memorial Library, Room 138
Phone: 985-448-4664
Fax: 985-448-4664
Office hours by appointment only