Caly trial


ennsylvania native Nicole Lundberg had lived in Louisiana for less than a month when she headed down to Cocodrie for something the Nicholls biology department dubs “Calypseaux.” Before she knew it, Lundberg was in muddy water up to her thighs, as she sowed new plants along Louisiana’s barrier islands. Later that evening, she found herself up to her elbows in boiled crabs, as she sampled genuine Cajun cuisine for the first time.

Lundberg quickly discovered what Calypseaux was — a total immersion into the Gulf Coast environment, into Louisiana culture and into the Nicholls marine and environmental biology master’s program. Many graduate programs host a retreat or orientation, but Nicholls faculty insist that Calypseaux is neither. Instead, it’s an expedition — inspired by famed explorer Jacques Cousteau and his research boat Calypso.

Each September, a new batch of Nicholls biology graduate students experiences Calypseaux, a uniquely Louisiana bonding experience. They arrive in Cocodrie on Friday without knowing much about one another, without really understanding where the graduate program will take them, without having much — or any — exposure to Louisiana’s coast. By Sunday, they return to Thibodaux with deep friendships and island nicknames, with firsthand knowledge of the state’s coastal erosion problem and with a fiery passion to discover something new through their graduate research.

“Marine biology is an old tradition, and one of the perks of this field is being a part of that legacy,” says Dr. Gary LaFleur, associate professor and expedition leader. “The Louisiana coast is always changing, so there are still things to discover, still things to see that have never been seen.”

— Photos by Misty Leigh McElroy

This article originally appeared in the fall 2013 issue of Voila! magazine. Click here to read the entire issue.