LAKE PLACID - Far removed from the devastation that consumed New Orleans, La., four years ago, many residents of Lake Placid may be unaware of the ongoing effort to revive the Gulf Coast. That's certainly not the case with Stephanie Short.
A Lake Placid native, Short was an undergraduate student at Tulane University in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina hit on Aug. 29, 2005. It was then that she and her roommates were forced to evacuate their off-campus apartment.
"We went out to Houston, and we had to watch the whole thing on the weather channel," said Short, noting how she and her friends stayed glued to the television to find out the status of friends and belongings left behind.
When the school re-opened in January 2005, Short returned and was stunned by the aftermath, witnessing first hand what many of her friends in the area had lost; cars, homes, and even family members.
"It was just tragic," said Short, "especially since it seems like more could have been done to prevent it."
Short went on to earn her Bachelor's and Master's degrees from Tulane, majoring in Ecology. Her concern for the region led her to an internship with the Gulf Restoration Network, a nonprofit coalition of organizations and individuals committed to restoring the Gulf of Mexico to an ecologically and biologically sustainable condition.
It was through her work there that she learned of a larger and ongoing issue facing Louisiana's Gulf Coast: the continuous loss of vital wetlands.
Short explained that the wetland loss is caused by the way the Mississippi River is dammed. This, coupled with erosion caused by a maze of shipping canals and artificial fill for development purposes means Louisiana's wetlands are disapearing at an alarming rate.
According to GRN, Louisiana loses a football field's worth of wetlands every 45 minutes. The loss of these wetlands threatens not only Louisiana's well-being, they say, but the environment and economy of the entire nation as they are a hub for 30 percent of the nation's oil resources, a home to major fisheries, a buffer for hurricanes, and native ecosystem of several unique and endangered species.