It wasn’t that long ago that the idea surfaced to use the power of the Mississippi River as a source for energy. It turns out that turbines placed near New Orleans weren’t going to be that effective after all. So a group of folk at Tulane University moved on to other ideas.
Among them is Matthew Chatfield. Before becoming part of Tulane University’s faculty, Matthew spent time in the rain forests of Malaysia researching the likelihood of the survival of the lowly frog. What he found was that frogs, creatures that have been on Earth for more than 300 million years, along with all other amphibians are the most threatened with extinction; more than birds, more than mammals.
“They are the hardest hit. And this is around the world,” he says, adding that amphibians’ potential demise should be a clarion call to humankind as well. “They are harbingers of what’s to come; the canaries in the coal mines,” he explains.
When Matthew returned to the United States, he chose Tulane University to continue his research into evolutionary biology. That led to an interest in aquatic eco-systems; then to the quality of fresh water; and now to a new position as Project Coordinator for Tulane University’s new Riverfront Campus.
As part of this new campus, a new facility, the Tulane River and Coastal Center, will be built near the existing Morial Convention Center. Overlooking the Mississippi River, the building will go up between the parking lot of the Port Authority building and Mardi Gras World. Final architectural details and cost estimates should be announced within a few weeks and the build-out completed by early next year.
While focus on water issues and degree-granting programs is its academic priority, the TRCC has made public outreach its community priority. A space in the new facility, to be called the Public Forum, will be dedicated for meetings and symposia as well as for museum-like installations about the history and importance of the river. The Public Forum, Matthew says, will be a place for tourists and locals alike to come, to learn and, for the first time in decades, to be close to the river. Adjacent to the Public Forum will be a semi-enclosed plaza; a unique site to watch the mighty Mississippi roll and Matthew hopes, to listen to some great New Orleans music.
You can read more about Tulane River and Coastal Center, a part of the Tulane/Xavier Center for Bioenvironmental Research, here.