July 17, 2018

Stitching Hope for the Coast – communicating coastal optimism for Louisiana

Posted by Laura Guertin

In March 2018, the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium (LUMCON) hosted a gathering of thirty-seven scientists and science communicators for OCEANDOTCOMM, a collaborative storytelling event. The theme of the gathering, as well as what we were going to be asked to do, was not revealed by Executive Director Dr. Craig McClain until we arrived at the field station in Chauvin, LA. Drumroll, please…

The Theme  —  Coastal Optimism

The Challenge  —  To find examples of where scientists and South Louisiana communities are making a positive impact along the coast; to create product(s) to share success stories of coastal resilience

The Background  —  Louisiana is challenged not only by its physical environment but by what is reported:
(-) South Louisiana is experiencing complex reasons for coastal loss, including: sea-level rise, climate change, habitat degradation/loss of vegetation, subsidence of land, diversion of the Mississippi River;
(-) Scientists and community organizations are being successful in some areas, but there are no stories of “hope” – only stories of “doom and gloom” (where are the narratives for what is being done right?);
(-) Local residents need to have their spirits lifted, need to feel good about what is working.

After several trips in the field and opportunities to meet local community members (I documented the event on my Journeys of Dr. G blog), the participants developed an amazing range of products from podcasts to artwork to 360 videos (see the OCEANDOTCOMM products page). But there is one project still continuing, and my new colleague Gabriele Kerber (freelance science writer from Germany) and I want to encourage participation from the widest audience possible for (another drumroll…)


Stitching Hope for the Coast

While at LUMCON, we discovered that several of us present were knitters, crocheters, sewers, etc. (turns out that some of the attendees had seen my AGU Fall 2017 poster of crocheted temperature records). We decided to tap in to our creative nature and create the Stitching Hope for the Coast project.

Our Stitching Hope for the Coast project website lists the full details of our overarching goal of creating a community of crafters that generate a handmade product (crochet, knit, quilt, felt, embroider… anything that involves stitching). We want to invite others to join our efforts in telling stories of Louisiana coastal optimism! (participants do not have to be AGU members or scientists – we just ask the focus be on the Louisiana coast) Our website has links to stories and organizations working towards hope on the coast, if you are looking for some inspiration.

I have completed two story quilts so far, and have two more in mind.

This quilt was inspired by someone I sat next to on the airplane ride home, where she shared with me her coastal optimism story of the recycled Christmas trees. I have a full description of the quilt online. (Please excuse that I did not follow the Law of Superposition, as the story here starts top-down instead of bottom-up!)

This quilt tells the story of the TABASCO factory and warehouse, from flooding to restoration and resilience. I have a full description of the quilt online.

We have other participants currently working on products to share in flickr and then we’ll engage in discussion. Our timeline is to have the products completed with photos posted online by the end of October 2018 (details for submitting images and the story you are telling is at the bottom of the website).

Finally, we hope to gather together at the 2018 AGU Fall Meeting at a discussion pod to share our products and talk about what we’ve learned about Louisiana and science communication through “stitching” (stay tuned for details). For those unable to attend AGU, we hope you will be willing to record a short video describing your work that we can show on the screen at the pod, and/or send your work along and we will share it with the group! Of course, the discussion pod is open for anyone to attend to discuss the broader connections between science and art. In the end, we look forward to reaching Dr. McClain’s goal of spreading the stories of coastal optimism in Louisiana.

We look forward to what the community can create! Please contact us with any questions at stitchingcoa[email protected] (or contact me through this blog). Happy stitching!


This blog post was created from OCEANDOTCOMM and supported by the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium (LUMCON).