By Nicole Roy, Texan by Nature Conservation Programs Intern
Wildlife and nature are central to the unique culture and history of Louisiana and Texas. It is a large part of who I am, and that’s what makes me Texan by Nature. When I was a little girl, I lived on this short, dead-end street. The end of the street opens up into Bayou Teche, a murky brown waterway whose slow-moving current matches the easy-going lifestyle of the Cajun and Creole people who live there. My Mommom (my grandmother) and my Mommy lived next door to each other on that dead-end street, and my GrandMarie (my great-grandmother), with her vegetable garden, lived one street over – three generations of strong, intelligent Creole women within walking distance located in the small town of New Iberia, Louisiana.
When I slept at my grandmother’s house, I would wake up and peek through the blinds of my mom’s old bedroom, hoping to spot an alligator sunbathing on the banks of Bayou Teche about a mile away. Sometimes I was able to catch a glimpse of an alligator’s big, green tail slipping back into the water! I loved living in Louisiana!
After I graduated from high school, I moved to Texas to attend The University of Texas at Austin. I was excited to embark on this new chapter and engage with another place’s culture, but a part of me was reluctant to leave my home state. Southern Louisiana celebrates their natural environment, such as seafood, sugarcane, and alligators with festivals, parades, and balls all year long. There is no place like it!
However, my fascination and love for Austin and Texas have grown exponentially during my five years here. Austin is my new home! Its entrepreneurial spirit is carefully balanced with a beautiful and diverse natural landscape, like the canyon waterfall at Westcave. I love finding new nature spots nestled within the bustling metropolitan area. Last summer, my mom, younger sister, and I rented a one night stay at a tiny, eco-friendly treehouse in Spicewood, Texas, just outside of Austin.
Living at or below sea level for most of my life, I was not used to the slight rise in elevation when we drove to the treehouse. My ears were hurting the whole way! As we walked across the drawbridge up to our treehouse, it was so humid from the frequent rain showers. (Now, humidity…that’s something I am very familiar with!) The light rain misted over the thick canopy of trees and our treehouse, creating a tranquil and private space for us to eat cold pizza, sit outside, and simply be. I am at peace when I’m in nature, and I want to make it my life’s work to preserve these beautiful spaces. That’s what makes me Texan by Nature.
While studying at UT, I combined my Chemistry and Plan II Honors (a rigorous interdisciplinary program) degrees to explore the field of conservation. My honors thesis Gator Neighbor analyzed the social history of alligators in southern Louisiana, and it discussed the environmental laws, science research, and conservation projects that saved the species from the brink of extinction. In my thesis, I also emphasized the importance of including diverse groups of people, like me, in America’s conservation story because they, too, have an established relationship with nature and wildlife. As a recent graduate, I am eager to transfer my knowledge and skills from school and continue working in the field of conservation at Texan by Nature. In the future, I plan to return to UT’s campus and attend their law school so that I can expand my professional capabilities even further to protect our natural environment for future generations as an environmental lawyer.