Cornell Lab of Ornithology Tells Story of the Mississippi River Delta in New Video

Guest post by Marc Dantzker, Multimedia Producer – Cornell Lab of Ornithology


Soon after the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded last year, I was part of a multimedia team from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology that spent nearly three months documenting the resulting spill’s effects on bird life.  While many months have passed, the experience is still fresh: the sight of beach-bound pelicans struggling against a blanket of heavy oil, the smell of newly surfaced oil pressing into pristine salt marsh, the feel of crude on my skin.

We started our work documenting the oil effects on the gulf’s birds and ecosystems.  But as our team spent more time in the marshes and talked to locals and experts, it became apparent that there can be no real recovery for coastal Louisiana without a concerted effort to heal the Mississippi River Delta itself.

With that in mind, we produced a short film called “Restoring America’s Delta”.  In 24 minutes, we transport viewers to the Delta, to places few will ever see: the seabird colony of Raccoon Island, the engineering marvel of Old River Control, the shrinking marshes of Terrebonne Bay, and the fingers of new land forming in the Wax Lake Outlet.  Through these images, computer graphics, and expert interviews, we examine the formation of the Delta, its importance to people and wildlife, and the reasons for its decline.  We don’t tell people the answers, but rather provide information so people can form their own opinions.

Our hope is that people from across the country will see that the loss of land in the Mississippi River Delta affects all of us, not just Louisianans, and that it can only be fixed through our collective will.  The video’s final chapter argues that the system can be fixed; that this is simultaneously one of the largest and yet most reparable ecological challenges that we face as Americans.  We believe that an informed citizenry will support the specific restoration efforts and legislation required to implement change.  If you agree, please watch, share, and embed this video.

You can watch more videos about the birds of the Delta Region as well as a perspective on the spill from the Cornell Lab’s director, John Fitzpatrick at our website: