THE TRAILER DAYS: 1979 – 1983

In the late 1960s, Louisiana university representatives began to discuss plans for the development of a marine consortium that could meet the growing needs of researchers and provide educational enrichment for students throughout the state. Strong leadership, including the efforts of Dr. Darryl Felder, to garner the political, legislative, and university support helped to make a marine laboratory for the state of Louisiana a reality. A proposal to form the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium was endorsed by the Louisiana Board of Regents and enacted into law by the Louisiana legislature in 1979. LUMCON began operating at the end of Highway 56 in Cocodrie before architectural planning for the Marine Center even began in 1980.  In 1982, the LUMCON Foundation, Inc. a non-profit group was founded and led by Dr. Wayne Forman, to support the financial, educational, and general material welfare of the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium until its dissolution in 1999.

Dr. Don Boesch, a New Orleans native, was Executive Director of LUMCON from 1980 to 1990. “I guess I was crazy for applying to run a marine research consortium… I was only 34″ said Dr. Boesch.  Boesch left a faculty position at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science to return to his home state of Louisiana. “This was a dream-like opportunity to build a research center in a place where I was born and raised… in a place where I used to go fishing with my father.”

LUMCON began humbly, with a set of five trailers in the marsh: the library, the administrative offices, the zooplankton lab, the benthos lab, and the kitchen/dormitory. LUMCON’s first faculty member, Dr. Michael Dagg, said that when he arrived, he “… had nothing. I came down here from Long Island and for six months was living in one end of my trailer; my lab was on the other end. Thankfully, we did have electricity—most of the time.”

Dr. Nancy Rabalais has similar stories of her adventures in LUMCON’s early facilities. “There was a big word processor in the middle of the administrative trailer, like a typewriter that remembered so you could fix mistakes. I was working one night on my (Ph.D.) dissertation when the machine started smoking. I thought ‘this is my dissertation- it will be nothing but smoke!’. Thankfully I was able to rescue and then finish it.”

Cocodrie offers easy access to Louisiana’s more natural marine resources.  The trailers were not LUMCON’s only facilities. In 1979, LUMCON began leasing the Fourchon field station from Nicholls State University. The Fourchon camp expanded LUMCON’s reach because of the manmade coastal structures nearby until 2021 when the camp was turned back over to Nicholls.


Boesch’s job as LUMCON’s first Executive Director was more difficult and complex than he had ever imagined. “My job, which I thought was to build the Consortium, turned out to be convincing everyone to provide funding for the facilities.” Rabalais says the proof of his success became inescapable: “We were continually reminded of the construction because of the ground shaking and the noise.”

In April 1983, Governor David Treen (1980-84) flew in to attend the much-anticipated groundbreaking for LUMCON’s Marine Center. “After an unusually long period of dry weather, we had this tremendous rain that turned the construction site into a quagmire,” said Boesch. “Governor Treen had traveled down from Baton Rouge by helicopter and had almost turned back because of the intensity of storms. I remember the Governor getting out of the helicopter and looking rather green in the gills because of the harrowing ride… I also remember wondering if he was thinking he had made a big mistake.”

The groundbreaking ceremony was moved into a National Guard tent that LUMCON had borrowed in anticipation of rain. Soggy guests packed into the hot and humid tent as plans were quickly rearranged in response to the less-than-opportune conditions. “I had a lump in my throat and my heart was at my feet, but we still started the ceremony as planned with the Dusenberry Family singing the National Anthem in French,” recalled Boesch. “When they sang in their beautiful harmonizing voices, it was so moving. I believe it transformed the whole process and everyone forgot about the adversities we were encountering that day.”

As ground was broken under the army-green tent, LUMCON took its first steps towards construction of its current Cocodrie facilities. LUMCON employees moved into the new Marine Center in 1986, even though its construction was not completed until 1987. “Moving into the building was absolutely wonderful. It was a joy to finally be in here,” recalled Dagg.

Even before the building was completed, LUMCON received its first research vessel, the R.J. Russell, from Louisiana State University. The R/V Pelican replaced the Russell in 1985 and the R/V Acadiana was added to LUMCON’s fleet soon after, in 1986 (click here for a more complete history of LUMCON’s vessels).

The Marine Center’s dedication ceremony was held beneath the facility in May 1987 and was attended by approximately 200 people, including Governor Edwin Edwards, LUMCON Council Chairman Dr. Darryl Felder, U.S. Representative Billy Tauzin and U.S. Senator John Breaux. “John Breaux can clearly be considered one of the political founders of LUMCON. He supported the concept of the Consortium back in the late 1970s,” said Boesch.

Another strong advocate of the Consortium was Woodrow J. DeFelice (1914-87). In January 1996, the Marine Center was renamed the W.J. “Woody” DeFelice Marine Center in recognition of his support for LUMCON and his dedication to improving education in Louisiana. DeFelice served as Lafourche Parish School Superintendent from 1959-71 and served on the Louisiana Board of Regents from 1974-80.


Moving into the DeFelice Marine Center marked the beginning of a significant expansion for LUMCON. The Consortium’s first Marine Education Instructor, Dr. John Trowbridge, was hired in June 1987. “My first day I had about two hours of trying to figure out what to do before the phone started ringing and people wanted to bring students down,” said Trowbridge. “It was quite amazing. It blossomed very quickly.” In fact, the interest for marine science education in Louisiana was so strong that LUMCON’s only marine educator often relied on staff from other departments to accommodate all of the visitors. “Everyone was super and really kicked in. It was very much a family environment and a labor of love,” said Trowbridge.

Don Boesch pushed to take advantage of the new facilities by hiring more faculty to be based at the DeFelice Marine Center. Thirteen marine science faculty and dozens of associated researchers called LUMCON home at some point between 1987 and 2016. With higher numbers of faculty came more support staff and increased connections to other marine researchers in Louisiana.

The governing structure of LUMCON has fluctuated through the years. Boesch originally reported to a 13-member advisory board (with seats filled by consortium university department heads and faculty) and the Board of Regents. Other Executive Directors reported to member-university presidents, Vice Chancellors, and Vice Presidents of Research. In 2016, legislation was passed that placed LUMCON directly under the Louisiana Board of Regents.


In 2016, LUMCON hired its current Executive Director, Dr. Craig McClain. Operating under a new strategic plan, McClain oversaw LUMCON through a growth phase that will more fully realize LUMCON’s mission through more connection to the consortium members and community partnerships.

During this growth phase, infrastructure improvements including new aquaculture facilities, environmental monitoring stations, dive operations, and small vessels alongside overall renovations of the DeFelice Marine Center continued to expand LUMCON’s capacity to support innovative science. A remodel of the auditorium and the outdated distance learning video classroom allows LUMCON to host meetings and groups in-person and remotely.

LUMCON is well-poised to foster a thriving intellectual community. New faculty were hired to work at the DeFelice Marine Center in 2017 and 2018. LUMCON  also increased its engagement of new and senior researchers at Consortium-member institutions, once again broadening its role in marine science in Louisiana and across the globe.

Education and outreach programs at LUMCON were realigned and expanded to focus on reaching underrepresented populations within the marine science community. Louisiana’s citizenry represents considerable diversity and requires considerable effort to provide opportunities across these diverse populations. LUMCON has always strived to create innovative and dedicated programs.  In 2017, public events such as Meet the Fleet and deep-learning experiences for students in the Remote Operated Vehicle Workshop, to engage and provide opportunities for these populations.  As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, LUMCON increased its digital content and learning opportunities.


The focus on 2022 was a notable and eventful year for LUMCON and the entire region. Just as LUMCON was just begin to bring back in-person programing after a long suspension due to the COVID19 pandemic, LUMCON was bracing for Hurricane Ida which would become one of the most devastating hurricanes to date.  Recovery was are longer process than expected, but LUMCON did recover with operations and limited programing coming back that fall and full programing coming back online in time for spring 2023.

In early 2023, Dr. Brian Roberts was appointed by the Louisiana Board of Regents as the new executive director and chief scientist of LUMCON.  Building on the strong tradition of collaboration, community, and access for coastal/ marine science research and education established by his predecessors, Dr. Roberts brings LUMCON forward in a new era of expansion for the organization.

On December 7, 2023, LUMCON opened a facility on the Houma Maritime Campus on Dickson Road in Houma, LA.  Blue Works is a new facility on the Houma Maritime Campus located in the Port of Houma. The Houma Maritime Campus is the physical location of a combined presence of Blue Works, LUMCON’s future Marine Operations Center, and Fletcher Technical Community College. The facility is the first in a new era of expansion of the organization. The expansion of programs and operations will help LUMCON realize new ways to support and achieve its mission to promote, facilitate, and conduct research and education collaborations among Louisiana’s universities in marine and coastal sciences relevant to the sustainability of the coastal and marine environments of the Gulf of Mexico.

The new facility is located in the center of Terrebonne Parish’s maritime industry and closer to the members of the consortium who believe that the wealth of talent and knowledge within the current workforce and community will define the workforce of tomorrow through workforce development programs that train people who will be highly skilled, think more creatively, and view the world around them broadly as an integrated system. Being more accessible because of its location, the Maritime Campus is closer to consortium members, partners, and supporters which will strengthen and deepen these relationships and collaborations. It will also allow more members of the community to engage with LUMCON and increase access to the organization and our resources. LUMCON’s Houma location is where innovation can begin as science, education, industry, and community come together to create real change. Besides research and education spaces the facility also has spaces for record storage for virtual documents and other assets, and specimens that are important for retaining knowledge of the Terrebonne Bay system.

LUMCON will soon open an additional facility on Houma Maritime Campus. LUMCON’s new marine operation center will be vital to continuing to keep Louisiana a leader in oceanographic research with the infrastructure that is needed to maintain an active research fleet.