Mauricio Gonzalez studied Marine Biology in Colombia South America and worked on coral reef community ecology for 3 years before becoming a teacher in the NYC public school system. Because of his background, he understood the vital role of applied research in conservation. However, he’s also come to understand that research performed within the confines of exclusive institutions is limited in what it can accomplish. Therefore, to address the problems of environmental degradation he sought to expose underrepresented youth to STEM programs that he has created such the Schwartz Science and Urban Ecology programs in Harlem and the Marine Biology Research and Harbor SEALS programs on Governors Island. His programs have aimed to support and develop youth’s curiosity in the natural sciences through project formulation, management, and execution. By directly including our youth in the research process, science and it’s applications will have a far wider reach and make more meaningful contributions to our planet and, thus, to society.
The chance to pursue a research project can be life changing and career changing. The hardworking students of Marine Bio at the New York Harbor School harborseals.org deserve that chance! We are the only high school in NYC with a marine curriculum and our school is 70% underrepresented students. (Many of our kids have never been further than New York, so a trip like this will be full of new horizons.)
We are raising funds to send students with teacher Mauricio Gonzalez for a 9-day trip to Colombia, where they will work with professors at the University of Magdalena in and around the famous water wilderness of Tayrona National Park, doing hands-on field research, sleeping in hammocks on the beach, and hiking miles to remote locations for their experiments. This is a no frills, serious field expedition on a razor budget. The passionately dedicated students have themselves raised several thousand working week after week selling cookies! Your donation will make a major impact as we need to raise enough that every child, regardless of means, can go. Our goal is $10,000 by January 1, 2020 (or we lose our deposits) and this GO FUND ME has to bring in $4000 of that.
The PTA is a 501 C3, so all donations are fully tax -deductible. Moreover, our contribution will create a smile an ocean wide!
Please help this dream happen.
Every graduating class has a personality of its own molded by each individual and the particulars of the school cohort. This year’s graduating class was characterized by many unique and strong personalities. What they all had in common though was honesty. I have never met so many young MBRP scholars in tune with themselves and the spirit of the times. I’m most grateful to this particular group for having embodied a crucial component of the program which is independence. This characteristic allowed them to pull through and manage the many aspects that running a high school research program requires. From maintaining our various recirculating lab systems, managing the 8th Annual Marine Science Symposium, competing in the New York City Science and Engineering & Urban Barcode Research Program fairs, completing professional maps using ArcGIS, working thousands of internship hours, earning dozens of college credits, and, most importantly, enhancing environmental awareness of the Hudson-Raritan Estuary, this group of graduating scholars will be making big waves in our world for the better in the years to come. To get to know our graduating MBRP Class of 2019 better, click here to view their ePortfolios.
On May 15 the New York Harbor School hosted its 8th Annual Marine Science Symposium. We had over 50 projects on display and over 30 volunteers from various industry & post-secondary institutions. Among the volunteer judges of the student projects was a team from Con Edison, which has generously supported Marine Biology Research at Harbor School for several years. This year’s theme was the Oroboros- a symbol of chaos and order. The inquiry process, which lies at the heart of research, involves the brave act of taming the chaos inherent in the unknown to try to extract some kernel of truth only to realize that new questions have sprung up and the process continues. Research requires the delicate balancing act between finality and infinity, end and renewal.
This year’s winner of the MBRP Trident Award of Excellence was bestowed to Marcus Charles (Class ’18). The Trident Award is given to a MBRP graduate that has accomplished all three of the following feats: 01) has earned all the possible college credits offered by the MBRP, 02) has competed in the NYC Science and Engineering Fair or obtained GIS SPACE certification, and 03) has assumed a leadership position in the Harbor SEALs Citizen Science after school team. To view the Symposium Booklet with the complete list of volunteers, senior autobiographies, project titles, and Symposium results click here.
Our work is not possible without the ongoing support of industry and Post-secondary partners such as ConEdison, SUNY Stony Brook, Bronx Community College, BMCC, Urban Barcode Program, Roger Williams University, SUNY Albany, NYC Department of Education, New York Harbor Foundation, and Rozalia Project, to mention just a few. The opportunities they grant our scholars serve to enrich their education and help make them college and career ready.
An example of the benefits of the synergy between our partners and the MBRP is our yearly completion of long term research projects, many of which compete at the New York City Science and Engineering Fair with NYC’s brightest STEAM students. We had four competitors in this year’s regional fair with our MBRP research scholar, Cyd Bloomfield, placing third in the category of Earth & Environmental Science. Thank you to Dr. Elizabeth Burmester for mentoring many of this years projects. Go New York Harbor School Science!
In the field, our young Harbor SEALs scholars have been hard at work. Our Microbiology/Plankton and Phys-Chem teams have been monitoring the health of our Harbor waters. Our Biodiversity team has been preparing Econcrete tiles to deploy off of Governors Island for long-term monitoring. And our freshmen and sophomore scholars have been hard at work learning the ropes to take over leadership of their teams next school year.
Our alumni have been graduating from college and many continue to visit throughout the year. This past month I attended two graduation ceremonies. Our scholars report that college is not easy. Many struggle to adapt to the rigors of academic expectations and many are also the first to go to college in their families. I am pleased to also mention that colleges are starting to support our minority students by creating special associations that our students can go to for guidance. These associations also provide career assistance after graduation. Common themes I heard in our various conversations were 01) don’t be afraid to ask for help from your professors, 02) take advantage of office hours, 03) go the extra mile so your professors take you under their wing, 04) completing research in the MBRP opened doors for students, 05) don’t let impostor syndrome creep in, you’re not alone! Again, ask for help.
It has been an honor for me to have been awarded the NYC Big Apple Award for the 2018-19 school year. As a part of this recognition, I’ve had the privilege of participating in advisory meetings with Chancellor Carranza and his talented staff. I have also been a part of Academy for Teachers Master Classes that have enriched my intellectual growth. I’d like to end this update by dedicating it to my late mentor, Dr. Gregory Hodge, who passed in February 2019.
SAVE THE DATE: May 15 we will host our 8th Annual Marine Science Symposium at the New York Harbor School. We have the privilege to present as our guest speaker Ms. Rachael Miller, Director of the Rozalia Project and one of the pioneers in ocean plastics research.
The Fall Semester of the 2017-2018 school year has been another successful season for the Marine Biology Research Program (MBRP) and the Harbor SEALs in particular. We began the year with a recruitment campaign for the new cohort, led by our junior and senior leaders, which managed to attract and retain over 25 team members. For those of you unfamiliar with after school science clubs, this is an impressive feat. Next, our grant proposal to ConEdison was successfully submitted and rewarded, with the help of Matthew Haiken from the New York Harbor Foundation. Funds from this grant have allowed us to run our ambitious STEM program preparing the next generation of marine scientists. They also benefit the various animals we house in our Recirculating Aquaculture Systems (RAS) including Valrie and Amaya, Red-Eared Slider turtles and hundreds of tilapia. Next, we initiated a special collaboration with one of our professional partner organizations, SUNY Stony Brook, to monitor an underwater sand quarry in the Harbor originally dug out decades ago to provide sand for major construction projects around NYC. Our students plan on compiling and comparing spatial-temporal data to discern changes in sedimentation that may have occurred over time.
In November we celebrated our 8th annual Harbor SEALs-giving with scholars, alumni, colleagues, and friends. Next year we plan on hosting an alumni after-party in lower Manhattan.
December was a busy month during which we convened our Professional Advisory Committee, I took a Master Class on the history of Eugenics run by Dr. Allen Spiegel, Head of Einstein’s School of Medicine, and visited ConEdison’s Learning Center in Queens with our senior research scholars thanks to an invitation by our PAC member, Michael Kessler. Our scholars got a tour of their world-class learning facility and learned about ConEdison’s unique employment programs and benefits as part of their Work-Based Learning program at the New York Harbor School.
In January our senior scholars took their culminating Career and Technical Education assessments. All seniors took and passed the NOCTI Natural Resources Systems exam. Most scholars also qualified for three college credits through the assessment in Natural Resources Management. We also implemented for the first time the Precision Natural Resource Science assessment. This assessment will replace the NOCTI as part of the Career and Technical Education’s program re-certification process.
Also in January, five of our senior Marine Biology research scholars received notice that they have been accepted to compete in the prestigious New York City Science and Engineering Fair in March! This ranks them among the best science scholars in New York City. Our senior scholars have been busy with their Career and Financial Management course updating their Work-Skills Employabilty Profiles, updating ePortfolios and regular binder portfolios, creating LinkedIn accounts, and initiating an on-line writing exercise called the Self-Authoring Suite thanks to funding from NYC’s Department of Education Office of Teacher Recruitment and Quality. I have also had the privilege of meeting with NYC Chancellor of Schools, Ricardo Carranza, to discuss topics in school equity, bias, and diversity, among others, as part of the opportunities offered by the Big Apple Award.
Lastly, the Harbor SEALs monitoring team has accomplished the following objectives this season:
01) Installed heaters to an experimental tank to grow Red-Eared Slider turtles. We were also able to install new air and water pumps.
02) Our Biodiversity team has been hard at work planning the design of a long-term experiment to test for the biodiversity of marine invertebrates using Econcrete tiles in the Hudson River. We are in the process of purchasing the materials and plan on beginning the mixing of Econcrete cement in the coming weeks.
03) Our Physical-Chemical team has also been hard at work calibrating and maintaining their instruments in order to start sampling the Hudson River in February. They have been adding pH probes and conductivity probes to the machines and calibrating them in order to ensure precise and accurate measurements.
04) Our Microbiology team has been training the younglings to sample for E. faecalis and the relative concentrations of plastic and plankton in the Harbor.
05) Our Data Management team has been producing data tables and data flow strategies for our Team’s data collection efforts.
06) Our whole team has gone out for mock sampling events twice in the Fall semester. We plan on starting our field sampling this month.
A heartfelt thank you to all our colleagues, family, friends, post-secondary, and industry partners for your continued support! Happy Lunar New Year!
Greetings MBRP partners, alumni, scholars, and friends. Embarking on our 8th year of operation we “push off the dock” with the momentum of our achievements of the past year (see below). This year our Harbor SEALs Citizen Scientists are working with the Billion Oyster Project to monitor the ecological conditions off of Pier 101, Governors Island. Our MBRP senior scholars have been hard at work on their mapping curriculum, research projects, and career and financial management projects. Take a look at this year’s gorgeous senior web site portfolios. Our 11th grade MBRP scholars have also started their mapping curriculum and their research plans. Next, over the summer our scholars read the book “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” and completed a creative project based on their reading. Check out 11th grade research scholar Tyler Simpson’s compelling video. Our 10th grade MBRP scholars have just completed the first unit entitled: Introduction to Scientific Methods. They have also completed their first MBRP lab reports. Way to go 10th grade researchers! When you get a chance, glance through some of last year’s culminating research projects. Lastly, we have two upcoming major events: 01) join us for our 7th annual SEALs-Giving dinner on November 21st, 2018 between 3:30 and 5:30 at the NYHS Mess Hall; 02) join us for our 7th annual Professional Advisory Committee (PAC) meeting on December 5th (details TBA). We hope to see you soon. Gobble, gobble!
2017 – 2018 MBRP Achievements:
NYCSEF : Two 2nd place winners, a 3rd place winner, & 6 scholars competed in total for an all time Program high,
What a whirlwind of a Spring semester! First off: Marine Biology Research Program class of 2018, you will be missed dearly. I know I say this about most graduating classes but I can’t get used to the loss. You’re all moving on to your next goals stronger, smarter, and as self-reliant young adults. The future is your oyster. I am confident in seeing you off. Change the world!
The 2018 Spring semester has been marked with numerous accomplishments. On 19 May, 6 MBRP research scholars embarked on an expedition up the Harlem/East River to retrieve a 2 year-old ecological experiment. Led by our senior project manager Nicholas Ring, this expedition put a close to Phase Two of the CIVITAS-New York Harbor School project to determine the baseline conditions of the Harlem/East River and to test different construction materials for their effect on marine biodiversity. Water was spraying us from all directions as we pulled up nine 40+ pound experimental units onto the Indy 7 from the river. The rain above and the muddy waters from below tried slowing us down but we pulled together as a team of marine scientists and maritime crew to finish ahead of schedule. A million thanks to the Indy 7 Captain Kirsten Johnsrud, First Mate Halcyon Spooner, and their young crew for your invaluable help and leadership. Equal thanks to our Harbor Class instructor Sean Lynch for stepping up to lead the crew. For PHASE TWO results click here.
On May 16 the New York Harbor School hosted its 7th Annual Marine Science Symposium. We had over 50 projects on display and over 60 volunteers from various industry & post-secondary institutions, not to mention our guests from the Netherlands led by Marc Van Breukelen to help judge. The theme this year was Godzilla- fictional character and product of the unbridled marine contamination that ensued after World War II. Godzilla came to represent nature rising to warn humanity of the perils of altering the Earth’s delicate balance. During the symposium we also introduced a new award called the MBRP Trident Award of Excellence. This award is given to a MBRP scholar that has accomplished all three of the following feats: 01) has earned all the possible college credits offered by the MBRP, 02) has competed in the NYC Science and Engineering Fair or obtained GIS SPACE certification, and 03) has assumed a leadership position in the Harbor SEALs Citizen Science after school team. Two MBRP alumni have accomplished these ambitious feats and were bestowed with this honor: Cezanne Bies (class ’16) and Melanie Smith (class ’17). Thanks to our former CIVITAS Project Manager Maura Smotrich for delivering a beautiful keynote address. To view the Symposium Booklet with the complete list of volunteers, senior autobiographies, project titles, and Symposium results click here.
Back in the lab, our young marine scholars have been hard at work. Our junior scholar Aaniyla Allen-Sutherland has been monitoring the health of our Harbor waters by testing for Entrococcus faecalis. Our junior research scholar Lauren Salitan has been testing the effects of chlorine concentrations on the survivor-ship of oyster larvae. And our freshmen and sophomore scholars have attempted to bar-code marine invertebrates for the first time at our lab on Governors Island.
Some of the best moments of the school year are when alumni visit. They’ve come for our SEALs-giving dinner, Marine Symposium, and just randomly throughout the year. Below are photographs of just some of the many alumni who’ve stopped in this year.
To have a little fun, our Harbor SEALs scholars participated in the CIVITAS annual benefit. They presented their monitoring results of the Harlem/East River to residents and politicians from all over NYC at the House of the Redeemer by Central Park.
And after many years of sacrifice, hard work, and grit, Mauricio Gonzalez wins the Big Apple Award for 2018! Next school year as a Big Apple Fellow, he’ll be convening with school officials to share and learn best practices.
The 2017-2018 winter season has been busy as usual for the Marine Biology Research Program and Harbor SEALs Citizen Science Monitoring scholars. Below we put together a sample of some of the activities we’ve been a part of during the 2017-2018 winter season. Thanks again to our industry and post-secondary partners for your continued support. Please mark your calendars: on May 16 the New York Harbor School will be hosting our 7th Marine Science Symposium. More information will be forthcoming. We hope to see you there. Enjoy the images!!!
The 2017 – 2018 school year marks the Marine Biology Research Program’s (MBRP) seventh year of operation and fifth year as a New York State Education Department (NYSED) certified program. This year we’re up for NYSED re-certification and it would be fitting to highlight the achievements of just the last six months with some stats. At the close of our last semester 80% of our students obtained the Career and Technical Education endorsement on their high school diplomas; sixty-four college credits were awarded; seventeen paid internships with over 1200 hours were worked as science consultants with our partners at CIVITAS Citizens, NYU, and Earth Matter; two of our three Geographic Information Systems scholars were the first in New York State to be certified in Digital Quest’s SPACE program; and 100% of our marine research scholars passed the industry assessment: NOCTI’s Natural Resources Systems Management. Most of these achievements are school bests.
This year we were able to secure critical lab equipment that were in the plans for over five years. Among these were genetics gear to barcode the marine organisms of the Harbor, stereoscopes to study and identify these same organisms, updated laptops to run our GIS curriculum & complete our long-term research projects, and dedicated table tops to calibrate YSI meters.
Our Senior Project Managers, Nailea Rodriguez and Nicholas Ring (Class of ’18), together with our twenty-five Harbor SEALs Citizen Science after school program team members are near completing PHASE TWO of their work for CIVITAS Citizens. This year’s work has been the best on record in terms of planning, communication, operations, data management, and report writing. Our Junior project manager and Operations analyst, Lauren Salitan and Cyd Bloomfield (Class of ’19), have led near flawless sampling runs up the East/Harlem River. For more images of our sampling on the East/Harlem River click here.
Our professional Advisory Committee met on 6 December to meet our seniors and convene as our Scientific Review Board. Every year our partners come together to review new project proposals and research drafts. It can never be stressed quite enough how the PAC’s level of commitment to the MBRP has elevated the quality of the work we do. For more images and information on our 2017 PAC please click here.
This year we’d like to highlight two of our partners: Bronx Community College (BCC) and ConEdison. BCC and its Chemistry Department Chair, Dr. Neal Phillip, donated a professional grade weather station and ten high-volume printers to the New York Harbor School-BOP and have agreed to sign a five-year articulation agreement between our GIS labs. ConEdison, under the representation of Michael Kessler and Michael Porto, has renewed a grant to perform lab experiments on contaminants found in the Harbor and their effects on oyster larval development. On 15 December, ConEdison’s Andrew Simpson gave us an exclusive tour of their world-renowned education facility located in Long Island City. Thirteen of our scholars got the inside scoop behind ConEdison’s techniques to maintain the largest underground power grid on the planet. They also gave our scholars a perspective on careers offered, and priceless advice on adapting to the ever changing world of work, namely, “learning how to learn.” For more images of the tour click here.
Starting July of 2017, Liz Burmester joined the MBRP family as our very own BOP Professional. She comes to us with expert training in community ecology after having finished her doctoral work at Boston University. She’s passionate about science and education. Her doctoral thesis was on a temperate coral species and its recovery based on biological and environmental conditions. She has also taught at the New England Aquarium and mentored many undergraduates. Because of these experiences, she has enhanced the quality of our research at the MBRP. Specifically, she has personally met with all our scholars and reviewed their project proposals and drafts. She’s also brought a fresh perspective on the complex world of secondary education. We are grateful to have her as our newest team member.
Lastly, as is our tradition every year, on 22 November we celebrated our SEALs-giving meal together. It was exciting to see our alumni interacting with our youngest members and sharing their best experiences in the Program. My favorite stories dealt with the countless times we had to go out and sample in Manhattan’s sub-freezing winter weather or having to run to the ferry – to the school – to incubate bacteria, clean up, and get back on the last ferry in less than forty-five minutes! For more images of our celebration click here.
Thanks for all your support! The MBRPers and SEALs family would like to wish you a HARBOR NEW YEAR!
The 2016-2017 school year has been one of the most successful for the students of the Marine Biology Research Program. This year our scholars completed phase one of the CIVITAS-NYHS East River Esplanade baseline study. To see our students in action click here. Next, with over half a million students in NYC high schools, five-hundred fifty that apply to compete at the New York City Science and Engineering Fair, to just over one hundred that make it to the finals, the Marine Biology Research Program had two scholars selected for the Second Award in the category of Environmental Science. In total we had a School record breaking high of five students who competed this year.
Considering that the Urban Assembly New York Harbor School is an un-screened school and that we’re going up against the top screened public science and private schools in the city (i.e. Bronx Science, Brooklyn Tech, Townsend Harris, etc.) this accomplishment is impressive to say the least. Four out of the five that competed were female which are all planning on pursuing a career in STEM; one was an ex-English Language Learner; and one had an Individualized Education Plan. This is testament to what can happen with dedication, team work, and, most importantly, believing that all students can excel when given the opportunity and the right environment.
One of the most important objectives of the Marine Biology Research Program is to empower students to make a difference in their communities through the research they complete over a three year period. This year they were the stars of the CIVITAS Citizens benefit where philanthropists donated thousands of dollars to the cause of improving the Upper East and East Harlem neighborhoods during their annual benefit at Sothebys on the Upper East Side, NYC.
ConEdison continues to be one of our most active Professional Advisory Committee members. This semester they carried out a Career Management workshop where several of their star employees came to speak to our students about career readiness and opportunites at their company. They spoke about how many companies are willing to train students and even help to pay for their continuing education who meet a minimum of Transferable skills (i.e. team work, timeliness, problem solving), basic tool handling skills (i.e. knowing the difference between a Phillips and flat head screw driver to basic arithmetic and algebra), and who pass a basic entry level assessment.
Career readiness also requires a workforce that knows and fights for their rights. On April 22nd, our scholars planned a trip to Washington DC to march for Science. In today’s political climate where critical scientific evidence for climate change is being deleted from Federal databases and websites, our scholars weathered the rain with signs in hand and marched in front of the Washington Monument and the White House.
Our after school Citizen Science team, the NYHS Harbor SEALs, has been hard at work monitoring the Hudson-Raritan Estuary. Most of the research that comes out of our lab is made possible by the effort and dedication of these young scholars. Typically composed of sophomores through seniors, this year we had a strong representation of freshmen who were stellar. Jacqueline Obermayer worked with 10th grade research scholar Cyd Bloomfield using genetic barcoding techniques to determine the species richness of Buttermilk Channel. Jonah Florholmen Boum was an integral part of Team Phys-Chem and is a candidate for our Data Analyst position next school year. Maddie Dominguez has also been an integral part of Team Phys-Chem.
Last week, May 17, we celebrated our 6th Annual Marine Science Symposium at the New York Harbor School. We had over 45 projects on display and over 30 volunteers from various industry and post-secondary institutions help judge. The highlight this year was the large number of volunteers who were former NYHS-MBRP alumni. Click here to view the Symposium Booklet with the complete list of volunteers, senior autobiographies, project titles, and Symposium results. Go New York Harbor School Marine Science!
To allow my students to struggle and flourish is one of the main goals I strive for as a marine research teacher. This year’s MBRP senior scholars completely embody this way. I have witnessed a remarkable group of youngsters, now young adults, start off as rebellious schooled children and end off self-reliant and self-directed young adults ready for their open-ended futures. There is nothing more satisfying than this as an educator. These remarkable group of folks have managed to complete a comprehensive baseline study of the marine natural resources of the Harlem/East River and will be the first group in our program to be ready to take the Geographic Information Systems SPACE certification assessment.
Seeing these students work together to learn technical skills, content knowledge, project management skills, and leadership skills to complete their long term research has been remarkable to say the least. Some of the technical skills they developed along the way were methods to study benthos, plankton, physical-chemistry, and biodiversity using genetic barcoding. Melanie Smith, Cindy Isidoro, and Grace Carter managed over twenty-five (25) volunteers at any given point throughout their two year study. They weren’t timid to pull up sediment from the bottom of the Harlem River to look for signs of life. Their love for living things drove them to respectfully sieve through bucket fulls of mud brought up with their Ekman grab. You can find most of their data here. Stay tuned for a complete report to be published by the end of the month.
To manage, process, and represent the extensive data sets generated by our four teams we needed an impeccable analytical mind found in the person of Erik Wiemer, Project Data Analyst. Erik single-handily created a data management system and work flow that is now the backbone of the Harbor SEALs environmental monitoring system. All this work couldn’t be accomplished without the dedication of our team captains and field technicians. Katha Conklin (Phytoplankton Team Captain) and Jared Rosin (Field Technician) led their smaller groups on various field excursions that started often at seven in the morning and sometimes ending at dusk, rain or shine. These tenacious young scientists were the bedrock from which reliable data could be guaranteed.
Gearing up for Geographic Information Systems certification are Kaila Scott, Bella Valentin, and Mariah Gathers. These students will be the first to attempt this feat in June. Their dedication and commitment has been inspiring. They have me on the trot keeping up with their progress as they blaze through the curriculum. These scholars are pioneering the last major component of the Marine Biology Research Program which is to ultimately map the data our teams are gathering.
Yesterday our MBRP seniors learned of the results of their New York City Science and Engineering Fair competition. Seeing our scholars on stage with the City’s most promising young scientists was an appropriate milestone highlighting the fruits of the struggle we began with in this story. The culture of science excellence in our Program and the school at large is finally beginning to blossom and flourish. 2017 MBRP Scholars, you’ll be missed. A heartfelt thank you to all family, friends, post-secondary and industry partners for your continued support. Look out INTEL here we come!
The 2016-2017 school year marks the fourth year since our Marine Biology Research Program received NYSED CTE certification. Since that time, our scholars’ accomplishments have been numerous. Among them, we’ve had thirty two (32) scholars receive State certification in Marine Resources Management (see our annual report for more information). We’ve had students attend various universities around the country including Columbia University, Fordham University, SUNY Oswego, and Brown University to name just a few. They’ve gone on to study various career majors such as Biology, Business Administration, Environmental Science, among others. They have earned over one hundred fifty-four (154) college credits and accessed over one hundred (100) paid internship opportunities. Mauricio González, program director, reflects: “It’s a wonderful feeling to look back and see what one instructor and forty scholars can accomplish yearly through dedication, passion, and the invaluable support of industry and post-secondary partners.”
Our 2016 Professional Advisory Committee meeting was a success! We had over fifteen (15) members in attendance to review, as a Scientific Review Committee, research plans & final reports, help update curriculum, and provide us with the support needed to continue strong in the years to come. One of our industry partners, ConEdison provided us with a grant to update our after school Citizen Science group, the Harbor SEALs, with a much needed plotter to print large format maps and project boards. Our partners in the DOE’s Office of Post Secondary Readiness also provided us with a grant to update our Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and 3D prototyping curriculum. Among the resources we secured were a 3D printing curriculum, 3D printers, and the GIS extensions needed to certify our young scholars in map making. Our young scholars have been hard at work building the printer kits and learning how to design innovative 3D materials to promote the recruitment of marine benthic organisms and thereby increase the biodiversity of the Hudson-Raritan Estuary (HRE).
Although there’s not a whole lot of biodiversity in the HRE, our scholars get to study the importance of biodiversity and calculate biodiversity indexes through our very own coral reef “simulator” consisting of a 36×48 trifold board and a collage of coral organisms pasted on it. Using a miniature quadrat grid, they calculate percent cover of sessile organisms and use their data to calculate Hill numbers. This training is essential to quantify the biodiversity of the HRE. It is only through these sorts of techniques that we can gain an objective understanding of whether the Estuary is indeed changing. It is our hope that we can start planning yearly visits to real coral and oyster reefs in the years to come.
Meanwhile, our 3 college credit SUNY Stony Brook Advanced Marine Biology class has been learning basic oceanography theory. Covering the gamut of topics including the philosophical idea of “progress” through chemical and physical oceanography, they have been preparing for the rigors of college and more specifically, science majors. Many young folks have an overly romantic view of marine biology. Too many are attracted to the fuzzy marine mammals or the cool top predators. In the MBRP, they come to realize that the world of marine biology is a lot more extensive, messy, and tedious. Before our students begin their long term research projects they must read at least five peer reviewed journal articles, type up a research plan, and have their plan approved by a Scientific Review Committee. Most of what we do can be characterized as learning by “thinking before doing.” This education strategy teaches students how to plan, collect necessary resources, and build the necessary confidence in their ability to think. Once they go through this process they are stronger readers, writers, and mathematicians. This is the trick that makes our program valuable and year after year our alumni come back telling us of how confident they are in their college classes.
This marine biology story wouldn’t be complete without mention of some of the plumbing that goes on behind the scenes to keep our recirculating aquaculture systems functional and our tilapia happy. PVC unions tend to go bust with the large fluctuations of temperature in our greenroom. One crack in the wrong place and our fish can be cut off from the life-sustaining systems. Maintaining these systems is another large component of our 11th grade curriculum. Our scholars learn the basics for keeping RAS systems healthy and in good working order.
All this hard work makes us really hungry. So this Valentines week, one of our special partners baked cupcakes for us which we dubbed “love cakes.” Thank you to all who provide the support and motivation needed to help keep this level of intense and ambitious work. Stay tuned for our next update where we’ll be highlighting one of our outstanding 12th grade research scholars. Go New York Harbor School Marine Science!
Citizen Scientist Environmental Monitoring of the Hudson River Estuary