Category Archives: SEALs

MARINE BIOLOGY RESEARCH 2017-8 WINTER REVIEW IN PICTURES

WE WIN AT NYCSEF! Harbor school seniors Nicholas Ring & Nailea Rodriguez win Second Prize while Matthew Chiu wins Third Prize in addition to three special elite awards. Special thanks goes out to Maura Smotrich, Rachael Miller, and Captain Michael Abegg for believing in us. These accomplishments would not have been possible without the support of CIVITAS Citizens, the Rozalia Project, BOP, and our wonderful team of Harbor SEALs Citizen Scientists! (Photo by M. Gonzalez)

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!!!

Nailea Rodriguez, senior MBRP scholar, presenting at the NY Blue Tech consortium during World Water Day, March 22, 2018. (Photo by Nynke de Vette, Netherlands Consulate)
Here our Harbor SEALs younglings Destiny Coley, Lisette Mejia, Brian Mejia, Gabriel Castro, Jasmine Mendoza, and Tiffany Vu get ready to genetically barcode marine invertebrates as part of a collaborative project involving partners CIVITAS Citizens, BOP, Cold Spring Harbor’s Urban Barcode Program, and New York Harbor School’s Harbor SEALs Citizen Science monitoring team. Thanks to our other partners at ConEdison and a “RESO-A” grant through which we were able to obtain many of the materials for this important project. (Photo by M. Gonzalez)
This year our scholars will complete phase two of the CIVITAS-NYHS East River Esplanade baseline study. (Photo by M. Gonzalez)
Next, with over half a million students in NYC public and private high schools, five-hundred fifty that are selected 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 three scholars selected for for this honor in the category of Environmental Science. In total we had a School record breaking high of six students who competed this year at the Preliminary Round. Left to right: Marcus Charles, Nicholas Ring, Matthew Chiu, and Nailea Rodriguez (Photo by M. Gonzalez)
Senior MBRP scholars Isabella Torres and Seth Rivera present their project on shark diet at the Preliminary Round of the NYC Science and Engineering Fair on March 4, 2018. Considering that the Urban Assembly New York Harbor School is an un-screened school and that we’re going up against the most selective public and private schools in the city (i.e. Bronx Science, Brooklyn Tech, Townsend Harris, etc.) this accomplishment is impressive, to say the least. (Photo by M. Gonzalez)
Chris Bell and Nicholas Ring, Senior MBRP scholars, present their projects at the Preliminary Round of NYCSEF, March 04, 2018. (Photo by M. Gonzalez)
Our Harbor SEALs scholars train in invertebrate zoology as part of the Advanced Marine Biology course offered at the New York Harbor school. Taught by Instructor Mauricio Gonzalez, M.Sc. in collaboration with SUNY Stony Brook, students earn 3 college credits upon successful completion. (Photo by M. Gonzalez)
Senior marine research scholars Chris Bell, Matthew Chiu, and Isabella Torres dissect a squid to better understand the anatomy and evolutionary relationship of marine invertebrates. (Photo by M. Gonzalez)
Econcrete discs were poured by Marine Biology Research & Harbor SEALs scholars. The discs were then placed in the Harlem River to determine if biodiversity can be attracted with the proper construction materials. (Photo by N. Ring)
Nicholas Ring presents his project to the Harbor SEALs younglings to set the level of excellence expected of those coming up in the MBRP.
Mike McCann from The Nature Conservancy and Liz Burmester from the Billion Oyster Project lead a workshop on water quality sampling for the Harbor SEALs Citizen Science team. (Photo by M. Gonzalez)
Matthew Chiu shows off his hats made of up-cycled microplastic fibers derived from laundry machines and dryers.
Sean Lynch, Harbor School Instructor, has been a key partner for the Harbor SEALs and will begin supporting our physical-chemistry team. (Photo by M. Gonzalez)
MBRP and Harbor SEALs director, Mauricio Gonzalez, has advanced to the finals in the prestigious NYC Big Apple Awards. Up to five finalists were named per district – roughly 250 across the city out of more than 4,500 teachers nominated this fall. The final 15 winners will be announced in the coming week.

MARINE BIOLOGY RESEARCH 2017-8 FALL SEMESTER IN REVIEW

Our Harlem/East River Lab. PHASE TWO of our CIVITAS consulting work to provide the necessary information on restoring the marine natural environment.  (Photo by Mauricio Gonzalez).

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.

GIS SPACE certificate. Kaila is one of the first high schoolers to be certified in GIS in the State of New York.

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.

Seth (Class of ’18) genetically barcoding shark mouth swabs. He works on this project with Isabella. (Photo by Mauricio Gonzalez)

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.

Cyd and Lauren, Junior Operations Analyst and Project Manger respectively.

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.

2017 Marine Biology Research Programs Professional Advisory Committee

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.

Work-Based Learning tour of ConEdison’s Education Facility (Photo by Dorick Lee)

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.

Liz Burmester, BOP Pro.

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!

SEALs-Giving 2017

Marine Biology Research 2016-7 Spring Semester in Review

Cindy Isidoro, class of ’17 and Team Benthos mentor (Photo Credit: Van Wong).

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.

NYCSEF 2nd Award Winners Grace Carter and Jared Rosin.

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.

2017 NYCSEF Award Winners Grace Carter, Melanie Smith (Erik Wiemer standing in), Jared Rosin, Cindy Isidoro, and Katha Conklin.

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.

Project Officers were the stars of the show at the 2017 CIVITAS Citizens benefit at Sothebys.

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.

Industry partners ConEdison visit our scholars for a career development workshop. Among those attending from ConEd were Michael Porto & Michael, Kessler.

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.

On April 22nd MBRP scholars marched on Washington to protest the current administration’s deleting of scientific evidence on climate change reminiscent of the 1933 Nazi public burning of literature that went against the extreme nationalist ideology of the regime.

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.

2017 NYHS Harbor SEALs Citizen Science Team

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!

Our 2017 Marine Biology Research Community.

CTE + STEM = NY Harbor Restoration

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September 17. Melanie Smith, our Senior Project Manager (10 o’clock), Grace Carter & Cindy Isidoro, our Senior Operations Analysts, and the Harbor SEALs team organizing their first data collection day of the 2016-2017 season.

Welcome back to the 2016 – 2017 research season! Here, at the Career and Technical Education (CTE) Marine Biology Research (MBRP) & Harbor SEALs programs, our budding scientists have started the year picking up where they left off last – In full NY Harbor data collection, data analysis, and restoration mode. Our professional young SEALs scholars are finishing up their year long characterization of the Harlem River, a project designed to inform local government agencies of the environmental status of the Harlem River.

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The Benthos and Biodiversity Teams: (L to R) Isabella Torres (Biodiversity Captain), Marcus Charles (Benthos Captain), Grace Carter (Senior Co-Operations Analyst), and Cindy Isidoro (Senior Co-Operations Analyst). In this figure, they’ve pulled up an Eckman grab with a sample of good old NY muck to see if anything can indeed live in it and what these organisms may indicate of the health of the River.

This project is important because in order to propose viable solutions for the River’s environmental restoration we need to create a baseline of its ecological status. The civic, non-profit group CIVITAS, led by Ms. Maura Smotrich, has placed its trust in our scholars to deliver the information necessary to inform the East River Esplanade Ecological Edge project that will help restore the East and Harlem Rivers. This will in turn improve the lives of millions of New Yorkers. To view some of the preliminary raw data click on the following links: Physical Chemistry, Plankton, & Benthos. (This project is completely student led.)

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The Phys-Chem and Plankton Teams: In the background, Nicholas Ring (Junior Project Manager) heads up the testing of the physical and chemical parameters of the River. During this sampling run he observed that the dissolved oxygen was hovering around 5mg/L which is the first dangerous tolerance marker for most marine organisms. Right below this level, organisms stop reproducing. These levels are characteristic of most of the Harbor where sea walls are located  due to their anti-life characteristics, close to the muck that receives all the CSO effluents, and in September when the water temperature is typically at its apex.

This year, the Marine Biology Research Program is offering its students up to 18 college credits upon successful completion of the Program’s curriculum and assessments. In today’s economy, students need to be college AND career ready. The MBRP offers a 12 college credit program in Science Research through SUNY Albany, 3 college credits for passing the NOCTI Natural Resources Systems exam, and, new this year, 3 college credits for Oceanography through SUNY Stony Brook. Apart from these wonderful opportunities, our high school students will also have the chance, for the first time in NY State, to complete and become certified in Geographic Information Systems through Digital Quest’s SPACE certification. Last season, our CTE internship SEA WORKS program paid out over 50,000 dollars in salary for students’ work throughout their different CTE programs of which CIVITAS was a major internship provider for our MBRP scholars.

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Polychaeta worms are often found in the muck where dissolved oxygen levels are low.

Lastly, our Professional Advisory Committee member Mr. Michael Kessler from ConEdison has been supporting the MBRP and other CTE programs by helping to create a pipeline into technical jobs right out of our High School, the New York Harbor School, to give our young scholars options to enter the world of work with high paying, stable jobs of the future. A big thanks to all our Professional Advisory Committee members for stepping up to the plate and leading our school community members and the MBRP into a year brimming with exciting opportunities.

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Mudsnails are also frequent inhabitants of the River’s benthos.

SEALS & CIVITAS: Citizen Science Monitoring of the East River Esplanade

Pierre, senior genetic scientist mentor, and Nailea, beginner geneticist of the SEALS biodiversity team documenting a sample during our first East River Esplanade expedition of the NY Harbor SEALS/CIVITAS collaboratioon.
Pierre Landet, senior genetic scientist mentor, and Nailea Rodriguez, beginner geneticist of the SEALS biodiversity team documenting a sample during our first East River Esplanade expedition of the NY Harbor SEALS/CIVITAS collaboration.

Yesterday the NY Harbor SEALS team, a citizen science after school program at the New York Harbor School and the consulting branch of the Marine Biology Research Program, embarked on it’s first of at least fourteen expeditions up the East River to characterize the marine habitat between 96 and 116 streets. The purpose of these expeditions is to determine the biodiversity and water quality at this site in order to propose a restoration strategy to local government agencies. Composed of four teams, the SEALS analyze sediment, plankton-plastics, physical-chemistry, and genetic biodiversity samples using professional instrumentation and techniques. We would like to thank our post-secondary and project partners Dr. Alberto Stolfi of NYU, Dr. Kathleen Nolan of St. Francis College, Dr. Michael Judge of Manhattan College, Maura Smotrich of CIVITAS, the Hudson River Foundation, the Department of Environmental Conservation, the Environmental Defense Fund, the New York Harbor Foundation, and the New York Harbor School for their ongoing commitment to our budding Marine Biology Research scholars. Go New York Harbor School marine science!

NY Harbor SEALS citizen science team.
NY Harbor SEALS citizen science team.

NY Harbor SEALs Quality Assurance Project Plan. 

Download (PDF, 5.37MB)

SEALS/CIVITAS training session
SEALS/CIVITAS training session

Harbor Seals Retake New York Harbor

Harbor seal on a Governors Island dock in February 2015. Credit Ketelyn Fong, Class of 2015, NYHS.
Harbor seal on a Governors Island dock in February, 2015. Credit: Ketelyn Fong, Class of 2015, NYHS.

On one cold afternoon in February during the harsh winter of 2014 a harbor seal climbed on to a dock at Governors Island, NYC. This top consumer of the food chain has now been spotted in several sites along Manhattan Island recently. These are critical events that indirectly or directly, depending on your point of view, reveal that our waters have steadily improved since the passing of the Clean Water Act in 1972. It’s also fitting that the seal revealed itself to us on the last year of our Harbor SEALs / EPA Citizen Science Water Quality Monitoring of the Lower Hudson River Estuary. As we close this important chapter of our work, harbor seal on dock, we’re preparing for our next big project. We’ll now be focusing on creating a baseline study and monitor the effects of different construction materials on the East River. This new project, in partnership with the East Side non-profit community group, CIVITAS, is being run to inform the reconstruction of the East River Esplanade and continue our efforts to restore the harbor seal’s habitat around NYC. Please find an opportunity to read our Final EPA Citizen Science Water Quality Report and visit our webpage. Here’s to the return of the harbor seal!

Harbor SEALs Citizen Science Team's last sampling day of the Water Quality of the Lower Hudson River Estuary.
Harbor SEALs Citizen Science Team’s last sampling day of the Water Quality of the Lower Hudson River Estuary.

Marine Biology Research 2013 Fall Semester in Review

...after a long day's fieldwork...
…after a long day’s fieldwork…

The 2013 Fall semester at the Marine Biology Research and Harbor SEALs Programs has been full of progress. Starting with the generous support of our scholars, we were able to move our lab to the Marine Science room in 3 days. On October 12 we set off to restore eel grass at Brooklyn Pier’s Park with our team leader, Nicolle. Continue reading Marine Biology Research 2013 Fall Semester in Review

Day 02 – Harbor SEALs HRE Monitoring

Tahirah and Orlando pull up their group's water sample from the East River
Tahirah and Orlando pull up their group’s water sample from the East River

The Harbor SEALs completed their 2nd day of monitoring of the Upper Hudson River Estuary. Team work was in full display as the SEALs worked in subfreezing temperature. The data is available for the public here. Once the samples are taken, students quickly measure the dissolved oxygen using the Azide modification of the Winkler method, measure temperature, and enterococcus bacteria. It is quite a scene to watch the level of intensity the students obtain on a given sampling day. For more images of the SEALs at work click here.

On another note, congratulations to the winners of the invertebrate larvae identification contest. 10th graders Tahirah and Nicolle successfully identified the nauplius larvae as pertaining to a barnacle.

Harbor SEALs before their lab work..
The Harbor SEALs.

Day 01 – Harbor SEALs Monitoring Kick-Off + More

Nauplius caught on Pier 101 on Thursday, February 7th, 2013
Nauplius caught on Pier 101 by MBRP student researchers on Thursday, February 7th, 2013

Last Wednesday, New York Harbor School’s Harbor SEALs kicked off their first day of full scale monitoring for the Hudson River Estuary  Water/Air Quality Monitoring Program. We had  a total of 21 volunteers working the jam packed schedule. In all, 4 different localities were sampled at exactly the same time in order to compare water conditions and determine the influence of the currents from the different bodies of water flowing through the Battery. We thank all the volunteers – adults and children who participated. We also thank the EPA for its support of this important project. We are in the process of developing a page on this site to post the data.

Additionally, last week our 11th grade Marine Biology Research students found a nauplius larva during their weekly sampling run at Pier 101. With a water temperature of 4 C and winter in full force, we were surprised to see that the Harbor is preparing for an early spring. Can you identify what Infraclass of organisms it belongs to? E-mail your answer to mgonzalez@harborseals.org. The first correct answer will win a prize (high school students only, sorry;).

Harbor SEALs Citizen Scientists Train to Monitor the Hudson River Estuary

Harbor SEALs get water samples around rip rap.
Harbor SEALs get water samples on Governors Island.

Whether at night in freezing temperature or by day, the Harbor SEALs get their water quality data. Entrusted by the EPA to monitor the dissolved oxygen, bacteria, and nutrients in the water, these Volunteer Citizen Scientists are adding pieces to the environmental puzzle surrounding Governors Island and the Upper Hudson River Estuary. With the data they’re collecting, the SEALs will provide answers to the following questions: 01) do the waters of the East River cross over to the west side of Governors Island, 02) do the waters of the Hudson cross over to the east side of Governors Island, and 03) is there a difference in the nutrient and bacteria load between the east and west sides of Governors Island and Lower Manhattan? These questions are important if we are to look for ideal localities in which to re-populate oysters and other species. Stay tuned for more Harbor SEALs updates in the coming months. For more information and to join the Harbor SEALs Citizen Science Program, click here.

Harbor SEALs - EPA Citizen Science Sampling Stations
Harbor SEALs – EPA Citizen Science Sampling Stations