Category Archives: SEALs

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

SEALs End-of-World (2012) Bash

On Wednesday, December 19th, the Harbor SEALs celebrated the end of the year with a feast. The energy was high as SEALs poured in with food and gifts to share in what some were saying would be our last SEALs event due to the Mayan end-of-world event;) The upper class people took possession of the stereo and had a 15 minute mini dance in the corner of the room. How they figured out to plug in their Ipods was beyond me. When it was time for the meal, students made a line that wrapped around the room. Anita made barbecue chicken that was finger lickin’ good. By far, it was the most popular plate. Ray commented, “I need to learn this recipe!.” After the meal we exchanged Secret Santa gifts. Emphasis was placed, however, on the fact that we were all together sharing as one united community of Harbor SEALs and friends. A big thank you goes out to Stephanie and Tony for the spirit and idea of putting this event together; Anita for taking charge of serving and hugs; and all those who showed great holiday spirit – Rachel’s gift idea (coal in sack) takes the best prize for creativity! For more, click here.

Harbor SEALs end-of-2012 bash.
Harbor SEALs and friends end-of-2012 bash.

Harbor SEALs @ Black Rock Forest

Harbor SEAL seniors celebrate on a peak overlooking Black Rock Forest

This weekend, the Harbor SEALs trekked up to Black Rock Forest in Cornwall, New York to complete a one day ecology workshop sponsored by a Toyota Grant. We monitored the physical-chemical parameters of Cascade Brook and determined the health of this pristine ecosystem. With chemical and biological sampling gear in hand, we took a roller coaster-type ride up to the Brook on pick up trucks and got to work early Saturday morning. The SEALs team were able to determine that, although the Brook’s waters are pristine, it’s not immune to the effects of acid rain. We found pH values of around 5 to 6 units. Surveying the vertebrates and macroinvertebrates, the SEALs determined that the Brook has Type II organisms that are semi-tolerant to pollutants and thus are experiencing some stress. It wasn’t all work though as the team celebrated Ameena’s 17th birthday, hiked up to one of the Forest’s peeks, played board games, and delightfully cooperated in preparing meals. Thanks Rebecca and all for a great time! (For more pictures, click here: IMAGO)

For using benthic macro-invertebrates for water quality go to the EPA’s and PBS’s websites: http://www.epa.gov/bioiweb1/html/benthosclean.htmlhttp://www.pbs.org/teachers/ecoinvestigators/lesson-plans/freshwater/creepy-crawly-water-quality/