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!
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!
You’re cordially invited to attend our 3rd annual Science Symposium at the New York Harbor School on May 15 starting at 1pm. Experience cutting edge science from our very own Marine Research Scholars and our special guest, Dr. Peter Morawski, from the National Institute of Health. Dr. Morawski will be sharing his journey to a science career and talk about his latest research in molecular immunology. Stay tuned for more information. Go New York Harbor School science!
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. The first correct answer will win a prize (high school students only, sorry;).
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.
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)
Ameena, a 12th grade Harbor SEAL, addressed the guests at the Environmental Protection Agency’s 40th Anniversary of the Clean Water Act. Together with a member of the NY Harbor School’s Scuba Program, they delivered an impressive message about the future of clean water. “We have a right to protect the water’s resources and have access to our natural heritage,” said Ameena. There’s a long way to go but a new generation of environmentalists waiting to play their part.
On October 13 the Harbor SEALs, in collaboration with NYC urban ecologists and students from other NYHS CTE programs, planted about 20 “tortillas” of eel grass off of a decaying Brooklyn pier. These “tortillas” are made of cut-out burlap about 10 to 12 inches in diameter with 10 Eel grass individuals woven between the material in a concentric pattern. The team set up 6 stations with between 3 and 4 “tortillas per station, detailed GPS points were taken of each station, sedimentation rate was measured, and water quality monitoring was performed. It was another great day of environmental and team work under the NYC sun. (For more information click here.)
Citizen Scientist Environmental Monitoring of the Hudson River Estuary