Tag Archives: hudson river estuary

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.

2017 Senior MBRP Scholars!

Senior scholars of the 2016-7 MBRP.

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.

Melanie Smith (Project Manager), Cindy Isidoro & Grace Carter (Co-Operations Analysts) of the CIVITAS, NYHF, NY Harbor SEALs collaborative study of the Harlem/East River.

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.

Melanie Smith (Project Manager), Jared Rosin (Marine Field Tech.), Erik Wiemer (Data Analayst), and Katha Conklin (Phytoplankton Specialist) presenting at the Career and Technical Education 2017 Open House at the DOE’s Central Headquarters, old TWEED Courthouse.

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.

Kaila Scott & Bella Valentin (GIS Analysts)

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.

Map generated by Kaila Scott (GIS Analyst).

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!

MBRP scholars competing at the 2017 NYCSEF competition and younger scholars showing up to support!

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.

2016 NEW YORK HARBOR SCHOOL MARINE SCIENCE SYMPOSIUM

160427_5th_annual_marine_scieence_symposium_cezanne_2You’re cordially invited to attend our 5th Annual Marine Science Symposium at the New York Harbor School on May 18 starting at 12pm. Experience cutting edge science from our very own Marine Biology Research Scholars and our special guest Mr. Charlie Fitzpatrick, ESRI Schools Program Manager. Mr. Fitzpatrick will be sharing his journey through the exciting world of Geospatial technology. Also presenting are this year’s NYC Science and Engineering Fair participants and finalists including Cezanne Bies and Zain Bin Khalid who received the third award among NYC’s top science scholars for their project on oyster restoration. Go New York Harbor School science!

Please RSVP at: mgonzalez@newyorkharborschool.org

MBRP SCHOLAR HIGHLIGHT: CEZANNE BIES

Cézanne Bies, class of 16, building experiemntal oyster cages for the COIVOTAS Esplanande project.
Cézanne Bies, class of ’16, building experimental oyster cages for the CIVITAS-Harbor SEALs Citizen Science project.

It’s not often that a young scholar passes through the public school system in New York with all the qualities of a true scientist: organized yet willing to take risks, diligent yet creative, attentive to detail yet an eye on the big picture, and, most importantly, not deterred by set-backs. Remarkable is the word that comes to mind when reviewing all of Cézanne Bies’, class of ’16, accomplishments and attributes in the past three years at the Marine Biology Research Program (MBRP). Cézanne was a finalist in the 2016 NYC Science and Engineering Fair together with her project partner Zain Bin Khalid for their project Survival and Growth Performance of Crassostrea virginica in the NYC Harbor, the  first scholar to earn 12 SUNY college credits for science research at the New York Harbor School (NYHS), and helped to launch the marine genetics program there too, just to name a few.

Cézanne Bies teacing her phys-chem team how to perform the Winkler Method to measure the dissolved oxygen of the Harlem River.
Cézanne Bies teaching her phys-chem team how to perform the Winkler Method to measure the dissolved oxygen of the Harlem River.

Whether collecting physical-chemistry samples from  the Hudson River Estuary, planting eel grass at Bush Terminal Piers park, organizing and analyzing Harbor SEALs project data, or extracting oyster DNA, Cézanne is always at the center of the action. Cézanne’s dedication and leadership has truly elevated the level of science at the NYHS and particularly the MBRP.

Cézanne Bies extracting eastern oyster DNA to test for genetic differences between farmed and wild oysters.
Cézanne Bies extracting eastern oyster DNA to test for genetic differences between farmed and wild oysters.

Early on in the 10th grade, Cézanne showed great promise as a budding scientist by constructing the 1st place winning wind racer with project partner Raphael Bonnano and in the 11th grade Cézanne won 1st place with the project Determining the Genetic Difference between Farmed and Wild Oysters. Cézanne’s unique curiosity and problem solving skills have been essential to running the Marine Science lab.

Cézanne Bies planting eel grass at Bush Terminal Piers Park, Brooklyn.
Cézanne Bies  and Orlando Ramos planting eel grass at Bush Terminal Piers Park, Brooklyn.

Aside from these accomplishments, Cézanne is a frequent contributor to the school newspaper, The Harbor Current, an intern with Earth Matter organizing the NYHS biomass production to create compost, an integral member of the Gay-Straight Alliance, and an editor of the NYHS year book. Cezanne intends to pursue a degree in marine restoration genetics. We wish Cézanne all the best in the years to come.

Cézanne Bies and Zain Khalid in the 2016 NYCSEF competition. They were recogized by NOASS and RICOH copany for the best project in ocean sustainable and restoration science.
Cézanne Bies and Zain Khalid in the 2016 NYCSEF competition. They were recognized by NOAA and the RICOH Company for the best project in ocean sustainability and restoration science.

Marine Genetics at the New York Harbor School!

Marine Biology Research scholars Isabella Torres, Jared Vittore, and Seth Rivera extracting DNA from their algae samples.
Marine Biology Research scholars Isabella Torres, Jared Vittore, and Seth Rivera, class of ’18,  extracting DNA from their algae samples.

On February 6, 2016, a team of five Marine Biology Research scholars set out to sequence the genetic barcodes of marine organisms from the Hudson-Raritan Estuary in order to monitor its biodiversity. Part of our larger CIVITAS project (see previous post), these scholars have collected samples of algae and invertebrates from our Harlem River expeditions to create a baseline of what’s living there today. This type of work requires tedious pipetting, labeling on tiny vials, centrifuging, vortexing, and other crucial steps just to be able to extract the DNA from the organisms’ cells. During our next lab, these scholars will amplify the DNA and run it through a gel electrophoresis in order to prepare for genetic sequencing. The last step will be to identify the species using bioinformatics. You can see their research proposals here. A big thanks to our sponsor organization The Urban Barcode Project and Dr. Christine Marizzi from Cold Spring Harbor Lab for her and her team’s support.

Marine Biology Research scholars Zen Mena-Rodriguez and Nailea Rodriguez extracting the gonads of their marine invertebrate samples.
Marine Biology Research scholars Zen Mena-Rodriguez and Nailea Rodriguez, class of ’18, extracting the gonads from their marine invertebrate samples.

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.

2015 New York Harbor School Marine Science Symposium

Andrew Sommer )CLass of 2015) presenting on enhancing biodiversity in the Hudson-Raritan Estuary using porcelain tiles.
Andrew Sommer, class of ’15, presenting on enhancing biodiversity in the Hudson-Raritan Estuary using porcelain tiles. Photo Credit: Nelson Martinez, MBRP Parent

Greetings Marine Biology Research Program (MBRP) scholars, Professional Advisory Committee members, New York Harbor School Staff, Family, and Friends! Thank you again for helping to make the 4th Annual Harbor School Symposium a success. It was a real pleasure to see the team work, quality, and leadership that made the operation run as smoothly as it did on May 13th. Below is a list of highlights that are worth noting:

01) Parents volunteered to feed our hardworking scholars,
02) Parents and scholars worked together to manage the set up of tables and other vital logistics,
03) A team of parents and scholars managed all the judging,
04) School custodial staff set up the mess hall and made sure the building was looking beautiful,
05) School staff brought their classes to view the projects,
06) A student and a parent stepped up to pull the Symposium booklet together,
07) School administration attended the whole event, helped to judge, and opened up our ceremony,
08) The 12th grade judges helped to elevate the level of science and rigor of their younger classmates,
09) A team of volunteer judges from local post-secondary institutions and industry made this the quickest, fairest, and smoothest judging to date,
10) Alumni added to the program spirit and plugged in wherever they were needed,
11) Our Professional Advisory Committee member and guest speaker held the critical award ceremony spot together,
12) Parents photographed the whole event,
13) Over 50 students overcame their fears of presenting and stepped up to the challenge,
…and many, many more little and great things…
I hope you all feel that this was a rewarding experience and that you’ll consider coming out again next year. Click here for the judging results and for more pictures of the event. Click here to view the 2014 – 2015 science projects. Go NYHS Marine Science!
Our Marine Biology Research Community,2015 NYHS ScienceSymposium
Our Marine Biology Research Community (May 13, 2015; NYHS Science Symposium). Photo Credit: Nelson Martinez, MBRP Parent.

New York Harbor School: College AND Career Ready!

Marine Biology Research scholars Nicolle and Tahirah
Marine Biology Research scholars Nicolle and Tahirah

Career and Technical Education (CTE) and Work-Based Learning at the New York Harbor School has just raised the bar! Marine Biology Research (MBRP) scholars Nicolle Martinez and Tahirah Abdo will be graduating with 8 SUNY Albany research college credits, a CTE technical endorsement in Natural Resources Management, first and second awards at the NYC Science and Engineering Fair,  and attend Ivy league and top colleges with full scholarships! This is testimony to both team work, as their projects were supported by the whole MBRP team, and their own personal leadership and ambition. In total, our MBRP senior scholars have received to-date over USD 500, 000 in scholarships, have participated in internships around the city, presented at regional and national conferences, and worked with leading marine scientists to complete their research – all while leading research efforts to find solutions for the restoration of the Hudson-Raritan Estuary. Thank you to all our Professional Advisory Committee members, University & Industry Partners, the NY Harbor School Staff, the NY Harbor Foundation, and family members for all your support!

Finals Round at the American Museum of Natural History
Finals Round at the American Museum of Natural History