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.
The main focus of the MBRP and Harbor SEALs is for high school students to work on real scientific research projects. Projects, such as the ones being worked on by 12th graders Stephanie Rodriguez, Jasmine Hernandez, and Tony Fernandez, span all of the academic subjects students are required to complete in high school while giving them invaluable first hand, experiential learning that stays with them for the rest of their lives. Jasmine and Stephanie have been experimenting with the effects of various types of nutrients on plants to better understand the nature of eutrophication of the Hudson River Estuary, plant physiology, and the project management process. Since last year, they have been putting together their projects from scratch. From constructing the growth support system to data collection and analysis to presenting their results professionally in front of an audience, they have set the gears of the program into motion. One or more of the skills they are practicing will transfer directly into their post secondary education and professional careers. All of these skills will transfer into their personal lives. We wish them the best of success. (For more images click here.)
On Wednesday, December 5th, 13 marine specialists gathered on Governors Island for the annual Marine Biology Research Program’s Professional Advisory Committee meeting. MBRP 12th grade students convened at Soissons Dock to welcome the members off the ferry with water quality gear in hand. Once the members disembarked, we headed over to Pier 101 to work on water quality and participate in a short presentation by SeaArc Scientists Shimrit Perkol-Finkel and Ido Sella on Econcrete. We then headed over to the MBRP lab and had a working lunch session where we discussed how to improve the Program. Our two main goals were, 01) the further development of internship opportunities for students and, 02) the further development of research collaborations between our PAC members and the MBRP. For a list of our accomplishments click here.
So far this year the 10th grade Marine Biology Research students have done a great job of working together to produce exceptional results. Putting together Aquatic Ecosystem Models, they’ve begun to learn the basics of water chemistry, physics, and ecology. From jump starting the nitrification cycle in their Models by adding ammonium chloride and nitrifying bacteria to adding terrestrial plants for nitrate removal, these future environmental scientists are learning what it takes to keep an ecosystem healthy from the bottom up. Once these students have mastered keeping their Ecosystems healthy they’ll start formulating projects around the Hudson River Estuary to apply their skills to the real world. Continue 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)
For using benthic macro-invertebrates for water quality go to the EPA’s and PBS’s websites: http://www.epa.gov/bioiweb1/html/benthosclean.html; http://www.pbs.org/teachers/ecoinvestigators/lesson-plans/freshwater/creepy-crawly-water-quality/
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.
Click below for Ameena’s speech:
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.)