Tag Archives: Marine Genetics

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!

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.