Tag Archives: marine science

MARINE BIOLOGY RESEARCH 2016-7 FALL SEMESTER IN REVIEW

MBRP director Mauricio González inspects the experimental unit placed on the Harlem River seawall by his marine scholars. This experiment is testing the effects of live oysters, rip rap, Econcrete discs, and mycelium fungus buoys on marine invertebrate recruitment (Photo credit: Maura Smotrich).

The 2016-2017 school year marks the fourth year since our Marine Biology Research Program received NYSED CTE certification. Since that time, our scholars’ accomplishments have been numerous.  Among them, we’ve had thirty two (32) scholars receive State certification in Marine Resources Management (see our annual report for more information). We’ve had students attend various universities around the country including Columbia University, Fordham University, SUNY Oswego, and Brown University to name just a few. They’ve gone on to study various career majors such as Biology, Business Administration, Environmental Science, among others. They have earned over one hundred fifty-four (154) college credits and accessed over one hundred (100) paid internship opportunities. Mauricio González, program director, reflects: “It’s a wonderful feeling to look back and see what one instructor and forty scholars can accomplish yearly through dedication, passion, and the invaluable support of industry and post-secondary partners.”

10th Grade Marine Research scholar, Cyd Bloomfield, is amused as she reveals an oyster she caught off the Eco-dock on Governors Island with her benthic grab. These grabs are designed to pick up muck from the bottom of the river bed.

Our 2016 Professional Advisory Committee meeting was a success! We had over fifteen (15) members in attendance to review, as a Scientific Review Committee, research plans & final reports, help update curriculum, and provide us with the support needed to continue strong in the years to come. One of our industry partners, ConEdison provided us with a grant to update our after school Citizen Science group, the Harbor SEALs, with a much needed plotter to print large format maps and project boards. Our partners in the DOE’s Office of Post Secondary Readiness also provided us with a grant to update our Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and 3D prototyping curriculum. Among the resources we secured were a 3D printing curriculum, 3D printers, and the GIS extensions needed to certify our young scholars in map making. Our young scholars have been hard at work building the printer kits and learning how to design innovative 3D materials to promote the recruitment of marine benthic organisms and thereby increase the biodiversity of the Hudson-Raritan Estuary (HRE).

11th grade Marine Research scholar, Zoe Grier, builds her 3D printer kit from scratch.

Although there’s not a whole lot of biodiversity in the HRE, our scholars get to study the importance of biodiversity and calculate biodiversity indexes through our very own coral reef “simulator” consisting of a 36×48 trifold board and a collage of coral organisms pasted on it. Using a miniature quadrat grid, they calculate percent cover of sessile organisms and use their data to calculate Hill numbers. This training is essential to quantify the biodiversity of the HRE. It is only through these sorts of techniques that we can gain an objective understanding of whether the Estuary is indeed changing. It is our hope that we can start planning yearly visits to real coral and oyster reefs in the years to come.

The MBRP’s coral reef model.

Meanwhile, our 3 college credit SUNY Stony Brook Advanced Marine Biology class has been learning basic oceanography theory. Covering the gamut of topics including the philosophical idea of “progress” through chemical and physical oceanography, they have been preparing for the rigors of college and more specifically, science majors. Many young folks have an overly romantic view of marine biology. Too many are attracted to the fuzzy marine mammals or the cool top predators. In the MBRP, they come to realize that the world of marine biology is  a lot more extensive, messy, and tedious. Before our students begin their long term research projects they must read at least five peer reviewed journal articles, type up a research plan, and have their plan approved by a Scientific Review Committee. Most of what we do can be characterized as learning by “thinking before doing.” This education strategy teaches students how to plan, collect necessary resources, and build the necessary confidence in their ability to think. Once they go through this process they are stronger readers, writers, and mathematicians. This is the trick that makes our program valuable and year after year our alumni come back telling us of how confident they are in their college classes.

Our 11th and 12th grade Advanced Marine Biology scholars characterizing a sample of river muck through a sieve shaker.

This marine biology story wouldn’t be complete without mention of some of the plumbing that goes on behind the scenes to keep our recirculating aquaculture systems functional and our tilapia happy. PVC unions tend to go bust with the large fluctuations of temperature in our greenroom. One crack in the wrong place and our fish can be cut off from the life-sustaining systems. Maintaining these systems is another large component of our 11th grade curriculum. Our scholars learn the basics for keeping RAS systems healthy and in good working order.

Before and after shot of the PVC plumbing repair this last winter break.

All this hard work makes us really hungry. So this Valentines week, one of our special partners baked cupcakes for us which we dubbed “love cakes.” Thank you to all who provide the support and motivation needed to help keep this level of intense and ambitious work. Stay tuned for our next update where we’ll be highlighting one of our outstanding 12th grade research scholars. Go New York Harbor School Marine Science!

Our 11th grade Marine Research scholar, Matthew Chiu, holding up a “love cake.”

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.

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.