Tag Archives: marine science

MARINE BIOLOGY RESEARCH 2017-18 SPRING SEMESTER IN REVIEW

MBRP class of 2018! Guess who’s been photo-shopped? (Photo editing and credit: Mauricio González)

What a whirlwind of a Spring semester! First off: Marine Biology Research Program class of 2018, you will be missed dearly. I know I say this about most graduating classes but I can’t get used to the loss. You’re all moving on to your next goals stronger, smarter, and as self-reliant young adults. The future is your oyster. I am confident in seeing you off. Change the world!

Getting dirty! We have a saying in the MBRP: You’re not a real New Yorker until you’ve been soiled with NY Harbor benthic mud! (Photo credit: Mauricio González)

The 2018 Spring semester has been marked with numerous accomplishments. On 19 May, 6 MBRP research scholars embarked on an expedition up the Harlem/East River to retrieve a 2 year-old ecological experiment. Led by our senior project manager Nicholas Ring, this expedition put a close to Phase Two of the CIVITAS-New York Harbor School project to determine the baseline conditions of the Harlem/East River and to test different construction materials for their effect on marine biodiversity. Water was spraying  us from all directions as we pulled up nine 40+ pound experimental units onto the Indy 7 from the river. The rain above and the muddy waters from below  tried slowing us down but we pulled together as a team of marine scientists and maritime crew to finish ahead of schedule. A million thanks to the Indy 7 Captain Kirsten Johnsrud, First Mate Halcyon Spooner, and their young crew for your invaluable help and leadership. Equal thanks to our Harbor Class instructor Sean Lynch for stepping up to lead the crew. For PHASE TWO results click here.

7th Annual Marine Science Symposium at the New York Harbor School, May 16, 2018. (Art by Gryffen Snyder-Shane)

On May 16 the New York Harbor School hosted its 7th Annual Marine Science Symposium. We had over 50 projects on display and over 60 volunteers from various industry & post-secondary institutions, not to mention our guests from the Netherlands led by Marc Van Breukelen to help judge. The theme this year was Godzilla- fictional character and product of the unbridled marine contamination that ensued after World War II. Godzilla came to represent nature rising to warn humanity of the perils of altering the Earth’s delicate balance. During the symposium we also introduced a new award called the MBRP Trident Award of Excellence. This award is given to a MBRP scholar that has accomplished all three of the following feats: 01) has earned all the possible college credits offered by the MBRP, 02) has competed in the NYC Science and Engineering Fair or obtained GIS SPACE certification, and 03) has assumed a leadership position in the Harbor SEALs Citizen Science after school team. Two MBRP alumni have accomplished these ambitious feats and were bestowed with this honor: Cezanne Bies (class ’16) and Melanie Smith (class ’17). Thanks to our former CIVITAS Project Manager Maura Smotrich for delivering a beautiful keynote address. To view the Symposium Booklet with the complete list of volunteers, senior autobiographies, project titles, and Symposium results click here.

Marine Science Symposium volunteers from the Netherland’s Windesheim School, led by Marc Van Breukelen. (Photo credit: Mauricio González)
Final presentation of the CIVITAS/NY Harbor School project on May 16 at the Hudson River Foundation. The presentation was led by our senior project managers Nicholas Ring & Nailea Rodriguez as well as our senior data analyst Matthew Chiu and benthic captain Marcus Charles. Present at the meeting were Jim Lodge from the Hudson River Foundation, Maura Smotrich from City of White Plains, Daniella Davi from CIVITAS, Alexander Adams from CIVITAS, James MacDonald from the Department of Environmental Conservation, Jim Tripp from Environmental Defense Fund & CIVITAS, and Matthew Haiken from Billion Oyster Project. (Photo credit: Mauricio González)

Back in the lab, our young marine scholars have been hard at work. Our junior scholar Aaniyla Allen-Sutherland has been monitoring the health of our Harbor waters by testing for Entrococcus faecalis. Our junior research scholar Lauren Salitan has been testing the effects of chlorine concentrations on the survivor-ship of oyster larvae. And our freshmen and sophomore scholars have attempted to bar-code marine invertebrates for the first time at our lab on Governors Island.

Junior scholar Aaniyla Allen-Sutherland displaying IDEXX Enterolert trays that she uses to monitor the Harbor. (Photo credit: Elizabeth Burmester)
Junior research scholar Lauren Salitan and mentor, Elizabeth Burmester, PhD, work on an experiment testing the effects of chlorine on oyster larvae. (Photo credit: Mauricio González)
Gel electrophoresis run by our freshmen and sophomore research scholars Lisette Mejia, Destiny Coley, Brian Mejia, Gabriel Castro, and Jasmine Mendoza. (Photo credit: Mauricio González)
Urban Bar-code Symposium sponsored by Cold Spring Harbor Labs. Our young scholars presented at the symposium on May 24, 2018. (Photo credit: Mauricio González)

Some of the best moments of the school year are when alumni visit. They’ve come for our SEALs-giving dinner, Marine Symposium, and just randomly throughout the year. Below are photographs of just some of the many alumni who’ve stopped in this year.

Gracie Carter, (Photo credit: Nicholas Ring)
Averille Ramos. We retired his # 17 SEALs jersey. (Photo credit: Jacqueline Obermayer)
Nicolle Martinez. (Photo credit: Anita Morawski)
Pablo Jimenez and Zain Bin Khalid. (Photo credit: Anita Morawski)
Marcus Charles & Cézanne Bies. (Photo credit: Mauricio González)
Violeta Gonzalez and Ahyrton Vasquez. (Photo credit: Mauricio González)
Pierre Landet and Orlando Ramos. (Photo credit: Anita Morawski)
Jared Rosin, Mondragon, Katha Conklin, Kaila Scott, Mariah Gathers, and Melanie Smith. (Photo credit: Mauricio González)

To have a little fun, our Harbor SEALs scholars participated in the CIVITAS annual benefit. They presented their monitoring results of the Harlem/East River to residents and politicians from all over NYC at the House of the Redeemer by Central Park.

Harbor SEALs Citizen Science team at the CIVITAS annual benefit. (Photo credit: Mauricio González)

And after many years of sacrifice, hard work, and grit, Mauricio Gonzalez wins the Big Apple Award for 2018! Next school year as a Big Apple Fellow, he’ll be convening with school officials to share and learn best practices.

Mauricio González, 2018 NYC Big Apple Award recipient, presented by the DOE Deputy Chancellor, Phil Weinberg. (Photo credit: NYC DOE)

MARINE BIOLOGY RESEARCH 2017-18 WINTER REVIEW IN PICTURES

WE WIN AT NYCSEF! Harbor school seniors Nicholas Ring & Nailea Rodriguez win Second Prize while Matthew Chiu wins Third Prize in addition to three special elite awards. Special thanks goes out to Maura Smotrich, Rachael Miller, and Captain Michael Abegg for believing in us. These accomplishments would not have been possible without the support of CIVITAS Citizens, the Rozalia Project, BOP, and our wonderful team of Harbor SEALs Citizen Scientists! (Photo by M. Gonzalez)

The 2017-2018 winter season has been busy as usual for the Marine Biology Research Program and Harbor SEALs Citizen Science Monitoring scholars. Below we put together a sample of some of the activities we’ve been a part of during the 2017-2018 winter season. Thanks again to our industry and post-secondary partners for your continued support. Please mark your calendars: on May 16 the New York Harbor School will be hosting our 7th Marine Science Symposium. More information will be forthcoming. We hope to see you there. Enjoy the images!!!

Nailea Rodriguez, senior MBRP scholar, presenting at the NY Blue Tech consortium during World Water Day, March 22, 2018. (Photo by Nynke de Vette, Netherlands Consulate)
Here our Harbor SEALs younglings Destiny Coley, Lisette Mejia, Brian Mejia, Gabriel Castro, Jasmine Mendoza, and Tiffany Vu get ready to genetically barcode marine invertebrates as part of a collaborative project involving partners CIVITAS Citizens, BOP, Cold Spring Harbor’s Urban Barcode Program, and New York Harbor School’s Harbor SEALs Citizen Science monitoring team. Thanks to our other partners at ConEdison and a “RESO-A” grant through which we were able to obtain many of the materials for this important project. (Photo by M. Gonzalez)
This year our scholars will complete phase two of the CIVITAS-NYHS East River Esplanade baseline study. (Photo by M. Gonzalez)
Next, with over half a million students in NYC public and private high schools, five-hundred fifty that are selected 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 three scholars selected for for this honor in the category of Environmental Science. In total we had a School record breaking high of six students who competed this year at the Preliminary Round. Left to right: Marcus Charles, Nicholas Ring, Matthew Chiu, and Nailea Rodriguez (Photo by M. Gonzalez)
Senior MBRP scholars Isabella Torres and Seth Rivera present their project on shark diet at the Preliminary Round of the NYC Science and Engineering Fair on March 4, 2018. Considering that the Urban Assembly New York Harbor School is an un-screened school and that we’re going up against the most selective public and private schools in the city (i.e. Bronx Science, Brooklyn Tech, Townsend Harris, etc.) this accomplishment is impressive, to say the least. (Photo by M. Gonzalez)
Chris Bell and Nicholas Ring, Senior MBRP scholars, present their projects at the Preliminary Round of NYCSEF, March 04, 2018. (Photo by M. Gonzalez)
Our Harbor SEALs scholars train in invertebrate zoology as part of the Advanced Marine Biology course offered at the New York Harbor school. Taught by Instructor Mauricio Gonzalez, M.Sc. in collaboration with SUNY Stony Brook, students earn 3 college credits upon successful completion. (Photo by M. Gonzalez)
Senior marine research scholars Chris Bell, Matthew Chiu, and Isabella Torres dissect a squid to better understand the anatomy and evolutionary relationship of marine invertebrates. (Photo by M. Gonzalez)
Econcrete discs were poured by Marine Biology Research & Harbor SEALs scholars. The discs were then placed in the Harlem River to determine if biodiversity can be attracted with the proper construction materials. (Photo by N. Ring)
Nicholas Ring presents his project to the Harbor SEALs younglings to set the level of excellence expected of those coming up in the MBRP.
Mike McCann from The Nature Conservancy and Liz Burmester from the Billion Oyster Project lead a workshop on water quality sampling for the Harbor SEALs Citizen Science team. (Photo by M. Gonzalez)
Matthew Chiu shows off his hats made of up-cycled microplastic fibers derived from laundry machines and dryers.
Sean Lynch, Harbor School Instructor, has been a key partner for the Harbor SEALs and will begin supporting our physical-chemistry team. (Photo by M. Gonzalez)
MBRP and Harbor SEALs director, Mauricio Gonzalez, has advanced to the finals in the prestigious NYC Big Apple Awards. Up to five finalists were named per district – roughly 250 across the city out of more than 4,500 teachers nominated this fall. The final 15 winners will be announced in the coming week.

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.