Tag Archives: physical-chemical parameters

CTE + STEM = NY Harbor Restoration

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.

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.)

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.

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.

Mudsnails are also frequent inhabitants of the River’s benthos.


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.

MBRP – Genetics, Remote Sensing, and Mycofoam

Our 10th grade marine research scholar, Zain, extracting DNA from a tissue sample of the eastern oyster, Crassostrea virginica.
Our 10th grade marine research scholars Zain, Cézanne, Pierre, and Raphael extracted DNA from tissue samples of the eastern oyster, Crassostrea virginica.

The Marine Biology Research Program has started 2014 with spunk. A select group of 10th grade marine research scholars are currently working on a project comparing the genetic differences between three eastern oyster groups – Muscungus Bay, Fishers Island, and wild type oysters from Soundview Park, Bronx. The importance of this project is to determine genetic similarities or differences caused by years of selective breeding. This project may also inform restoration efforts of the types of oysters that may best adapt to the Hudson River Estuary. Our 11th grade scholars are learning to configure and calibrate a professional water quality remote sensor to measure chlorophyll – an important environmental variable for oyster restoration. Lastly, a team of 10th and 11th grade scholars met last week with Ecovative scientist Sue Van Hook to brainstorm how to replace the use of Styrofoam with biodegradable foams made of fungus. Aside from these great projects, our young research scholars have been hard at work in our marine science lab to get the re-circulating systems up and running. We expect to have many exciting projects for this year’s Science Symposium in May. Thanks to Sam Janis from the Harbor Foundation, Pablo Garcia, long time field staff of the NY Harbor School, Pete Malinowski, NY Harbor School’s aquaculture teacher, and the Urban Barcode Project folks for their support.

Marine Research Class of ’14 Highlight

Marine Research students monitor water quality indicators in the HRE weekly
Marine Research students monitor water quality indicators in the HRE weekly

Intermediate Marine Biology Research (MBRP) students monitor the Upper Hudson River Estuary (HRE) on Governors Island. With water quality gear in hand the students set out to monitor the waters on a weekly basis to determine the state of health of the HRE in the heart of NYC. The students replicate their sampling and collect their data on data sheets. They then process the information in the lab and work towards completing a college level research paper which they will submit at the end of the year to the NYC Science and Engineering fair in order to compete for scholarships and prizes. Some of the projects involve monitoring physical-chemical water parameters, zooplankton, and fish. This kind of experiential learning helps them to develop critical thinking skills and prepares them for college and industry while keeping it real. For more images of their work click here.

Day 02 – Harbor SEALs HRE Monitoring

Tahirah and Orlando pull up their group's water sample from the East River
Tahirah and Orlando pull up their group’s water sample from the East River

The Harbor SEALs completed their 2nd day of monitoring of the Upper Hudson River Estuary. Team work was in full display as the SEALs worked in subfreezing temperature. The data is available for the public here. Once the samples are taken, students quickly measure the dissolved oxygen using the Azide modification of the Winkler method, measure temperature, and enterococcus bacteria. It is quite a scene to watch the level of intensity the students obtain on a given sampling day. For more images of the SEALs at work click here.

On another note, congratulations to the winners of the invertebrate larvae identification contest. 10th graders Tahirah and Nicolle successfully identified the nauplius larvae as pertaining to a barnacle.

Harbor SEALs before their lab work..
The Harbor SEALs.

Day 01 – Harbor SEALs Monitoring Kick-Off + More

Nauplius caught on Pier 101 on Thursday, February 7th, 2013
Nauplius caught on Pier 101 by MBRP student researchers on Thursday, February 7th, 2013

Last Wednesday, New York Harbor School’s Harbor SEALs kicked off their first day of full scale monitoring for the Hudson River Estuary  Water/Air Quality Monitoring Program. We had  a total of 21 volunteers working the jam packed schedule. In all, 4 different localities were sampled at exactly the same time in order to compare water conditions and determine the influence of the currents from the different bodies of water flowing through the Battery. We thank all the volunteers – adults and children who participated. We also thank the EPA for its support of this important project. We are in the process of developing a page on this site to post the data.

Additionally, last week our 11th grade Marine Biology Research students found a nauplius larva during their weekly sampling run at Pier 101. With a water temperature of 4 C and winter in full force, we were surprised to see that the Harbor is preparing for an early spring. Can you identify what Infraclass of organisms it belongs to? E-mail your answer to mgonzalez@harborseals.org. The first correct answer will win a prize (high school students only, sorry;).

Harbor SEALs Citizen Scientists Train to Monitor the Hudson River Estuary

Harbor SEALs get water samples around rip rap.
Harbor SEALs get water samples on Governors Island.

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.

Harbor SEALs - EPA Citizen Science Sampling Stations
Harbor SEALs – EPA Citizen Science Sampling Stations

Aquatic Ecosystem Models – Class of ’15

Orlando, Alisha, and Averille working on their Aquatic Ecosystem Models.

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.