All posts by maougon

Mauricio Gonzalez studied Marine Biology in Colombia South America and worked on coral reef community ecology for 3 years before becoming a teacher in the NYC public school system. Because of his background, he understood the vital role of applied research in conservation. However, he’s also come to understand that research performed within the confines of exclusive institutions is limited in what it can accomplish. Therefore, to address the problems of environmental degradation he sought to expose underrepresented youth to STEM programs that he has created such the Schwartz Science and Urban Ecology programs in Harlem and the Marine Biology Research and Harbor SEALS programs on Governors Island. His programs have aimed to support and develop youth’s curiosity in the natural sciences through project formulation, management, and execution. By directly including our youth in the research process, science and it’s applications will have a far wider reach and make more meaningful contributions to our planet and, thus, to society.

Rip Rap Marine Debris Recovery Project

The Harbor SEALs have been hard at work this season recovering marine debris from the rip rap surrounding Governor’s Island, NYC for the Hudson River Foundation. Student interns and volunteers from the New York Harbor School have been managing this project since September of 2021. The team is broken up into four work groups 01) Data Analysis, 02) Resource Recovery, 03) Communications, and 04) Water Quality. The team submitted a proposal to ConEdison and were awarded a grant to purchase the equipment necessary to safely scale the rip rap and recover NYC’s pervasive debris. Large garbage bags full of plastic bottles, boat line, dock Styrofoam, sports balls of all types, and mini alcohol bottles dot and span the rip rap. But by far the most interesting of findings have been a message in a bottle and a glamping tent.

After spending much of the Fall planning and writing the proposal, ordering materials, testing the safety equipment, and undergoing practicing trials, the SEALs began recovering debris in January. The Data Analysis group began defining categories of debris, creating data tables, and online forms. They then proceeded to classify the debris collected each sample day and weigh them by category.  The Recovery team worked to perfect the methods for safely removing debris from underneath the rip rap and collected three geographically located quadrants to be able to determine the rate of debris replacement. Our communications team designed social media interfaces to disseminate our work products and reached out to our various stakeholders to coordinate field days. They also were in charge of writing the summary grant reports to ConEdison. Our Water Quality team began training in the measurement of Dissolved Oxygen in the sample site using the Modified Winkler Method. They also measured nutrients and other physical-chemical parameters. Finally, they began testing a drone with 3D deigned sampling devices to collect water samples from the Estuary.

Stay tuned for our publicly shared data and final report!

Million thanks to our partners and sponsors: Billion Oyster Project, Con Edison, Earth Matter, Governors Island Trust, Hudson River Foundation, & NYC Department of Education: New York Harbor School.

Spring 2022 MBRP Update and Alumni Visits

Class 2022 at the 2022 Boat Show, Jacob Javits Center (Photo credit: Mauricio Gonzalez)

Greetings MBRP guardians, scholars, and friends,

I wanted to give you a brief update on what the MBRP is up to.

It is with great pleasure that I announce to you that 100% of our seniors have passed the summative CTE assessment for the Marine Biology Research Program. The assessment is called Natural Resources systems and is provided by the testing company NOCTI. Most students also scored high enough to earn 3 college credits. Our seniors are currently processing their plankton/plastic data from our excursion in the Fall. They have also deployed biodiversity monitoring contraptions in the Buttermilk Channel called “Mo Pots.”

Last month our 11th grade scholars completed a session of mock interviews coordinated by our wonderful PTA CTE Reps, Koko and Nan. Thank you to all the parents that got involved! The 11th grade scholars are processing their plankton/plastics data while maintaining their recirculating aquaculture systems. Next, they will be ordering new organisms, getting certified in lab and chemical safety, and performing another plankton/plastics field sampling excursion.

Our 10th grade scholars have been steadily working on their projects as well as courses in career and financial management. They are writing lab reports and preparing a presentation for the end of the month. After this, we will begin sampling the Estuary once again for physical-chemical parameters using various instruments including YSI handheld meters. COVID has forced us to make many curriculum changes, but I can assure you that your children are getting a world-class science education with us and I look forward to a strong finish to our school year.

Lastly, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by many of my alumni coming to visit this year. We had Grace Carter, George Desjarlais, Dylan Hom Constable, Marcus Charles, Tyler Scott-Simpson, Cyd Bloomfield, Sunita Pearson, Jacqueline Obermayer, and Nicholas Ring stop by at the lab. We’ve had many alumni graduating from college as well as many others itching to visit after the long COVID hiatus. Much teacher care to all my alumni out there in the world – far and wide!

Best regards,

Mauricio

Class 2023 at the 2022 Boat Show, Jacob Javits Center (Photo credit: Mauricio Gonzalez)
MBRP Alumnus Nick Ring visits!
MBRP Alumnus Cezanne Bies graduates!
MBRP Alumnus Marcus Charles visits!
MBRP Alumnus George Desjarlais visits!
MBRP Alumnus Dylan Hom Constable visits!

 

MBRP Alumnus Cyd Bloomfield visits!
MBRP Alumnus Sunita Pearson visits!

A Report from Marine Bio’s Scientific Journey on N.Y. Harbor

10th Grade check
above: Sophomores doing a last minute check before boarding at Pier 101
10th grade sailing
above: Sophomores sailing out to the data/specimen collection point
10th grade lower Beta Bottles
Marine Bio Junior Sebi Koko explains, “In the picture above you can see the sophomore students lowering beta bottles into the water, which are cylinders that sink to the depth you want in order to collect the water sample.”
11th grade lower manta tow
Sebi continues, “In the picture above, some juniors are lowering a Neuston Net into the water. In the picture below, the net is capturing water particles just south of the Brooklyn Bridge. The Neuston Net is also called a Manta Tow, and you can see why as it resembles a Manta Ray swimming on the water’s surface.”
11th grade manta tow in action
Mauricio checking flow meter
above: Just before the Senior’s boat trip,
Mauricio shows students how to
adjust a Flow Meter in the Marine Bio Lab.
12th grade rinsing net
Sebi explains more, “In the picture above,
seniors rinse down the net from the Manta Tow
to collect all material that was captured. Below,
seniors transfer material into a collection cup.
Later, back in our lab, we analyzed the samples
and found plankton, algae, detritus and
sadly, a lot of micro-plastics.”
12th grade collection cup transfer
Please help our students to be able to continue doing
exciting projects like this by donating at  Cheddar Up  
Every little bit helps! Thanks
Thanks to Principal Jeff
and all the parents that
attended our first Marine
Bio Parent’s Zoom Meeting
last month. It was nice to
meet and share. Our seniors
are busy with the college
application process right
now. Parents of juniors and
sophomores asked for
college info, as it is never
too soon to start planning.
We are including some links
below. Please share info
you have that our families
may be interested in.
Comments? Questions?
Contact your Marine Bio Reps
Tricia Garcia & Koko at
marinebio@kokobaz.comThanks to Angie Martinez,
Nan Richardson and Tricia Garcia
for pictures and content.

Design by Koko   www.kokobaz.com

Marine Biology scholars are busy getting ready for their field trips in New York Harbor 

Marine Bio scholars are busy getting ready for their field trips in New York Harbor

marine Bio student in the Lab
Marine Bio students outside
10th grade MBRP Class testing out the Beta-Bottle technique to sample phytoplankton 

Marine Bio seniors in the lab
Sophomore Mark Garcia explains:
“We started off the year by learning all the mandatory safety precautions/protocols and getting to know our fellow peers. We then moved into microscopy. In preparation for our field work in NY Harbor we have been training with a device called the beta bottle that is used to collect actual water samples for analysis purposes.”
Harbor Seal
Want to help our Marine Bio students?
Buy some supplies for them
at Cheddar Up
Lab Coats to keep them safe.
Water Measurement Tools
to keep the seas safe.
Donate what you can
…it’s all good!

10TH ANNUAL, 2nd VIRTUAL, NYHS MARINE SCIENCE SYMPOSIUM

You’re invited! On June 17, the New York Harbor School will be hosting its 10th Annual Marine Science Symposium through the digital cloud! Experience environmental science from our very own Marine Biology Research and Harbor SEALs scholars. Our honored keynote guests will be Dr. Kathleen Nolan, Chair of Biology at St. Francis College and Mr. Andrew Sommer, alumnus NYHS, class of 2015. Dr. Nolan and Mr. Sommer will share their personal and professional journey through the exciting world of scientific research. In addition, we will be honoring this year ’s NYC Terra ISEF Fair participant, Katherine Mumford, our post-secondary and industry partners, our MBRP symposium finalists, and our Manhattan Borough President, the Honorable Gale Brewer! Please take a moment to view our MBRP Class of 2021 websites.

The MBRP community would like to extend a warm thanks to our NYHS custodial staff, Mr. Benito Nunez, for assuming the oversight of the Marine Science lab for the complete year of the pandemic. Mr. Nunez has kept over 100 tilapia, various tropical freshwater and saltwater invertebrates, fish, reptiles, and amphibians alive and healthy! Benny – Thanks-a-million! The MBRP and the NYHS is tremendously fortunate to have you on the team!

Lastly, it’s with great grief that I inform you of the passing of marine restoration scientist and friend, Dr. Shimrit Perkol-Finkel, after an accident in her native Israel. We are most grateful to have had the opportunity to work alongside Dr. Perkol-Finkel over the last 10 years. Her legacy will live on as her company, Econcrete Co., continues to innovate and build biodiversity-attracting solutions into our coastal infrastructure. This symposium is dedicated to Dr. Perkol-Finkel.

If you’d like to participate as a judge during the fair, you may use this link.

Brought to you by our MBRP class of 2021 (and 2022) scholars.

Studying Air Quality Phenomena by our SEALs scholars

Figure 01. Our Harbor SEALs scholars using Gather.town in a break out session located in our virtual NYHS garden.

The goal of our COVID-19 project is to measure air quality around New York City and the New England Area by using a new device known as an “air quality egg” near students’ homes https://airqualityegg.com/home. With such data, air quality can be compared in real time which leads to the brainstorming and creation of many smaller student-led research projects. We have successfully installed EGGs in two states, all five boroughs, and soon, two countries! Students will process their data and answer their own inquiry question. We will meet on Wednesdays through Google Meet and Gather.town. Students will assume leadership roles and manage the project. The younger students learn teamwork and leadership skills virtually. A new virtual reality platform called Gather.town will be used that visually demonstrates the MBRP classroom setting, such as including our main lab, garden, and green room. Gather.town helps us efficiently get into breakout groups that the facilitator and team leaders can travel between quickly. More detailed information on our data will be forthcoming. See the images below for a virtual image of MBRP lab120.

Team Updates

Team Air Benders

So far our group has gone over the basics of a peer review journal article and how to find a reliable one. Most of my group is composed of sophomore’s so we have a lot of fresh faces that are new to our procedures in the Marine Biology Research Program and SEALs. So we got to discuss finding accurate journal articles as well as things we wanted to implement going further a as team.

Team ConEd

Our team, ConEd, has come up with a rough question on how we can compare particulates in our air before and after the pandemic. We’re currently working on making the question more specific. We have been reviewing multiple peer review journal articles to get a better understanding on what particulate matter we want to focus on. We have seen in numerous articles that there has been a decline in air pollutants, like particulate Matter (PM).

Team Poseidon

Our question: How is the human body impacted by particulate matter and how do the effects differ between the 5 boroughs? What we have done so far: refine our question and get some peer reviewed articles. What we have planned: Looking further into peer reviewed journals, begin looking and testing data quality.

Team members:

Scholars: Kate, Marifer , Maddie, Sebastian, Dakota, Jaylen, Julia, Anna, Arlo, Dayanara, Aelish, Nicholas, Prophet
Facilitator: Mauricio (NYHS)
Technician: Natan (BMCC)
Industry Sponsor: ConEdison
Internship Host Organization: Hudson River Foundation
Post-Secondary Partner: BMCC

Figure 02. Our virtual MBRP lab 120.
Figure 03. Our virtual scholars’ avatars.
Figure 04. The air quality EGG.
Figure 05. The EGGs we have around New York City!
Figure 06. Our SEALs scholars.
Figure 07. Our SEALs scholars

9th Annual, 1st Virtual NYHS Marine Science Symposium

9th Annual, 1st Virtual NYHS Marine Science Symposium

On June 17, the Marine Biology Research Program hosted an historic 1st Virtual Marine Science Symposium. The program was packed with wonderful people from NYC’s marine science community. Guests and scholars learned about ecological restoration, how fish use tools, how COVID has affected school life, the economy, politics, etc. and even judged projects! We had two inspirational keynote speakers, Heather Eisenlord and alumnus Grace Carter, talk to us about their career and school journeys. Click here to view the results of our Awards Ceremony, look at some pictures of our class of 2020, and download some resources. Next, we recognized the dedication of those PAC members that have gone above and beyond the call of duty to support our scholars year-after-year! They were Dr. Kathleen Nolan, Dr. Neal Phillip, Dr. Sunil Bhaskaran, and our all-star mom, Nan Richardson!

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the judges that dedicated their time to review videos and slideshows throughout the week following up to the event. Our scholars received invaluable feedback. These efforts contribute to the immeasurable effects communities have on their youngest of budding scientists. I cannot express my gratitude enough.

Passionate, creative, and kind – these are the three words that first come to mind when I think about the MBRP class of 2020. I will miss the passionate care for fish and marine life that always came up when something would go wrong with our systems and you were there to solve the problem. I will miss the challenging conversations we had on gun violence, “knowing thyself,” the broken school system, systemic racism, and, yes, research… I won’t miss pushing all of you to produce the best work you could produce! I will miss the teamwork you demonstrated often when it came time to support your fellow classmates. This is one of the things that kept me motivated to keep on pushing day in and day out, through the flus and the back aches. I recall seeing you teach each other and the younglings all the things you learned “on your own.” “Don’t ask Mauricio …” I’ll miss eating my PB&J sandwiches and my wife’s soups in front of you. I’ll miss the stories of cutting in the bathroom, mess hall, basketball court, and food truck. I’ll miss how some of you helped me track them down and saved me the phone call to guidance! I’ll miss the use of long nails to screw on tiny bolts on crab traps on the edge of the dock. I’ll miss the talks about politics, philosophy, and environmental justice. I’ll miss the hugs and hellos. I’ll miss your projects, your brownies and your holiday greetings. I’ll miss trying to not take pictures so as not to offend. I’ll miss seeing you use power tools and mixing cement. I’ll miss the movie and video suggestions. I’ll miss the sneaking up from behind to scare me. So, don’t ever forget that in my imperfect way, I always pushed you to be better than who you were yesterday and to be more mindful, thoughtful, and sensitive about this mysterious world around us and in us. You’ll remember our adventures in the MBRP, I “know.” You will always be my marine scientists! Best of Luck and Skill.

A huge thank s to our superstar symposium moderators: Marifer Sanchez-Gaspar, Sunita Pearson-Siegel, Randy Maharaj, Aelish Mullaney, Mimi Katz, and Heavenly Davis!

Finally, find here the Program for the 9th Annual, 1st Virtual Marine Science Symposium and here for our book “THE EFFECTS OF COVID19 IN A HYPERCONNECTED WORLD.”

In these difficult times, we wish you peace and health.

Mauricio and the MBRP gang

NY Harbor SEALs Trip 2019-2020

The chance to pursue a research project can be life changing and career changing. The hardworking students of Marine Bio at the New York Harbor School harborseals.org deserve that chance! We are the only high school in NYC with a marine curriculum and our school is 70% underrepresented students.  (Many of our kids have never been further than New York, so a trip like this will be full of new horizons.)

We are raising funds to send students with teacher Mauricio Gonzalez for a 9-day trip to Colombia, where they will work with professors at the University of Magdalena in and around the famous water wilderness of Tayrona National Park, doing hands-on field research, sleeping in hammocks on the beach, and hiking miles to remote locations for their experiments. This is a no frills, serious field expedition on a razor budget. The passionately dedicated students have themselves raised several thousand working week after week selling cookies! Your donation will make a major impact as we need to raise enough that every child, regardless of means, can go. Our goal is $17,000 and this GO FUND ME has to bring in $4000 of that.

The PTA is a 501 C3, so all donations are fully tax -deductible.
Moreover, our contribution will create a smile an ocean wide!
Please help  this dream happen.

GO FUND ME!!!

MARINE BIOLOGY RESEARCH & SEALS 2018-19: SPRING SEMESTER IN REVIEW

MBRP class of 2019! (Selfie credit: Rosalia Elslamony)

Every graduating class has a personality of its own molded by each individual and the particulars of the school cohort. This year’s graduating class was characterized by many unique and strong personalities. What they all had in common though was honesty. I have never met so many young MBRP scholars in tune with themselves and the spirit of the times. I’m most grateful to this particular group for having embodied a crucial component of the program which is independence. This characteristic allowed them to pull through and manage the many aspects that running a high school research program requires. From maintaining our various recirculating lab systems, managing the 8th Annual Marine Science Symposium, competing in the New York City Science and Engineering & Urban Barcode Research Program fairs, completing professional maps using ArcGIS, working thousands of internship hours, earning dozens of college credits, and, most importantly, enhancing environmental awareness of the Hudson-Raritan Estuary, this group of graduating scholars will be making big waves in our world for the better in the years to come. To get to know our graduating MBRP Class of 2019 better, click here to view their ePortfolios.

8th Annual New York Harbor School Marine Science Symposium (Photo credit: Mauricio González).

On May 15 the New York Harbor School hosted its 8th Annual Marine Science Symposium. We had over 50 projects on display and over 30 volunteers from various industry & post-secondary institutions. Among the volunteer judges of the student projects was a team from Con Edison, which has generously supported Marine Biology Research at Harbor School for several years. This year’s theme was the Oroboros- a symbol of chaos and order. The inquiry process, which lies at the heart of research, involves the brave act of taming the chaos inherent in the unknown to try to extract some kernel of truth only to realize that new questions have sprung up and the process continues. Research requires the delicate balancing act between finality and infinity, end and renewal.

8th Annual New York Harbor School Marine Science Symposium group shot (Photo credit: Anita Morawski).

This year’s winner of the MBRP Trident Award of Excellence was bestowed to Marcus Charles (Class ’18). The Trident Award is given to a MBRP graduate 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. To view the Symposium Booklet with the complete list of volunteers, senior autobiographies, project titles, and Symposium results click here.

Prof. Henry Bokuniewicz from SUNY Stony Brook mentoring our 10th Grade MBRP scholars Gabriel Castro and Emily Lysakova (Photo credit: Mauricio González).

Our work is not possible without the ongoing support of industry and Post-secondary partners such as ConEdison, SUNY Stony Brook, Bronx Community College, BMCC, Urban Barcode Program, Roger Williams University, SUNY Albany, NYC Department of Education, New York Harbor Foundation, and Rozalia Project, to mention just a few. The opportunities they grant our scholars serve to enrich their education and help make them college and career ready.

Emily Lysakova and Gabriel Castro present at the 2019 Conference on the Geology of Long Island and Metropolitan New York (Photo credit: Lysakova family).

An example of the benefits of the synergy between our partners and the MBRP is our yearly completion of long term research projects, many of which compete at the New York City Science and Engineering Fair with NYC’s brightest STEAM students. We had four competitors in this year’s regional fair with our MBRP research scholar, Cyd Bloomfield, placing third in the category of Earth & Environmental Science. Thank you to Dr. Elizabeth Burmester for mentoring many of this years projects. Go New York Harbor School Science!

New York Harbor School at the 2019 NYC Science and Engineering fair.

In the field, our young Harbor SEALs scholars have been hard at work. Our Microbiology/Plankton and Phys-Chem teams have been monitoring the health of our Harbor waters. Our Biodiversity team has been preparing Econcrete tiles to deploy off of Governors Island for long-term monitoring. And our freshmen and sophomore scholars have been hard at work learning the ropes to take over leadership of their teams next school year.

Harbor SEALs team Plankton. Left to right: Kate Mumford, Taina Berrios, Sunita Pearson_Siegel, Luke Samton (Photo credit: Mauricio González).
Harbor SEALs team Phys-Chem, Right to left: Adult mentor Sean Lynch, Malik Ford, Dakota Rogers, Brian Mejia, and, visiting scholar, Jasmine Mendoza (Photo credit: Mauricio González).
Harbor SEALs team Microbiology/Plankton, Left to right: Kate Mumford, Prophet Davison, Aelish Mullaney , and Mimi Katz (Photo credit: Rosalia Elslamony).

Our alumni have been graduating from college and many continue to visit throughout the year. This past month I attended two graduation ceremonies. Our scholars report that college is not easy. Many struggle to adapt to the rigors of academic expectations and many are also the first to go to college in their families. I am pleased to also mention that colleges are starting to support our minority students by creating special associations that our students can go to for guidance. These associations also provide career assistance after graduation. Common themes I heard in our various conversations were 01) don’t be afraid to ask for help from your professors, 02) take advantage of office hours, 03) go the extra mile so your professors take you under their wing, 04) completing research in the MBRP opened doors for students, 05) don’t let impostor syndrome creep in, you’re not alone! Again, ask for help.

Violeta González, Jade Gonzáles, Andrew Sommer, and Tahirah Abdo, MBRP Class of 2015, graduate from SUNY Oswego.
Violeta González, MBRP Class of 2015- my daughter:) (Photo credit: Anita Morawski).
Nicole Martinez, MBRP Class of 2015, graduates from Columbia College (Photo credit: Anita Morawski).
Katha Conklin and Jared Rosin, MBRP Class of 2017, visiting during our Symposium.

It has been an honor for me to have been awarded the NYC Big Apple Award for the 2018-19 school year. As a part of this recognition, I’ve had the privilege of participating in advisory meetings with Chancellor Carranza and his talented staff. I have also been a part of Academy for Teachers Master Classes that have enriched my intellectual growth. I’d like to end this update by dedicating it to my late mentor, Dr. Gregory Hodge, who passed in February 2019.

Academy for Teachers: Three-Day Master Class on the Hudson River Valley: Art, History, Ecology
(Photo credit: Academy for Teachers).
Big Apple Award: DOE Chancellor, Richard Carranza, Founder and Director Marine Biology Research Program & Harbor SEALs Citizen Science, Mauricio González, and UFT President, Michael Mulgrew (Photo credit: NYC DOE).
My late mentor, Dr. Gregory Hodge , circa 2009 (Photo credit: Anita Morawski).
My wife Anita Morawski’s “love cakes” for the Harbor SEALs (Photo credit: Elizabeth Burmester).