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.
Ameena, a 12th grade Harbor SEAL, addressed the guests at the Environmental Protection Agency’s 40th Anniversary of the Clean Water Act. Together with a member of the NY Harbor School’s Scuba Program, they delivered an impressive message about the future of clean water. “We have a right to protect the water’s resources and have access to our natural heritage,” said Ameena. There’s a long way to go but a new generation of environmentalists waiting to play their part.
On October 13 the Harbor SEALs, in collaboration with NYC urban ecologists and students from other NYHS CTE programs, planted about 20 “tortillas” of eel grass off of a decaying Brooklyn pier. These “tortillas” are made of cut-out burlap about 10 to 12 inches in diameter with 10 Eel grass individuals woven between the material in a concentric pattern. The team set up 6 stations with between 3 and 4 “tortillas per station, detailed GPS points were taken of each station, sedimentation rate was measured, and water quality monitoring was performed. It was another great day of environmental and team work under the NYC sun. (For more information click here.)
Last night three of our Harbor SEALs and one other NYHS student graduated from The Nature Conservancy’s LEAF Program. The ceremony was held at the Marriott Hotel on West Street in downtown Manhattan. The highlight of the night was listening to the kids’ stories of how working to conserve the great outdoors changed their lives. We heard tales of students doing their laundry in haunted basements, walking miles in the dark of night to take out the garbage, taking down fences to create biological corridors, and going to drive-in movies for the first time. The audience, comprised in part by New York Trustees, reminisced of their younger years and could only be pleased of hearing about the important work and wonderful experiences lived. Well done SEALs! You are the hope of our planet…
We launched our first workshop of the school year today. We had a great turn out as students from grades 10 through 12 came together to learn more about our great Harbor and the Hudson River Watershed. Using the Black Rock Forest Virtual Lab units that the director helped to create, the students embarked in a virtual tour of the Hudson River starting with a map to help define the term watershed. We then worked our way through the Troy Dam, stopped to inspect the recuperating populations of Atlantic Sturgeon, and headed down to Norrie Point to discuss the invasive water chestnut.
At one point we got into a heated debate on the ethics of Catch and Release: Should humans have the right to partake in leisurely activities at the cost of other animals’ lives or well-being. The debate got very heated but in the end, we understood that individuals can have different levels of ideals when it comes to what’s socially acceptable. But most importantly, we all agree that nature needs to come first if we humans want to “keep on keeping on.”
PD. As is our tradition, we took a serious shot of the kids (above figure) but also a wacky one. To see the latter, navigate over to the IMAGO tab above. Enjoy;)
On September 22nd the Harbor SEALs embarked on their first expedition of the 2012 school year to monitor the relative mass of plankton and plastic in the Hudson River Estuary. Aboard the NOMAD, the SEALs monitored physical-chemical parameters of the water and practiced sampling protocols in order to deploy a 20 foot plankton net with manta (Marvin) into the waters south of the Verrazano Narrows Bridge.
Civic Scientist Environmental Monitoring of the Hudson-Raritan Estuary