Category Archives: SEALs

CTE + STEM = NY Harbor Restoration

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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.

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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.)

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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.

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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.

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

SEALS & CIVITAS: Citizen Science Monitoring of the East River Esplanade

Pierre, senior genetic scientist mentor, and Nailea, beginner geneticist of the SEALS biodiversity team documenting a sample during our first East River Esplanade expedition of the NY Harbor SEALS/CIVITAS collaboratioon.
Pierre Landet, senior genetic scientist mentor, and Nailea Rodriguez, beginner geneticist of the SEALS biodiversity team documenting a sample during our first East River Esplanade expedition of the NY Harbor SEALS/CIVITAS collaboration.

Yesterday the NY Harbor SEALS team, a citizen science after school program at the New York Harbor School and the consulting branch of the Marine Biology Research Program, embarked on it’s first of at least fourteen expeditions up the East River to characterize the marine habitat between 96 and 116 streets. The purpose of these expeditions is to determine the biodiversity and water quality at this site in order to propose a restoration strategy to local government agencies. Composed of four teams, the SEALS analyze sediment, plankton-plastics, physical-chemistry, and genetic biodiversity samples using professional instrumentation and techniques. We would like to thank our post-secondary and project partners Dr. Alberto Stolfi of NYU, Dr. Kathleen Nolan of St. Francis College, Dr. Michael Judge of Manhattan College, Maura Smotrich of CIVITAS, the Hudson River Foundation, the Department of Environmental Conservation, the Environmental Defense Fund, the New York Harbor Foundation, and the New York Harbor School for their ongoing commitment to our budding Marine Biology Research scholars. Go New York Harbor School marine science!

NY Harbor SEALS citizen science team.
NY Harbor SEALS citizen science team.

NY Harbor SEALs Quality Assurance Project Plan. 

Download (PDF, Unknown)

SEALS/CIVITAS training session
SEALS/CIVITAS training session

Harbor Seals Retake New York Harbor

Harbor seal on a Governors Island dock in February 2015. Credit Ketelyn Fong, Class of 2015, NYHS.
Harbor seal on a Governors Island dock in February, 2015. Credit: Ketelyn Fong, Class of 2015, NYHS.

On one cold afternoon in February during the harsh winter of 2014 a harbor seal climbed on to a dock at Governors Island, NYC. This top consumer of the food chain has now been spotted in several sites along Manhattan Island recently. These are critical events that indirectly or directly, depending on your point of view, reveal that our waters have steadily improved since the passing of the Clean Water Act in 1972. It’s also fitting that the seal revealed itself to us on the last year of our Harbor SEALs / EPA Citizen Science Water Quality Monitoring of the Lower Hudson River Estuary. As we close this important chapter of our work, harbor seal on dock, we’re preparing for our next big project. We’ll now be focusing on creating a baseline study and monitor the effects of different construction materials on the East River. This new project, in partnership with the East Side non-profit community group, CIVITAS, is being run to inform the reconstruction of the East River Esplanade and continue our efforts to restore the harbor seal’s habitat around NYC. Please find an opportunity to read our Final EPA Citizen Science Water Quality Report and visit our webpage. Here’s to the return of the harbor seal!

Harbor SEALs Citizen Science Team's last sampling day of the Water Quality of the Lower Hudson River Estuary.
Harbor SEALs Citizen Science Team’s last sampling day of the Water Quality of the Lower Hudson River Estuary.

Marine Biology Research 2013 Fall Semester in Review

...after a long day's fieldwork...
…after a long day’s fieldwork…

The 2013 Fall semester at the Marine Biology Research and Harbor SEALs Programs has been full of progress. Starting with the generous support of our scholars, we were able to move our lab to the Marine Science room in 3 days. On October 12 we set off to restore eel grass at Brooklyn Pier’s Park with our team leader, Nicolle. Continue reading Marine Biology Research 2013 Fall Semester in Review

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

SEALs End-of-World (2012) Bash

On Wednesday, December 19th, the Harbor SEALs celebrated the end of the year with a feast. The energy was high as SEALs poured in with food and gifts to share in what some were saying would be our last SEALs event due to the Mayan end-of-world event;) The upper class people took possession of the stereo and had a 15 minute mini dance in the corner of the room. How they figured out to plug in their Ipods was beyond me. When it was time for the meal, students made a line that wrapped around the room. Anita made barbecue chicken that was finger lickin’ good. By far, it was the most popular plate. Ray commented, “I need to learn this recipe!.” After the meal we exchanged Secret Santa gifts. Emphasis was placed, however, on the fact that we were all together sharing as one united community of Harbor SEALs and friends. A big thank you goes out to Stephanie and Tony for the spirit and idea of putting this event together; Anita for taking charge of serving and hugs; and all those who showed great holiday spirit – Rachel’s gift idea (coal in sack) takes the best prize for creativity! For more, click here.

Harbor SEALs end-of-2012 bash.
Harbor SEALs and friends end-of-2012 bash.

Harbor SEALs @ Black Rock Forest

Harbor SEAL seniors celebrate on a peak overlooking Black Rock Forest

This weekend, the Harbor SEALs trekked up to Black Rock Forest in Cornwall, New York to complete a one day ecology workshop sponsored by a Toyota Grant. We monitored the physical-chemical parameters of Cascade Brook and determined the health of this pristine ecosystem. With chemical and biological sampling gear in hand, we took a roller coaster-type ride up to the Brook on pick up trucks and got to work early Saturday morning. The SEALs team were able to determine that, although the Brook’s waters are pristine, it’s not immune to the effects of acid rain. We found pH values of around 5 to 6 units. Surveying the vertebrates and macroinvertebrates, the SEALs determined that the Brook has Type II organisms that are semi-tolerant to pollutants and thus are experiencing some stress. It wasn’t all work though as the team celebrated Ameena’s 17th birthday, hiked up to one of the Forest’s peeks, played board games, and delightfully cooperated in preparing meals. Thanks Rebecca and all for a great time! (For more pictures, click here: IMAGO)

For using benthic macro-invertebrates for water quality go to the EPA’s and PBS’s websites: http://www.epa.gov/bioiweb1/html/benthosclean.htmlhttp://www.pbs.org/teachers/ecoinvestigators/lesson-plans/freshwater/creepy-crawly-water-quality/

Harbor SEALs at the 40th Anniversary of the Clean Water Act

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.

Ameena and Anita of the EPA at 290 Broadway – EPA’s headquarters in Manhattan.

Click below for Ameena’s speech:

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