Greetings MBRP PAC, colleagues, family, and friends,
Happy summer solstice! Just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, this school year was a blast! Last year I had a wonderful group of scholars. But this year, my graduating seniors took things to the next level! This group is especially important because they bore the brunt of COVID lockdown as they started the program virtually and, ironically, had their last day of class a week ago virtually due to the forest fire school closing! Thank you to our MBRP parents Koko, Edward Smith, Angelic Martinez, PTA President Amy Koza & PTA crew, admins Jeff & Jackye, teacher Aliyah, custodian Goran, Benny, and Eric, lab techs Bhatti, Nick, Sergio, and Scott, our generous donors Con Edison’s Joshua Crespo, Jeffrey Gural, Jim Tripp, Econcrete Tech’s Ido Sella, Compliance Solution’s Jeff Kline, among many others, BOP Senior VP Matthew Haiken, our post-secondary and industry partners Henry Bokuniewicz, Jim Lodge, Rosana Pedra Nobre, Karen Holmberg, Marisa DeDominicis, Matthew Winchell, the DOE CTE staff Karen Koch & Kendell Samlal, our wonderful senior mentors Arlo Kane, Anna Sheehan, Julia Purrazzella, Sebastian Koko, and Jaylen Boyce, our senior trip leaders Megan, Soua, Trinity, Maribell, Diego, Sergio, our up-and-coming leader Sara Guevara-Martinez, and, last but not least, our parent-turned-Harbor School superstar, Nan Richardson. Vaya con Bios! And thanks to my wife and family for all your enduring support and patience. Thank you all again for making this one of my best years in the business.
General: The most important update is that most of my seniors will be getting the CTE stamp of excellence. I’m so proud of all their accomplishments. Another important update is that one of our alumni, Nicholas Ring, was hired to assist in lab tech and research work for the MBRP. Working side-by-side with him has also been a pleasure. It makes such a big difference to work with someone that knows the culture of the program and the rigors of research. There were so many times where we were able to read each other’s cues and know what to do next without having to say anything. Now that’s teamwork! We were also supported by 2 interns, Sergio Mallo and Scott Sugg Jr. I’ve never had this much support in my 21 years of teaching. I can now say that the MBRP lab is under control after COVID sent us for a spin.
Next, our program completed an arduous 5-year recertification process. I spent months compiling data, writing reports, answering prompts, and getting audited in order to recertify the program for the next 5 years. This year was also the year where the host organization for the New York Climate Exchange Center was announced. SUNY Stony Brook, my alma mater, will be spearheading the center on Governors Island. I’ve already begun the planning process to establish the courses that will count as dual enrollment in order for students to obtain up to 16 college credits on climate research and internship work. This will up the total to 22 college credits that students will become eligible for through the MBRP. This is the most credits of any program in the country.
We were able to implement our curricular updates. MBRP10 worked on monitoring phys-chem in the harbor and learning the basics of lab/field ecology. MBRP11 monitored and compared plankton populations with microplastics in the harbor while maintaining the recirculating aquaculture systems in the lab. MBRP12 built and deployed a new biodiversity experiment off of Yankee Pier, NYC. All their data was checked for quality following an EPA approved Quality Assurance Project Plan and is publicly available here. And, finally, after 15 years in the making, I was able to take my seniors on an international science excursion to Cuba! Vaya con Bios!
MBRP12 Accomplishments: 18 of 19 students worked over 3,500 hours in internships and service learning projects. That’s over USD 52,000 earned. All 19 scholars earned at least one industry recognized credential in Lab Safety, Chemical Safety, and/or Financial Management. 12 of 19 scholars earned 54 college credits in Natural Resources Management and/or Oceanography. 16 of 19 scholars earned the CTE Certification on their diplomas. All 19 scholars completed their online ePortfolios which can be seen here. Our seniors built and deployed Econcrete experiments at Yankee Pier to test for its effects on benthic biodiversity. We also traveled to Cuba with this great class of scholars. Pictures of our excursion are below this post. Lastly, the top three scorers in this year’s mini-symposium were Anna Sheehan (100), Jaylen Boyce (98), and Julia Purrazzella (95).
MBRP11 Accomplishments: 13 of our 14 scholars earned at least one industry recognized credential in Lab Safety and Chemical Safety. Their biggest accomplishment, however, was stabilizing their Recirculating Aquaculture Systems (RAS) after a die-off during the summer. Our scholars monitored and adjusted pH, salinity, nutrients, electrical conductivity, temperature, among other parameters. They repaired ultra violet filtration lamps, installed grow lights and automatic feeders. They maintained sumps, pumps, skimmers, pipes, hoses, valves, etc. They also led two field sampling runs to compare the relative concentrations of plankton and microplastics. 7 scholars led this initiative as part of a “Work Place Challenge” under the auspices of the Hudson River Foundation. This involved the formulation of a project plan, gathering of materials, a field sampling run, lab processing of samples, data analysis, and a final presentation to stakeholders. Lastly, the top three scorers in this year’s mini-symposium were: The WPC Team (95) composed of Brenda Genaro, Madison O’Brien, Nayan Smith, Christopher Tranchina, Elias Litman, Josiah Taylor, and Mark Garcia (95). The next projects were Olivia Eliseo (83) and Lucas Fernandez (83).
MBRP10 Accomplishments: The first word that comes to mind when I think of the 10th grade is “Leadership.” These young scholars were incredibly self motivated and smart. They have brought our science work to a whole new level. From learning the basics of science in the lab, to leading near flawless physical-chemical sampling of the Harbor, to data management & quality assurance, to learning their knots, this group of young scholars excelled at every step along the way. Lastly, the top three scorers in this year’s mini-symposium were Sara Guevara-Martinez (97), Omisha Hossain (95), Emilio Munoz-Levine (95), and Oliver Palmgren (95).
SEALs after school program: Our SEALs scholars continued their critical work recovering and quantifying marine debris from the rip rap surrounding Governors Island. This involved over 30 days of lab and field work, processing debris, managing data on complex data tables, updating stakeholders through social media, submitted project updates to our sponsor, ConEdison, digitizing data and making it publicly available; completing a final report, and submitting a new grant proposal for next year. The SEALs were invited to present their work to the king of the Netherlands and the United Nations for World Water Week. Our scholars continued working on their marine debris exhibit created in partnership with NYU. You can find the Cube outside of the school building by the lab along the road. I’m so proud of our scholars. Not only for giving back to their community and trying to restore our harbor so that our marine biodiversity can one day thrive along our coasts but for all the leadership they took to organize themselves and the program. They are now a truly self-organized and led program. This year they were showcased in the media.
Greetings MBRP PAC, colleagues, family, and friends,
Happy start of the summer! What a year! In my 20+ years of teaching I have not felt as much joy and satisfaction teaching as I did this year. Sure, the year had its challenges but on the whole it was a good year with many successes and a wonderful group of scholars! This year they were my heroines and heroes!
General: This last school year was a transition year back to in-person learning and adjusting to the fall-out of COVID. Our scholars needed a little extra support dealing with academics and adjusting to a new social/global context. (So did we, the adults, if I’m being honest.) The latter had on the balance a positive outcome, whereas the former was more of a challenge. Although students were eager to return and learn, I noticed that some of our seniors struggled with the more intense parts of the research process. Extra time was needed for most assignments that involved producing reports and analyzing data. Despite these obstacles, most of our scholars were able to complete their final projects and the ones who didn’t still put up a good fight to get to the finish line!
Engaging Students in Learning: We were able to accomplish this by scaffolding the research process carefully. This involved breaking up the research process into various stages that students would perform. The initial phases of research included: learning sampling techniques and writing down procedures before doing field work; compiling field data and digitizing them; looking at the data and beginning to ask questions about patterns they observed; performing a literature review and reading background information; starting to put together a presentation of their literature review; and then processing the data to graph. The next phase involved assessing the scholars’ work thus far: students were evaluated using assessment in instruction from three research rubrics borrowed from SUNY Albany’s UHS Research Program and the New York Science and Engineering Fair; they also peer reviewed numerous times in order to assess themselves and improve their performance; they could then refine their presentations and add new elements to their research based on the feedback from these numerous, varied and rigorous assessments. The final stage involved project results: after another peer reviewed session, students proceeded to add analyses and conclusions to their work, and then defend their projects before their peers and the instructor. This scaffolding process allowed for them to take intellectual risks as evidenced by the numerous and unique questions that were asked based off of our data set. In spite of using the same data set, working interdependently, and investigating a single research topic, no two students had the same project! Never in my entire teaching career have I seen students better prepared or more confident to present as they were this year. The high level of respect and rapport we had with each other, and the degree of accountability we held each other to, created the atmosphere needed to stand in front of an audience and speak impactfully for 5 -15 minutes. The peer review process also helped generate trust for each other (i.e. we always started our feedback celebrating a positive quality and then moved on to constructive criticism). Lastly, my questioning and discussion techniques help students dig deeper into their research while also creating an environment of exploration and excellence. My best classes are those in which students are challenging each other based on the same questioning and discussion techniques which they learned during class. I would have to say that despite the challenges of returning to in-person learning after a year and a half, and continued COVID disruptions, this was one of my most highly effective years as a teacher!
Senior accomplishments: 100% of our seniors passed the written final exam; over 1000 hours of internship hours were worked for the Hudson River Foundation – a school CTE high for the year; 14 of our 20 seniors received the CTE endorsement on their diploma; and many of our seniors received college credit in natural resources management, oceanography, and research. This year’s valedictorian and salutatorian were from our program as has mostly been the case for the last several years. Below I share their presentations and publicly available data on plankton, microplastics, oyster restoration, and Randall’s Island fish monitoring:
Junior accomplishments: Our juniors had a really busy year. From managing two major plankton-microplastics excursions aboard the Indy 7 to maintaining 6 major recirculating aquaculture systems, to managing and digitizing data, getting certified in lab and chemical safety, interning for the Hudson River Foundation, and perfecting their job seeking skills with a mock interview and resume building sessions offered by our wonderful parents Koko and Nan Richardson, they didn’t skip a beat. Below I share their culminating projects:
Sophomore accomplishments: Our sophomores were able to complete much-needed Social Emotional Learning modules on EverFi, an online education company that we’ve partnered with for several years now. Next, they were able to sample plankton and microplastics using the Beta-bottle and Sedgewick-Rafter Cell technique. After that, they learned data management and processing techniques while beginning to formulate an interdependent project. In between this step and presenting their projects using the MBRP’s proven Project Management process, they were able to begin training and sampling for physical-chemical properties of the NY Harbor.
SEALs after school program: Our SEALs scholars were very high-achieving this year. They successfully completed their project to recover marine debris from the rip rap surrounding Governors Island. They also updated project stakeholders using social media; submitted project updates to our sponsor, ConEdison; uploaded their data to this website to make it publicly available; completed a final report of their findings; and submitted a new grant proposal for next year. Lastly, we created an exhibit with some of the debris we recovered which you can find outside of the school building by the lab. We’ll be working with NYU to further build out the exhibit in September. In case you’ve gotten this far in this blog post, you’d also be interested to know that the SEALs were almost 100% student led this year! I’m so proud of these scholar interns, I wish you could’ve been there to see their work. But happily they were showcased in a documentary and a newspaper article which you can view below.
Changes: As you may have noticed, we didn’t run a large marine science symposium this year. Instead, we had a smaller in class symposium where students presented their projects to each other and practiced those critical public speaking skills. The reasons for the change were 01) our students struggled with their academic and social emotional needs so taking off a layer of stress was crucial, and 02) we don’t have the necessary school supports in place to run it effectively without burnout on my part. We’re in the process of trying to get support from other science teachers or propose running a CTE-wide exposition to replace the symposium. Secondly, we didn’t offer college credit in science research this year. With too many students on the roster and a wide array of abilities & needs, something had to give. Unfortunately it was the independent research I so dearly love to do. However, as you may have gathered from the above descriptions, we’ve transitioned to interdependent projects. We’re now focusing on 3 topics by grade: physical-chemical analysis of the Harbor for 10th graders, plankton/microplastics monitoring for 11th graders; and biodiversity on settlement plates, traps, and benthic grab studies for our 12th graders. Once we collect our data, students in groups can ask questions about them and build out a project interdependently. This model has proven very successful this year!
Next steps: We’ll be applying for State re-certification in June 2023. We’ll be calling together a PAC meeting in January 2023 to discuss curriculum and internships. We’ll also be reaching out to some of you to renew articulation agreements. Please stay tuned for that important ask!
Growing and Developing Professionally: I have obtained an administrator’s license and plan in the future to move into a leadership role. Although exciting, I’m taking baby steps in order to balance out my health needs and this potential opportunity. The lead-up to this was a two-year post master’s degree in school and district leadership. My final project on workplace bullying was published in a peer-reviewed education journal and can be found below. It was only one of four papers published from the whole graduating class. Next, I was able to partner up with Rob Markuske to pull together a work group composed of students and staff to begin creating a vision for a future partnership between NYHS and the game-changing Center for Climate Solutions scheduled to open on Governors Island in the near future.
Thank you to our leader scholars for all their support with all aspects of the program! Aelish Mullaney, Marifer Sanchez-Gaspar, Maddie Novatt, Nick Pabotoy, Nick Dilella, Giovanni Nunez, Anna Sheehan, Jaylen Boyce, Julia Purrazzella, Sebastian Koko, Arlo Kane, Isaac Castillo, Nino Mazzola, Sara Guevara and the dozens of others in the MBRP. You’ve made this school year a wonderful one! Thank you to the parents, especially Koko and Nan Richardson, for their tireless support. Thank you to all the NYHS and MBRP parents for your donations, lab support, and words of encouragement throughout the year. Thank you to our internship partner, Jim Lodge from the Hudson River Foundation. Thank you to the office of Post-Secondary Readiness, Omari Gay, Florence Dennis, and the rest of the crew. Thank you to our many industry & post-secondary partners, and sponsor organizations who supported us this year: Marisa DeDominicis, Karen Holmberg, Rachael Miller, Joshua Crespo, Matthew Haiken, Zofia Baumann, Jackie Wu, Helene Hetrick, Mollie McGinnis, Melanie Smith, David Park, Billion Oyster Project, Con Edison, EverFi, Compliance Solutions, NOCTI, Earth Matter, Rozalia Project, Governors Island Trust, Hudson River Foundation, Randall’s Island Park Alliance, ESRI, SUNY Stony Brook, Bronx Community College, Borough of Manhattan Community College, Manhattan College, Roger Williams University, UCONN, LES Ecology Center, NYC Department of Education – New York Harbor School, and all our PAC members. And last but not least, thank you to my wife and family for all your support.
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.
View an article of them in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle here.
Million thanks to our partners and sponsors: Billion Oyster Project, Rozalia Project, Con Edison, Earth Matter, Governors Island Trust, Hudson River Foundation, LES Ecology Center, & NYC Department of Education – New York Harbor School.
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 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.
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).
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The 2017 – 2018 school year marks the Marine Biology Research Program’s (MBRP) seventh year of operation and fifth year as a New York State Education Department (NYSED) certified program. This year we’re up for NYSED re-certification and it would be fitting to highlight the achievements of just the last six months with some stats. At the close of our last semester 80% of our students obtained the Career and Technical Education endorsement on their high school diplomas; sixty-four college credits were awarded; seventeen paid internships with over 1200 hours were worked as science consultants with our partners at CIVITAS Citizens, NYU, and Earth Matter; two of our three Geographic Information Systems scholars were the first in New York State to be certified in Digital Quest’s SPACE program; and 100% of our marine research scholars passed the industry assessment: NOCTI’s Natural Resources Systems Management. Most of these achievements are school bests.
This year we were able to secure critical lab equipment that were in the plans for over five years. Among these were genetics gear to barcode the marine organisms of the Harbor, stereoscopes to study and identify these same organisms, updated laptops to run our GIS curriculum & complete our long-term research projects, and dedicated table tops to calibrate YSI meters.
Our Senior Project Managers, Nailea Rodriguez and Nicholas Ring (Class of ’18), together with our twenty-five Harbor SEALs Citizen Science after school program team members are near completing PHASE TWO of their work for CIVITAS Citizens. This year’s work has been the best on record in terms of planning, communication, operations, data management, and report writing. Our Junior project manager and Operations analyst, Lauren Salitan and Cyd Bloomfield (Class of ’19), have led near flawless sampling runs up the East/Harlem River. For more images of our sampling on the East/Harlem River click here.
Our professional Advisory Committee met on 6 December to meet our seniors and convene as our Scientific Review Board. Every year our partners come together to review new project proposals and research drafts. It can never be stressed quite enough how the PAC’s level of commitment to the MBRP has elevated the quality of the work we do. For more images and information on our 2017 PAC please click here.
This year we’d like to highlight two of our partners: Bronx Community College (BCC) and ConEdison. BCC and its Chemistry Department Chair, Dr. Neal Phillip, donated a professional grade weather station and ten high-volume printers to the New York Harbor School-BOP and have agreed to sign a five-year articulation agreement between our GIS labs. ConEdison, under the representation of Michael Kessler and Michael Porto, has renewed a grant to perform lab experiments on contaminants found in the Harbor and their effects on oyster larval development. On 15 December, ConEdison’s Andrew Simpson gave us an exclusive tour of their world-renowned education facility located in Long Island City. Thirteen of our scholars got the inside scoop behind ConEdison’s techniques to maintain the largest underground power grid on the planet. They also gave our scholars a perspective on careers offered, and priceless advice on adapting to the ever changing world of work, namely, “learning how to learn.” For more images of the tour click here.
Starting July of 2017, Liz Burmester joined the MBRP family as our very own BOP Professional. She comes to us with expert training in community ecology after having finished her doctoral work at Boston University. She’s passionate about science and education. Her doctoral thesis was on a temperate coral species and its recovery based on biological and environmental conditions. She has also taught at the New England Aquarium and mentored many undergraduates. Because of these experiences, she has enhanced the quality of our research at the MBRP. Specifically, she has personally met with all our scholars and reviewed their project proposals and drafts. She’s also brought a fresh perspective on the complex world of secondary education. We are grateful to have her as our newest team member.
Lastly, as is our tradition every year, on 22 November we celebrated our SEALs-giving meal together. It was exciting to see our alumni interacting with our youngest members and sharing their best experiences in the Program. My favorite stories dealt with the countless times we had to go out and sample in Manhattan’s sub-freezing winter weather or having to run to the ferry – to the school – to incubate bacteria, clean up, and get back on the last ferry in less than forty-five minutes! For more images of our celebration click here.
Thanks for all your support! The MBRPers and SEALs family would like to wish you a HARBOR NEW YEAR!
The 2016-2017 school year has been one of the most successful for the students of the Marine Biology Research Program. This year our scholars completed phase one of the CIVITAS-NYHS East River Esplanade baseline study. To see our students in action click here. Next, with over half a million students in NYC high schools, five-hundred fifty that apply 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 two scholars selected for the Second Award in the category of Environmental Science. In total we had a School record breaking high of five students who competed this year.
Considering that the Urban Assembly New York Harbor School is an un-screened school and that we’re going up against the top screened public science and private schools in the city (i.e. Bronx Science, Brooklyn Tech, Townsend Harris, etc.) this accomplishment is impressive to say the least. Four out of the five that competed were female which are all planning on pursuing a career in STEM; one was an ex-English Language Learner; and one had an Individualized Education Plan. This is testament to what can happen with dedication, team work, and, most importantly, believing that all students can excel when given the opportunity and the right environment.
One of the most important objectives of the Marine Biology Research Program is to empower students to make a difference in their communities through the research they complete over a three year period. This year they were the stars of the CIVITAS Citizens benefit where philanthropists donated thousands of dollars to the cause of improving the Upper East and East Harlem neighborhoods during their annual benefit at Sothebys on the Upper East Side, NYC.
ConEdison continues to be one of our most active Professional Advisory Committee members. This semester they carried out a Career Management workshop where several of their star employees came to speak to our students about career readiness and opportunites at their company. They spoke about how many companies are willing to train students and even help to pay for their continuing education who meet a minimum of Transferable skills (i.e. team work, timeliness, problem solving), basic tool handling skills (i.e. knowing the difference between a Phillips and flat head screw driver to basic arithmetic and algebra), and who pass a basic entry level assessment.
Career readiness also requires a workforce that knows and fights for their rights. On April 22nd, our scholars planned a trip to Washington DC to march for Science. In today’s political climate where critical scientific evidence for climate change is being deleted from Federal databases and websites, our scholars weathered the rain with signs in hand and marched in front of the Washington Monument and the White House.
Our after school Citizen Science team, the NYHS Harbor SEALs, has been hard at work monitoring the Hudson-Raritan Estuary. Most of the research that comes out of our lab is made possible by the effort and dedication of these young scholars. Typically composed of sophomores through seniors, this year we had a strong representation of freshmen who were stellar. Jacqueline Obermayer worked with 10th grade research scholar Cyd Bloomfield using genetic barcoding techniques to determine the species richness of Buttermilk Channel. Jonah Florholmen Boum was an integral part of Team Phys-Chem and is a candidate for our Data Analyst position next school year. Maddie Dominguez has also been an integral part of Team Phys-Chem.
Last week, May 17, we celebrated our 6th Annual Marine Science Symposium at the New York Harbor School. We had over 45 projects on display and over 30 volunteers from various industry and post-secondary institutions help judge. The highlight this year was the large number of volunteers who were former NYHS-MBRP alumni. Click here to view the Symposium Booklet with the complete list of volunteers, senior autobiographies, project titles, and Symposium results. Go New York Harbor School Marine Science!
To allow my students to struggle and flourish is one of the main goals I strive for as a marine research teacher. This year’s MBRP senior scholars completely embody this way. I have witnessed a remarkable group of youngsters, now young adults, start off as rebellious schooled children and end off self-reliant and self-directed young adults ready for their open-ended futures. There is nothing more satisfying than this as an educator. These remarkable group of folks have managed to complete a comprehensive baseline study of the marine natural resources of the Harlem/East River and will be the first group in our program to be ready to take the Geographic Information Systems SPACE certification assessment.
Seeing these students work together to learn technical skills, content knowledge, project management skills, and leadership skills to complete their long term research has been remarkable to say the least. Some of the technical skills they developed along the way were methods to study benthos, plankton, physical-chemistry, and biodiversity using genetic barcoding. Melanie Smith, Cindy Isidoro, and Grace Carter managed over twenty-five (25) volunteers at any given point throughout their two year study. They weren’t timid to pull up sediment from the bottom of the Harlem River to look for signs of life. Their love for living things drove them to respectfully sieve through bucket fulls of mud brought up with their Ekman grab. You can find most of their data here. Stay tuned for a complete report to be published by the end of the month.
To manage, process, and represent the extensive data sets generated by our four teams we needed an impeccable analytical mind found in the person of Erik Wiemer, Project Data Analyst. Erik single-handily created a data management system and work flow that is now the backbone of the Harbor SEALs environmental monitoring system. All this work couldn’t be accomplished without the dedication of our team captains and field technicians. Katha Conklin (Phytoplankton Team Captain) and Jared Rosin (Field Technician) led their smaller groups on various field excursions that started often at seven in the morning and sometimes ending at dusk, rain or shine. These tenacious young scientists were the bedrock from which reliable data could be guaranteed.
Gearing up for Geographic Information Systems certification are Kaila Scott, Bella Valentin, and Mariah Gathers. These students will be the first to attempt this feat in June. Their dedication and commitment has been inspiring. They have me on the trot keeping up with their progress as they blaze through the curriculum. These scholars are pioneering the last major component of the Marine Biology Research Program which is to ultimately map the data our teams are gathering.
Yesterday our MBRP seniors learned of the results of their New York City Science and Engineering Fair competition. Seeing our scholars on stage with the City’s most promising young scientists was an appropriate milestone highlighting the fruits of the struggle we began with in this story. The culture of science excellence in our Program and the school at large is finally beginning to blossom and flourish. 2017 MBRP Scholars, you’ll be missed. A heartfelt thank you to all family, friends, post-secondary and industry partners for your continued support. Look out INTEL here we come!
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.”
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).
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.
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.
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.
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!
You’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: firstname.lastname@example.org
Civic Scientist Environmental Monitoring of the Hudson-Raritan Estuary