Rare Human Species Sighted in the NYC Metro Area!

By Paula Zevin

Stop the presses! This is major news and must be reported on the spot!

It seems that the workshops held at EPA Region 2’s New York City Headquarters and at the Edison Environmental Center in New Jersey on June 19 and 20, 2012 respectively, have lead to sightings of an elusive human species: homo sapiens civis naturalis.

Homo sapiens civis naturalis

In laymen’s language this would be the Citizen Scientist. Yes, we knew that they were out there, performing such valuable work as mapping local waterways, monitoring for indoor air quality, assessing bacteria in the Hudson River or the water quality of Pompeston Creek in southern New Jersey, and educating at-risk communities about pollutants in their midst and how to improve conditions. Moreover, they seem to have found their ways into cities and suburbs in equal measure.

The Citizen Science workshops, the very first ones to be sponsored by EPA Region 2 and held under the aegis of our Regional Administrator, Judith Enck, and of the Director of the Division of Environmental Science and Assessment, Deb Szaro, were an unequivocal success. The agenda featured similar tracks for both the City and Edison sessions: on what to consider when starting a volunteer monitoring group, success stories for groups monitoring the air, water and habitat in New York and New Jersey, information on funding, academic/state government partnerships with non-profit organizations, data use by States and data interpretation, an intro to Quality Assurance, tools of the future and instrument and web tools demos. Conference feedback has been very positive and we have learned a few valuable lessons for the future of these workshops. More information will become available in the near future on a new web site specifically dedicated to Citizen Science, on Region 2’s social media outlets (Facebook, Twitter, this blog), and through a Wiki. If anyone is interested in finding out more about this topic, please contact Pat Sheridan (sheridan.patricia@epa.gov).

How, do you ask, did we manage to lure h.sapiens civis naturalis out into the open and into our workshops? Well, studies have shown that this elusive species is very attracted to a food group collectively known as MAGIC BARS.

Amazing, isn’t it? This delicious food group boasts a large number of recipes with variations on the same, delectable ingredients: shredded coconut, chocolate chips, roasted or toasted chopped nuts, sweet condensed milk and a buttery crust to hold everything together. It appears that Deb’s recipe is irresistible to most, if not all h.sapiens civis naturalis and the siren song of those lovely morsels brought out the best in them. I’m pretty sure that there are a few secret specimens within the ranks of EPA, State and Local Governments, as well as in academia, because there were a couple of near-fights over who got corners or the last pieces.

Fortunately, all is well that ends well. Civility prevailed and with the assurance of future events, featuring interesting topics and Deb’s Magic Bars, the two days concluded peacefully. If you’d like to conduct your own anthropological or scientific studies, let us know, we will share the super-secret recipe with you. Hush, just don’t tell anyone else…

About the author: Paula Zevin is currently an Environmental Engineer in the Division of Environmental Science and Assessment at the Edison Environmental Center. Her work is centered on the technical and programmatic aspects of ambient water monitoring. She is also the volunteer water monitoring coordinator for EPA Region 2. Paula has been with EPA since 1991, and has worked in the chemical, pharmaceutical, textile and cosmetic industries prior to joining EPA.