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Citizen Science Pathogen Monitoring in the NY/NJ Harbor Estuary Watershed

2014 August 4

By Jim Ferretti

NY/NJ Baykeeper Lab

NY/NJ Baykeeper Lab

What’s the deal with bacteria?
Bacteria (along with soil erosion/runoff, and nutrients including nitrogen and phosphorus) are the leading types of pollution in our nation’s waterways. Pathogenic, or disease-causing  microorganisms are associated with fecal waste and can cause a variety of diseases (typhoid, cholera, Cryptosporosis, etc) either through ingestion/contact with contaminated water or ingestion of shellfish. Not all bacteria are harmful (yogurt contains live bacteria cultures), but the presence of some indicator bacteria such as fecal coliforms and enterococci are a clue that potentially more harmful bacteria and viruses may be present in the water as well.

There are many different types of general pathogens that are dangerous to humans, including bacteria, viruses, and protozoa. Measuring all of these potential harmful organisms is not practical, cost effective, and measuring methods are often complicated. Instead, specific surrogate bacteria (i.e., Fecal Coliforms, E. coli, and Enterococcus sp) that can be cultured or detected easily and can be related to the risk of human illness are used as “indicator” bacteria, because their presence indicates that fecal contamination may have occurred. The higher the number of indicator bacteria would increase the risk of finding increasingly more harmful assemblages of more harmful types of organisms in the water.

Common sources of bacteria in surface waters are from combined sewers (which can overflow in a rainstorm and dump untreated sewage directly into our waters) and runoff of animal waste (including wild animal droppings) from farmland and city streets. 

Indicator Bacteria and Citizen Science
During the summer months, bacteria concentrations are measured at least once a week at most of our New Jersey and New York bathing beaches. There are many other waterways that are used for boating, fishing and even swimming that are also susceptible to bacterial contamination. Citizen scientists offer a great resource to fill data gaps, produce data that will be usable by the states for assessment purposes, engage their community and raise awareness of potential environmental issues.

There are a few common types of laboratory tests that are performed to measure bacteria, such as growing them on a filter, growing them in test tubes, or growing them in special trays until a color endpoint is observed. Many of these tests are outside the technical expertise of many citizen science groups.

Site Map of the NY/NJ Harbor Watershed Area used for the Citizen Science Pathogen Study

Site Map of the NY/NJ Harbor Watershed Area used for the Citizen Science Pathogen Study

The EPA has been involved in Citizen Science since 1988 (formally called Volunteer Monitoring). The number of Citizen Science groups across the nation and particularly in our region has risen sharply in recent years. In an effort to empower citizens in their community through collection of high quality data, the EPA has recently been involved in a technical role in a Citizen Science Pathogen (Bacteria) Study involving two citizen science groups from New York (Bronx River Alliance and Sparkill Creek Watershed Alliance) and two from New Jersey (Friends of the Bonsal Preserve and the NY/NJ Baykeeper). The goal of this grant based program from the Harbor Estuary Program and administered through the New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission was to train citizen science groups, assist them in preparation of a Quality Assurance Project Plan (QAPP) or a plan that details all facets of their study, provide equipment and testing guidance manuals, perform on-site lab and field assessments, and provide a means to enter data into the national water quality data repository, WQX (formerly STORET).

Citizen Science Equipment Loan Program
Not only is this project important to the communities that are involved, this effort has provided the framework for future citizen science groups to conduct similar projects. Citizen scientists and communities may use the existing Quality Assurance Project Plan, Field and Lab Data Sheets, Excel spreadsheets for reporting, and technical guidance documents for sampling and analysis from this project that can be readily modified to fit their own pathogen monitoring program.

Another major hurdle for many citizen based science groups is the cost of equipment needed to collect the data. The cost for the lab equipment for a group to start a pathogen and water quality program similar to the one describe here is approximately $10,000. This cost is prohibitive to many citizen science groups so EPA is in the process of establishing an equipment loan program. The equipment loan program will offer citizen science organizations the opportunity to conduct water quality and/or pathogen studies with the benefit of borrowing on a short term basis (three to four months) lab equipment (incubators and sealers) and field equipment (water quality parameter meters and GPS units) plus the available technical documents (QAPP, testing guidance, and datasheets). Minus the cost of equipment, the actual per test cost for measuring bacteria is approximately $5-6 per sample. 

So, prepare your QAPP, enroll in the equipment loan program, and have your group get out there and monitor!

About the Author: Jim Ferretti is a team leader for the Sanitary Chemistry and Biology Team for the Laboratory Branch in the EPA’s Division of Environmental Science and Assessment. He has a Master’s Degree in Environmental Science from Rutgers University and a BS Degree in Water Analysis Technology from California University of PA. Jim has a diversified background in environmental studies and biological laboratory testing. He has been employed at the EPA since 1990, starting out in the water program in headquarters and moving to New Jersey in 1992.

 

 

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Ecofriendly Weekend Activities

2014 July 31

Don’t let the chance of rain dampen your summer weekend fun! Get out and enjoy our urban nature at one of these ecofriendly events.

Art Ride! Guided Bicycle Tour of Rockaway! Exhibit at Fort Tilden: Go on an exciting, interactive bicycle tour that allows participants to explore select sites of environmental and historical significance along the Rockaway Peninsula, followed by a free guided tour of the Rockaway! arts festival. Rockaway Waterfront, Sunday, August 3rd, 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Central Park Moonlight Ride: Take a relaxing nighttime sojourn through Central Park highlighting its beautiful ponds, waterways, vistas, and structures by moonlight. Central Park, Friday, August 1st, 10 p.m.

Firefly Pajama Party: Your kids will have the chance to learn about fireflies in a light-hearted and playful atmosphere as they try to catch (and then release!) the last fireflies of the season. Fort Tryon Park, Saturday, August 2nd, 7:30 p.m. to 8:15 p.m.

Fort Tilden Beach Cleanup: Learn about the variety of shore birds that make their home on our beaches as you provide vital cleanup to the areas where these protected birds, like oystercatchers and piping plovers, lay their eggs. Van transportation provided from Union Square. Fort Tilden Beach, Saturday, August 2nd, 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.

Great Hudson River Estuary Fish Count: Help New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation collect a variety of wriggly and fascinating creatures usually hidden below the surface of the water by counting their catch to provide data for annual wildlife monitoring. Various locations, Saturday, August 2nd, various start times.

Green Thumb Fall Planting and Season Extension Workshop: Learn how to make the most of your vegetable garden by extending the harvesting season into the winter months through utilizing simple planting techniques. Phoenix Community Garden, Saturday, August 2nd, 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Hindu Lamp Ceremony: Have a unique cultural experience at the park as you help acclaimed dancer Aeilushi Mistry bring peace and harmony to the shoreline as she performs the traditional Hindu Aarti Ceremony. Brooklyn Bridge Park, Saturday, August 2nd, 4 p.m.

Qualia Gardens Installation and Performance Art: Join Brooklyn-based art collective Leimay in an exploration of the garden space as a place of constant regeneration, rebirth and contemplation. Gil Hodges Community Garden, Friday, August 1st, 7 p.m.

Van Cortlandt Park Invasive Removal: Volunteer to remove invasive exotic vegetation to help maintain the livelihood of this restored forest. Volunteers will be trained in invasive weed identification and removal techniques. Van Cortlandt Park, Friday, August 1st, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Wildlife Theater from the Central Park Zoo: Inspire the little ones in your life to learn more and care more about our natural world through an interactive performance using drama, puppetry, games, and songs. Bloomingdale Park, Friday, August 1st, 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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The Folly of an Open Fire Hydrant

2014 July 28

By Elias Rodriguez

NYC now offers spray caps for a safe and legal way to play with the water from fire hydrants.

NYC now offers spray caps for a safe and legal way to play with the water from fire hydrants.

There were three public pools within walking distance of the Manhattan apartment where I grew up, but the long lines and adult supervision were a drag for an inner-city kid looking for fun and games. On sweltering, muggy days nothing was as attractive or exciting as the news that someone had (illegally!) opened a New York City fire hydrant in my neighborhood.

The most frequent location for this crime was a low traffic street where my school – closed for the summer – was located. Usually, some big looking kid sporting a mustache, would use some sort of special wrench to crank open the fire hydrant and word would quickly spread that our instant water park was open for mayhem. Ice cold plumes would rapidly flood the street sweeping kids along with dirt, cans, bottle caps, glass, and assorted debris towards the storm drain. An improvised device, usually a soup can opened at both ends, would serve to guide the high pressure cascade of water. Even as a precocious minor, I suspected this was wrong because everyone would skedaddle as soon as the police or fire department would show up to shut off the water.

Little did I comprehend that I was a juvenile accessory to delinquent behavior. With education and the benefit of several decades of maturity, I now realize that opening a fire hydrant is not just a serious crime, it’s irresponsible and puts people’s lives at risk. Water is a precious and limited resource.

An illegally opened fire hydrant lowers pressure that firefighters need in case of a fire. A single hydrant opened in this hazardous way can release over 1,000 gallons of water per minute. That’s enough wasted water to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool in less than half a day! Indeed, the pressure would topple most of us and injuries were common. This was a diversion at a cost that I did not appreciate at the time. The unauthorized opening of fire hydrants is harmful to our own communities. A further disincentive is the penalty. The perpetrator could face fines of up to $1,000 or imprisonment for up to 30 days.

There is no excuse to commit this offense. In fact, the City has an easy way for people to request the installation of a spray cap on a fire hydrant for a controlled release of water. Among the lessons here is to never underestimate the resourcefulness of a bored pre-teen male. Hopefully this blog entry will dissuade someone from the idea that opening a fire hydrant is a victimless crime.

About the Author: Elias serves as EPA Region 2’s bilingual public information officer. Prior to joining EPA, the proud Nuyorican worked at Time Inc. conducting research for TIME, LIFE, FORTUNE and PEOPLE magazines. He is a graduate of Hunter College, Baruch College and the Theological Institute of the Assembly of Christian Churches in NYC.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Upcoming Weekend Activities

2014 July 24

The end of July means the middle of summer in the city, so get out and enjoy all that NYC has to offer! Check out our sustainable activity suggestions and let us know if we missed something in the comments section.

EarthCapades Eco-educational Circus: Bring your kids to watch the amazing tricks and flips of this circus troupe as they teach ecological diversity, the inherent right for all species to live in a safe and healthy environment, and how your little ones can be a hero for our planet today. Sunday, July 27th, noon to 1 p.m.

They Will Surf Again: Adults and children with all forms of disabilities are invited to an adaptive surfing clinic on the beach for a thrilling, one-of-a-kind experience. Volunteer swimmers and lifeguards are also welcome. Rockaway Beach, Sunday, July 27th, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Birding Canoe Adventure: Intermediate canoers are invited to explore the Hutchison River Estuary and the Thomas Pell Wildlife Sanctuary on the eight-mile paddles as you learn to identify the birds making homes on the bay. Pelham Bay Park, Sunday, July 27th, 11 a.m.

Garden Pollinators Walk: Join the American Museum of Natural History in a walk as you observe local pollinators, from everyone’s favorites (like honeybees, bumblebees and butterflies) to those more often overlooked (like solitary bees, beetles and other native pollinators). Free admission to Wave Hill until noon. Wave Hill, Saturday, July 26th, 2 p.m. to 3 p.m.

Dragonflies Demystified: Bring your kids and your binoculars to learn about dragonflies and their special secrets, followed by a hike through the Greenbelt to let your little ones experience the colorful critters up close and personal. High Rock Park, Sunday, July 27th, 1 p.m.

Sandcastle Contest: Bring your bucket and tools to build sandcastles at this 20th annual contest with Urban Park Ranger activities and prizes for several age categories. Rockaway Beach, Sunday, July 27th, noon to 2 p.m.

Conservancy Garden Tour: Learn about the thousands of trees, flowers, shrubs, and perennials that decorate the Conservatory Garden from the horticulturalists who take care of this landmark within the Park. Central Park, Saturday, July 26th, 11 a.m. to noon.

Thunderbird American Indian Mid-summer PowWow: Enjoy a weekend of intertribal Native American dance competitions featuring 40 Indian Nations at the 317-year old Queens County Farm, the largest remaining tract of undisturbed farmland in the city. $10 for adults, $5 for children. Queens County Farm Apple Orchard, July 25th – 27th, various start times.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Upcoming Weekend Activities: NYC

2014 July 17

Rain is letting up for the weekend, so get out and enjoy all that NYC has to offer! Check out our sustainable activity suggestions and let us know if we missed something in the comments section.

Come Out and Play Festival: Make NYC your playground (literally!), as you play free unique games all day in the park. Separate adult- and family-friendly games available. Governors Island, Saturday, July 19th, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Family Camping: Make your dream of sleeping under both the stars and the city lights a reality as you dream the night away camping out in Central Park! Limited space available and pre-registration required. Central Park, Saturday, July 19th, 6 p.m.

Freshwater Fishing: Learn about the ecology of our waterways and the ethics of fishing as you discover nature by catch-and-release fishing with Urban Park Rangers. Willowbrook Park, Saturday, July 19th, 11 a.m.

Island Hopping Canoe Exploration: Experienced canoers are invited to explore the uninhabited islands surrounding Orchard Beach Estuary with Urban Park Rangers. Pelham Bay Park, Sunday, July 20th, 9 a.m.

National Moth Week: Stay up late and celebrate National Moth Week by spending a day at the museum with hands-on exhibitions and contemporary dancers, and then follow it with a night hike to see the dark beauty of the Greenbelt in person. Kids under 12 free. Stated Island Museum, Saturday, July 19th, 8:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.

Natural Dyeing Workshop: Learn how to create natural, earth-friendly dyes from inedible plants you may find in your backyard or community garden. Wyckoff Farmhouse, Saturday, July 19th, noon to 3 p.m.

Nature and Birding Walk: Join Leslie Day, author of the Field Guide to the Natural World of New York City, as you learn to identify and value the flora and fauna of our urban jungle. Fort Tryon Park, Saturday, July 19th, 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.

Wonderful World of Worms: Help create young naturalists by introducing the little ones in your life to the littler world of worms. Heather Garden, Sunday, July 20th, 1:30 p.m. to 2:15 p.m.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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It’s Hurricane Season. Is Your Small Business Ready?

2014 July 15

BMP for Small Manufacturing BusinessesBy John Martin

New York’s 528 miles of shoreline helps make it such a beautiful, livable city, but it also presents a growing challenge. The hard lesson learned from 2012’s Hurricane Sandy is that climate change is making storms more severe, putting more lives and livelihoods at risk than ever before.

Among Sandy’s many unfortunate effects was the large amount of toxic materials that were spilled and released into the environment due to the storm’s flooding and high winds. Since powerful storms like Sandy are now more likely than ever, it’s critical for small manufacturers to make sure potentially harmful chemicals are properly stored. By safeguarding toxic materials, small businesses can help make sure their communities are protected the next time disaster strikes.

The EPA has worked with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to compile an easy-to-read Best Management Practices (BMPs) guide to help small businesses make sure they’re prepared for the next large storm. The document highlights good housekeeping practices, and provides information about environmentally preferable products and services that help reduce energy and water consumption, and better manage solid waste. Additionally, the BMPs and a companion quick tips document discuss the importance of creating an environmental management program to ensure that small businesses operate in an ongoing safe and sustainable manner.

To learn more about how your small business can be more prepared for the next storm, click on the following links and download each document.

EPA’s Best Management Practices to Mitigate Toxics and Implement a Greening Program for Small Manufacturing Businesses: http://www.epa.gov/region02/p2/documents/bmps_for_small_manufacturing_businesses.pdf

The Quick Tips Guide for Small Manufacturing Businesses on Reducing Toxic Releases Related to Storm Events: http://www.epa.gov/region02/p2/documents/quick_tips_guide_for_businesses.pdf

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Ecofriendly Weekend Activities

2014 July 10

Summer in the city is in full swing, so get out and enjoy all that NYC has to offer! Check out our sustainable activity suggestions and let us know if we missed something in the comments section.

Back to the Beach: Bring your bathing suit to this beachside festival featuring live music, games, and rides. Midland Beach, Saturday and Sunday, July 12 & 13, noon to 8 p.m.

City of Water Day Festival: Enjoy free ferry rides, boat tours, activities, kayaking, and live music as we celebrate the water that surrounds us and brings us together. Governors Island, Saturday, July 12, all day.

Family Bird Watching Tour: Create young naturalists as your family learns to identify the 200 species of birds who, at least for a little while, can call Prospect Park their home. Prospect Park, Saturday, July 12, 10 a.m.

Green Team Cleanup: Beautify the park as you enjoy nature, learn about gardening, and provide essential horticultural care, including planting, mulching, and removing invasive plants. Brooklyn Bridge Park, Saturday, July 12, 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.

Harvesting Our History: New York World’s Fair: Spend the 50th and 75th year anniversaries of the New York World’s Fair at the place where it was held, as you learn about how the historic fair influenced Queens. Queens Botanical Garden, Sunday, July 13, free from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.

High Line Artsy Hours: Bring the kids to the famously unique park this and every Saturday to create free sculptures that turn and roll, and then follow it with a free guided walking tour. The High Line, Saturday, July 12, 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.

Historic Richmond Town: Experience life before electricity on a free guided tour in this historic Staten Island town. Richmond Town, Friday, July 11, 2:30 p.m.

Stop n’ Swap: Promote reuse and reduce waste production by bringing items you no longer need and taking something new-to-you for free. Atlas Park, Saturday, July 12, noon to 3 p.m.

Weird, Wild, and Wonderful Flora: Observe the botanical world’s most bizarre flora in this exhibition featuring art created and inspired by visually striking, unusual plants. New York Botanical Garden, Saturday, July 12, free from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m.

Yoga on the Beach: Practice this ancient spiritual and ascetic discipline in a free introductory hatha yoga session. Rockaway Beach, Saturday, July 12, 8 a.m. to 9 a.m.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Immigrant Cockroach from Asia Found in New York City

2014 July 8

By Marcia Anderson

RoachThere has been a lot of talk about immigrants entering the U.S. lately, but did you know that there are two new international species of cockroach: one in New York City, the other in the Southwest?

New York City is home to eight million people and countless cockroaches, so what’s a few more? That’s right. Better make room in the apartment for a few cousins from across the Pacific.

The new roach is Periplaneta japonica, a petite Asian relative of the common American cockroach. The species was first spotted in New York in 2012 by an exterminator checking a roach trap on the High Line, an elevated walkway and park on Manhattan’s west side. The Asian immigrant was positively identified by two Rutgers University insect biologists: Jessica Ware and Dominic Evangelista, through its DNA. It was documented in the Journal of Economic Entomology “Using DNA Barcodes to Confirm the Presence of a New Invasive Cockroach Pest in New York City.”

The biologists suspect that one or more of the ornamental plants that adorn the High Line arrived in soil that contained the new pest. Despite the fact that the High Line’s gardens focus on native plants, many nurseries grow native plants alongside imports. The roaches, commonly found in China and Korea, may have traveled to the U.S. in the soil of the imports.

Time to call the Mayor and the National Guard? The Rutgers researchers say there probably is no reason for New Yorkers to panic because this species is very similar to the cockroaches that already exist in the city. The new roaches may thrive in the northeast and out-compete their local American cockroach cousins, due to a unique ability to survive freezing temperatures and to tolerate snow. So what? It is not like there is a shortage of cockroaches in New York City or in any other urban area.

Roaches are the real survivors. Think about it. Cockroaches have been around for 300 million years, long before the dinosaurs, and have survived multiple global extinction events. They are built to survive and have a well-earned reputation for the ability to live in the worst of conditions, including scant food or even no air for a time. It is often said that if humanity succeeds in destroying itself, roaches will inherit the Earth.

What about interbreeding and creating a super roach?  That’s an unsettling thought! Remember the super roach in “Men in Black”? Will it soon be time to call in Agents K and J to save Manhattan, again? Not to worry. It is highly unlikely there will be any crossbreeding because of physical differences.

Is the Asian cockroach an invasive species? To be truly invasive, a species has to move in, take over and out-compete a native species. That does not appear to be the case here because this species is very similar to the multiple cockroach species that already exist in the urban environment. However, the Rutgers scientists believe that it will likely compete with other species for space and for food. Competition is a good thing. The roaches may spend more time and energy competing and less time and energy reproducing.

Health Concerns: Indoor cockroaches are a leading causes of allergies, asthma and other bronchial disorders in humans. In fact, cockroaches are one of the main triggers for asthma attacks for children living in inner cities, and the higher rate of asthma in kids. Additionally, cockroaches are capable of carrying disease organisms and bacteria on their bodies and in their fecal material. The presence of cockroaches in and around urban structures is an indication that cockroach food, moisture and harborage resources are present. These conditions allow them to proliferate.

Still concerned about roaches invading your neighborhood? Until recently, efforts to control cockroaches in the urban environment have relied almost exclusively on repeated pesticide applications. This approach to cockroach control has become increasingly less popular, primarily due to roaches developing resistance to pesticides and increased public concern about pesticide use in their living environment, especially around children. These two issues emphasize the need for a more holistic approach to cockroach management and for a way off of the pesticide treadmill.

Here’s how to prevent roaches from taking over your home, school, or office: There is a lot that you can do to prevent a roach invasion by following a smart, sensible, and sustainable approach to pest control called Integrated Pest Management (IPM).  Roach control is most easily accomplished by exclusion (keeping cockroaches out) and sanitation (eliminating food, water and shelter). Not only will these measures reduce an existing cockroach problem, they will prevent future infestations. In addition to preventative measures, cockroach traps and insecticide baits and gels may be needed to control an active infestation. In the case of infestations, having a professional provide advice and on both IPM and pesticides is a wise decision and may save time, money and reduce unnecessary exposure to pesticides.

Look for more on smart, sensible, and sustainable ways to manage cockroaches in an upcoming blog.

About the Author: Marcia is with EPA’s Center of Expertise for School IPM in Dallas, Texas. She holds a PhD in Environmental Management from Montclair State University along with degrees in Biology, Environmental Design, Landscape Architecture, and Instruction and Curriculum. Marcia was formerly with the EPA Region 2 Pesticides Program and has been a professor of Earth and Environmental Studies, Geology, and Oceanography at several universities.

 

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Invasive Species Awareness Week Kicks Off This Week: Get Involved With Long Island Sound Stewardship Days

2014 July 1

By Victoria O’Neill and Mark A. Tedesco

Volunteers help remove invasive plants from a Long Island Sound Stewardship Area as part of a volunteer Stewardship Day in 2012. Photo credit: Larissa Graham.

Volunteers help remove invasive plants from a Long Island Sound Stewardship Area as part of a volunteer Stewardship Day in 2012. Photo credit: Larissa Graham.

Look out fellow New Yorkers! We’re under invasion! Invasive species are everywhere.

An invasive species is an organism that is not native to an ecosystem and can have detrimental effects on the environment, the economy, and even human health. Invasive species can be plant or animal, can come in all shapes and sizes, and can be found on land, sea, or air. Human activity is the primary reason for the spread of invasive species. People can accidentally or intentionally spread species through the use of ornamental plants, the pet trade, ballast water in ships, and through cargo.

Luckily, there is a group solely focused on the prevention, eradication, and management of invasive species. The New York Invasive Species Clearinghouse has focused on all things related to invasive species since 2008. To learn more about the Clearinghouse, click here: http://www.nyis.info/?action=identification

Stop the Invasion - Protect New York From Invasive SpeciesThis year, New York Invasive Species Clearinghouse partners are hosting the first annual Invasive Species Awareness Week (ISAW) during July 6-12, 2014. ISAW’s mission is to promote knowledge of invasive species to help stop their spread by engaging citizens in a wide range of activities across the state and encouraging them to take action. Several free events are taking place during the week throughout the state.

Recognizing the threat that invasive species have on the quality of the coastal habitats of Long Island Sound, the Long Island Sound Study (LISS) and its partners, NYS Office of Parks, Recreation, & Historic Preservation and Town of Brookhaven, have stepped up to the challenge and will host three Stewardship Days focused on invasive plant species removal during ISAW. Stewardship Days are volunteer opportunities at LISS Stewardship Sites, sites designated as holding ecological and recreational importance to the LIS estuary. LISS Stewardship Day events during ISAW will take place on July 10 at West Meadow Beach in Stony Brook, NY, and July 11 and July 12 at Caumsett State Park in Huntington, NY. Our target species will be Perennial Pepperweed at West Meadow Beach and Swallowwort at Caumsett State Park. Aside from invasive species removal events, upcoming Stewardship Day events this year will include beach clean-ups, native planting, and native seed collection events.

Calling all New Yorkers, near and far, to action against these invaders! Grab your gardening gloves and favorite trowel and join us at one of our ISAW events! To find out more about the LISS Stewardship Day events during ISAW and to register for the events, visit the LISS website:  http://longislandsoundstudy.net/2014/06/volunteer-stewardship-days-this-july/

To find out more about other ISAW and ISAW events in other areas, visit: http://www.nyis.info/blog/

About the Authors: Victoria O’Neill is the New York Habitat Restoration Coordinator for the Long Island Sound Study. She works for the New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission and is housed in the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s Bureau of Habitat Protection in East Setauket, NY.

Mark Tedesco is director of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Long Island Sound Office. The office coordinates the Long Island Sound Study, administered by the EPA as part of the National Estuary Program under the Clean Water Act. Mr. Tedesco is responsible for supporting implementation of a Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan for Long Island Sound, approved in 1994 by the Governors of New York and Connecticut and the EPA Administrator, in cooperation with federal, state, and local government, private organizations, and the public.  

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Nature in New York City Blooms, Crawls and Creeps, Especially in the Eyes of a Child

2014 June 25

By Marcia Anderson

Bee on a flower

Bee on a flower

To a young child, there’s no such thing as an ant, a bee or a ladybug. They’re all bugs and worth a closer look. Lift a small rock. Often worms, tiny beetles, salamanders, or other critters can be uncovered, to the shear amazement of a child. Colonies of ants found under stones are fascinating to watch as they go about their business marching in rows to and from their anthills.

Most ants found in the northeast are not a serious threat to human health. Ants and other insects are usually found where they can obtain food and water to take back to their nests. Ants provide an ecological cleansing and fertilization service of considerable importance. They aerate the soil outdoors and recycle dead animals and vegetable material, and kill many other pest insects including: fly larvae, fleas, caterpillars and termites.

In spring, wasps are important predators of caterpillars, while others are scavengers, helping to control pests and recycle organic material. They turn more aggressive in late summer and fall when their food preference turns to sweets.

Bugs may be small and easily taken for granted, but they are often a child’s first intimate encounter with a wild animal. How they are taught to deal with these small creatures sets the tone for their relationships with larger wildlife such as reptiles, birds and amphibians. Unfortunately, in their zeal to teach children to be wary of dangerous bugs, many adults do not discern between those which are dangerous and those which aren’t. By showing their disdain for all bugs and killing any that cross their paths, many adults inadvertently teach children that all are to be feared and destroyed at every opportunity.

Ants explore a blade of grass

Ants explore a blade of grass

A gentleness and reverence for all creatures should be taught at an early age. It’s important to remember that the younger child learns by modeling, rather than by verbal instruction. A child who’s shown how to put overturned stones back in place to leave insects undisturbed is more likely to take that much more care than a child who’s simply told to do so.

Here are a few safety tips to help young children observe the tiny creatures in the great outdoors:

  1.  Avoid areas with food left outdoors, such as picnic scraps, uncovered garbage containers or uncovered compost piles. Bees and wasps imprint on these food sources and keep returning to them.
  2. Avoid sweet smelling soaps, lotions, or shampoos on both your child and yourself and do not dress up in bright colors. You do not want stinging insects to think that you are a flower or other food source.
  3. In warm weather, use an insect repellent according to the label directions to protect from ticks and mosquitoes. Other alternatives are the mechanical repellent devices that clip onto pockets or belts and they give off repellents that deter mosquitoes or other insects.
  4. Upon returning home, always inspect your child and yourself for ticks or other hitchhikers.

Every park in New York City, large or small, will have some wildlife encounters but be prepared to go down to your child’s level to see them. Just grab a small jar for temporary collecting and a magnifying glass, then get on the subway or bus and explore New York City. Happy Summer!

To find out more about nature in New York City go to: http://www.nycgovparks.org/greening/nature-preserves.

The Forever Wild Program is an initiative of the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation to protect and preserve the most ecologically valuable lands within the five boroughs. These parks encompass 51 Forever Wild Nature Preserves and include over 8,700 acres of forests, wetlands, and meadows. These open spaces are home to thousands of critters, including squirrels, frogs, red-tailed hawks, wild turkeys, fish, bald eagles, and countless plants.

 

 

About the Author: Marcia is with EPA’s Center of Expertise for School IPM in Dallas, Texas. She holds a PhD in Environmental Management from Montclair State University along with degrees in Biology, Environmental Design, Landscape Architecture, and Instruction and Curriculum. Marcia was formerly with the EPA Region 2 Pesticides Program and has been a professor of Earth and Environmental Studies, Geology, and Oceanography at several universities.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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