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Bike Sharing – the NYC Way

2013 July 15
Citi Bike

Citi Bike

By Sophia Kelley

Unless you’ve been out of town for the past six weeks, you’re probably aware of the new blue bikes located around the city. Citi Bike finally launched after what seemed like dozens of delays and false hopes. We wanted to wait until things had been up and running for a bit before blogging and now that the hullabaloo has died down, it seems a fair time to assess the program.

For those of you not sold on the idea, we present a list of positives and negatives. Decide for yourself and feel free to add your thoughts in the comment section!

Pros:

  • Locations throughout Manhattan are convenient and widespread.
  • Bikes are sturdy and in excellent condition.
  • Bikes have amenities like baskets and lights.

Cons:

  • Not enough stations in Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx.
  • Also, it seems that many riders are biking without helmets (protect your heads, people!).
  • Some users say the bikes are a little slow.
Citi Bike

Citi Bike

If you’ve been reluctant to try biking in the city, the Citi Bikes provide a great opportunity to test it out and see for yourself how liberating riding can be. No more sweltering subway platforms! No more waiting on buses that never seem to come on schedule. In addition, Citi Bike is partnering with Bike New York to offer free classes to help educate people on urban bicycling skills. Have you tried out the bike share program?

 

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations 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.

HUDSON RIVER DREDGING

2013 July 11
Hudson River Dredging

Hudson River Dredging

By Larisa Romanowski

Hudson River Dredging

Hudson River Dredging

The Hudson River, named after Henry Hudson who explored it for the Dutch in 1609, stretches from the Adirondacks in upstate New York all the way to Manhattan, a 315 mile trip. The historic dredging project targets approximately 2.65 million cubic yards of PCB-contaminated sediment from a 40-mile stretch of the upper Hudson. The EPA is in the middle of its fourth year of an unparalleled dredging project. More than 1.3 million cubic yards of contaminated sediment have been removed since the project began in 2009.

About the Author: Larisa Romanowski is a Community Involvement Coordinator stationed at the EPA Region 2 Hudson River Field Office in Hudson Falls, NY. When she’s not discussing the cleanup of the Hudson River, she enjoys exploring the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York. 

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations 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.

Upcoming Weekend Activities in NYC: Celebrate the 4th Sustainably!

2013 July 3

We’ve got some red, white, blue and green tips for your Independence Day weekend. Check out our list of recommendations and take part in one of these fun and eco-friendly events in the New York area.

Accordions Around the World: Head to Bryant Park to appreciate the live accordionists playing music from all over the world. Musicians will be stationed throughout the park to entertain passers-by. Thursday, July 4, 5- 7 p.m.

Clearwater Deck Tours: Visit Pier 6 at Brooklyn Bridge Park and enjoy a tour of the Clearwater, a historical replica of the shipping sloops that sailed the Hudson River in the 18th and 19th centuries. Learn about current environmental issues and experience the river from a whole new perspective! Thursday, July 4, 3 – 5 p.m.

Club Fit Yoga: If you need to stretch out after all the hot dogs you ate on the 4th, take one of the weekly yoga classes sponsored by the New York Restoration Project. Saturday, July 6, 10 – 11 a.m.

Governors Island: There is lots to choose from on summer weekends at Governors Island! Check out the free composting exhibit, art installations, and more. Rent a bike or bring your own. Saturday-Sunday, July 6-7, 10 a.m. – 7 p.m.

Laughter in the Park: Need some funny before heading back to work after the long weekend? Get your laughs in Central Park, Sunday, July 7, 2 – 4 p.m.

Plover Appreciation Day: Make your way to Beach 50th Street and the Rockaway Beach Boardwalk to discover one of NYC’s endangered species – the piping plover. Games, crafts, and giveaways are free for all ages. Saturday, July 6, noon – 3 p.m.

Statue of Liberty: It’s been closed since Superstorm Sandy and reopens July 4! Ferries operate 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Sunset Paddling at Hallets Cove: Just north of the Socrates Sculpture Garden in Long Island City, Queens, the Long Island City Community Boathouse will be offering free kayaking or canoeing. Wednesday, July 3, 6 – 8 p.m.

12×12 Project: Visit a model of a sustainably built, off the grid house at the Queens Botanical Garden. The structure evolves and grows as various artists take up short-term residence. 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. through July 31.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations 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.

Composting in Urban Areas

2013 July 2

By Claudia Gutierrez

On a recent trip to the Brooklyn Botanical Garden, I purchased the latest Brooklyn Botanical Garden Guide for a Greener Planet titled, “Easy Compost.” For those of us who live in urban centers, with limited space, sometimes it’s challenging to compost. Composting, however, can play a large big role in reducing waste that is sent to landfills. Studies have shown that as much as 40% of our organic waste can be diverted from landfills if composted. New York City just recently passed legislation to begin a residential composting program. Check out the NYC Department of Sanitation’s Bureau of Waste Prevention, Reuse and Recycling web site at: www.nyc.gov/html/nycwasteless/html/compost/composting_nyc.shtml.

While you’re at it, also check out the “Easy Compost” guide. The guide focuses on teaching the reader how to compost at home. It details the type of bins, worms, etc. that one should choose based on their needs. It is a very resourceful guide for urbanites who want to help mother earth in diverting organic waste from landfills. For more resources about gardening and composting, please visit www.bbg.org.

About the Author: Claudia Gutierrez is currently a Senior Advisor on Caribbean issues for the Regional Administrator since 2010. In this capacity, Claudia is working on different partnerships, including the White House Puerto Rico Task Force on Status, Vieques Sustainability Task Force and both the Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands Recycling Partnerships.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations 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.

Song of the Cicada

2013 June 26

(Part two of a series on cicadas)

By Marcia Anderson

Cicadas on Staten Island

Cicadas on Staten Island

Billions of flying bugs known as cicadas are currently sweeping over the East Coast. What were you doing in June of 1996?  Do you remember the terrible sound they made? Cicadas are a true marvel of nature and one that should be enjoyed whenever possible. Once it starts, the emergence typically lasts only four to six weeks: long enough for the males to sing their mating song, the cicadas to mate, the females to lay their eggs, and then they all die, leaving their 2-inch corpses for us to clean up.

The song of the cicada was used to signify summer in Japanese cinematography. Standing near an especially loud chorus of cicadas can be like standing near a motorcycle, with a racket reaching up to 100 decibels. Because cicadas produce extremely loud noises while requiring very little power, they are being studied by the U.S. Navy. They are of particular interest in naval sonar research related to underwater exploration and communication.

How do the cicadas make that sound? First, only male cicadas make the sound. Males have organs that resemble drum-like plates, called tymbals, on both sides of their abdomen. The cicada moves his muscles to pop the tymbals in and out, which creates the sound we hear. These chirping and clicking noises can be heard by females up to a mile away.

The naval research facility in Newport, Rhode Island uses microcomputer tomography to image a cicada’s tymbal. This is like a CT scan that picks up details as small as a micron in size. The tymbal is made of a thin membrane connecting thicker sections known as ribs, each of which is thinner than a human hair. According to researchers, the male cicada pulls all the tymbal ribs inward and together. The ribs make a short, sharp noise when they draw together and again when they snap apart. The cicada repeats the action 300 to 400 times per second, creating the characteristic deafening chirp. Producing noise in this way is unusual in the insect world. For example, crickets, locusts, and katydids rub their legs to create their chirps.

Interestingly, the cicada’s left and right tymbals can act like two speakers that produce sound waves that combine. Imagine two water waves in the ocean, generated by separate storms converging toward each other. Where the peaks of the two waves perfectly overlap, they add together and spike much higher than the peak of either wave alone. We call this very large wave a rogue wave, which is known to have sunken many an unsuspecting ship in the deep sea. Similarly, if the waves are sound waves traveling through the air, the peaks would be spots where the volume is very high. The cicadas may use this effect to pump their volume to very high levels without expending as much energy as if a single tymbal had to do it alone.

Children and adults can experience this phenomenon by catching a male cicada and then gently closing their hands around it to feel the vibrations emitted by its chirping.

Warning: During cicada season they may land on you if you’re using a power tool or lawn mower. Why? Cicadas think the sounds made by power tools and lawn maintenance equipment are made by other cicadas. They get confused and will land on the people using the equipment! So either cut your lawn in the early morning or near dusk when the cicadas are less active, or let the grass grow a little longer for a few weeks.

For more cicada information:    The scientific name for these cicadas is Magicicada. The National Geographic Society supports the Magicicada website: http://cicadiamania.com.

About the Author: Marcia is the bed bug and vector management specialist for the Pesticides Program in Edison. She has a BS in Biology from Monmouth, second degree in Environmental Design-Landscape Architecture from Rutgers, Masters in Instruction and Curriculum from Kean, and is a PhD in Environmental Management candidate from Montclair – specializing in Integrated Pest Management and Environmental Communications. Prior to EPA, and concurrently, she has been a professor of Earth and Environmental Studies, Geology and Oceanography at Kean University for 14 years.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations 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.

A Return of the Cicadas (Part 1)

2013 June 25

By Marcia Anderson

Cicada

Cicada

Billions of flying bugs known as cicadas are currently sweeping over the United States’ most densely populated region, like a Stephen King novel that nobody dies in.

They began emerging in Georgia and South Carolina in early May, and have worked their way 900 miles northward, to Washington DC, Philadelphia, New York City and Albany. Wooded properties with adjacent open space like Manhattan’s Central Park, the Bronx Zoo, Staten Island or Newark suburbs all have their share of cicadas. In NJ, I have found Metuchen, Fanwood, and Montclair, NJ to have prime suburban cicada love dens. The timing of their emergence was dependent on the weather.  When the temperature reached 64oF, the insects rose up, wriggled out of their shells and took wing.

Actually, Cicadas are a true marvel of nature and one that should be enjoyed whenever possible. The bugs are mostly harmless to plants and humans. I found a cicada in our yard today and I remember sharing a huge emergence of cicadas with my children and now look forward to sharing the experience with my grandkids! Do you remember what you were doing in June of 1996? That was the last emergence and it was the year this brood was born. Do you recall how the sidewalks in some places were covered and how they crunched underneath your feet?  What about trouble sleeping due to the constant terrible sound they made? (More on the “Song of the Cicada” in part 2 of this story.)

Once it starts, the emergence typically lasts only four to six weeks — long enough for the cicada nymphs to find a tree, shed their crunchy brown exoskeletons, and expand their wings. They will spend their next few weeks mating and laying eggs in tree branches. Then they will all die, leaving their bodies to litter the ground. The tiny newly hatched babies will make their way back to the ground and burrow down for the next 17 years. They bugs will emerge in 2030 to continue the cycle. There are expected to be 30 billion 17-year cicadas this year.

Cicada Nymph

Cicada Nymph

Why so many? One theory called “predator satiation,” suggests that the large number of cicadas is a survival strategy to overwhelm predators.  If predators are never able to eat them all, many will survive to mate and continue the species.

There are 13 year cicadas also. Why 17 and 13 years? Since they emerge only once every 13 or 17 years (brood dependent), it is difficult for predators to synchronize with them as no predator species can anticipate their emergence. The long life-cycles could also help these cicadas avoid extinction from long stretches of fatally cold weather, such as what was experienced during the past ice age. The development of 13 and 17 year emergence cycles is a strange coincidence as both numbers are primes. Also interesting is that of 30 known cicada broods, 17 broods have a 17-year emergence cycle and 13 broods have a 13-year cycle. Cicada broods usually don’t overlap geographically, and it is very rare when they emerge in the same year.

Other cool facts about cicadas:

  • Cicadas have five eyes: Two are large, red, compound eyes, and three are ocelli, which are believed to be used to detect light and darkness.
  • Cicadas actually benefit the health of trees by aerating the soil around the roots, and trimming weak or damaged limbs. They do drink tree fluids, but usually not enough to cause harm to the trees.

The females may harm young trees by splitting the thin bark on slender branches with their egg laying. You can place netting around young trees to prevent female’s access, but this may be impractical for large numbers of trees. Cicadas only feed on woody perennials, so vegetable and/or strawberry crops are not at risk.

  • This could be a very bad year for fruit tree orchard farmers.
  • Animals eat them. It’s going to be a wonderful year for anything that can eat cicadas. City pigeons and songbirds love them, dogs will gorge themselves, squirrels will eat them like corn on the cob, turkeys gobble them up, plus they make great fishing bait.
  • People eat them. If you find yourself with shovel loads of cicadas and do not know where to put them, consider eating some of them. Some insist that cicadas are a delicacy and make delicious high-protein meals. The University of Maryland put together a cook book with recipes like: cicada kabobs, cicada Creole, cicada gumbo soup, pan-fried cicada, and stir fried cicada. There’s pineapple cicada, lemon cicada, coconut cicada, cicada stew, cicada salad, cicada burgers, cicada dumplings and banana cicada bread. You can barbecue, boil, broil, bake or sauté them.
  • If you want to totally avoid them: go to the beach. Cicadas don’t like sand.

Above all, put things into perspective. The density of cockroaches in New York City is far greater than the density of cicadas. There are several million cockroaches per city acre, however they aren’t noisy and don’t fly around much. Once the mommy cicadas lay their eggs, they will die, and you won’t even notice the tiny babies!

For more cicada information:    The scientific name for these cicadas is Magicicada. The National Geographic Society supports the Magicicada website: http://cicadiamania.com.

About the Author: Marcia is the bed bug and vector management specialist for the Pesticides Program in Edison. She has a BS in Biology from Monmouth, second degree in Environmental Design-Landscape Architecture from Rutgers, Masters in Instruction and Curriculum from Kean, and is a PhD in Environmental Management candidate from Montclair – specializing in Integrated Pest Management and Environmental Communications. Prior to EPA, and concurrently, she has been a professor of Earth and Environmental Studies, Geology and Oceanography at Kean University for 14 years.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations 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.

The Bronx High School of Science’s LEAP Club Strives to Reduce our Negative Environmental Impact on the World

2013 June 24

By Richard Yue

 

Reused Cartons

Reused Cartons

Students in the League of Environmental and Animal Protection (LEAP) club at the Bronx High School of Science are working on raising awareness about the school’s recycling program, educating  students about the importance of conservation, promoting the use of less energy and making the school a more environmentally friendly place. These efforts will not only benefit the school by saving money and resources, but will also benefit the environment.

The LEAP club has worked on implementing a recycling program throughout the school. Each classroom was provided with a special bin for paper recycling. The organization, GrowNYC, has been instrumental in helping the school in setting up the recycling program and donating the recycling bins. In addition to promoting recycling in the classrooms, three recycling stations have also been placed in the school’s cafeteria. Each of these stations includes a bin for plastic bottles and milk cartons, a bucket where any remaining liquid from the containers can be emptied, a desk where lunch trays can be stacked, and a bin for any remaining garbage. The club is also reusing old trash to make something useful – and fun! Students bring in old paper and use it in paper making activities. They also use old juice cartons and turn them into wallets.

 

Earth Day

Earth Day

Currently the club is trying to raise awareness about the implemented recycling system and to encourage students to cooperate.

In order to further raise awareness about environmental issues, LEAP organizes an annual Earth Day celebration in the school. The event does not take place exactly on Earth Day, April 22. Instead, it is usually scheduled in early June when the weather is warmer and the festivities can take place outside in the courtyard. The Earth Day celebration includes a number of activities: paper making, selling of plants, selling articles made from recycled and reused materials (i.e., wallets made from old juice cartons), educational games, and speakers to talk about environmental issues. Proceeds from the Earth Day celebration are donated by LEAP to an environmental organization chosen by the club’s members. Every year, there is a big turnout for the Earth Day celebration, which is something the LEAP club is proud of in helping to make a positive impact on the environment.

About the Author: Richard Yue is an Environmental Engineer in the Region’s Clean Air and Sustainability Division. Mr. Yue has been with the EPA for over 22 years and is a graduate of Polytechnic University of New York. 

 

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations 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.

An Annual Recurrence of Avian Chlordane Poisoning in one NJ Town

2013 June 19

By Marcia Anderson

Cooper's Hawk

Cooper’s Hawk

(Part two of a series on chlordane poisonings)

Residents reported finding dead starlings, grackles and robins in Scotch Plains, New Jersey, as long ago as July 1977; and, more recently, in July of 1996, New Jersey Fish &Wildlife (F&W) investigated a report of a large number of these dead birds. During an inspection of the area, 75 birds, including 18 grackles and six starlings were recovered from one property adjacent to a local golf course and dead birds were visible on adjacent lawns and streets. The following year, over a three-week period in July, F&W visited a residential area adjacent to a local golf course and recovered a total of 425 dead or sick birds including 307 grackles, 104 starlings and 14 American robins. Thirty-five more debilitated birds were captured alive. Many of these birds were uncoordinated, sometimes flying into stationary objects, while others were seen falling from trees or falling to the ground in midflight

Although birds can fly great distances, sick and debilitated birds seek the comfort of their homes, or roosts, and do not travel far from them, so F&W knew that the source of the poison was nearby. Chlordane poisoning was diagnosed as the primary cause of death in all of the 1997 birds analyzed. In a published paper, F&W believed this to be the largest avian chlordane poisoning incident reported in the United States.

Just last July (2012), confirmed chlordane poisonings occurred in Summit,(approximately eight km from Scotch Plains), Parsippany, Maplewood, and Gibbsboro, N.J.; and on Western Long Island.

Raptor Poisonings

Confirmed and documented cases of lethal chlordane poisoning were found in nine Cooper’s hawks and other raptors. Raptors are secondarily poisoned by consuming contaminated songbirds. Approximately 80 percent of the prey taken by Coopers hawks in the eastern U.S. is avian; so the consumption of chlordane-contaminated birds is the most probable cause of most Cooper’s hawks poisoning cases. The incidence of chlordane poisonings in all raptors, including Cooper’s hawks, peaked in July, coinciding with the peak period of chlordane poisoning of songbirds from eating chlordane-contaminated beetles and grubs.  Poisonings of Cooper’s hawks are of particular concern, because this species is listed as endangered by the state of New Jersey. 

From 1999-2000, 95 raptors were found dead throughout N.J., and were submitted for examination as part of the Fish &Wildlife’s West Nile Virus monitoring program. Chlordane poisoning was found to be the major cause of Cooper’s hawks’ mortality. The incidence of chlordane poisoning in other hawks was lower due to differences in feeding habits.

Take Home Message

Many commonly used insect sprays, weed killers and rodenticides are highly toxic to birds.

Don’t be fooled by chemical products as being touted as “organic.” Many environmentally destructive chemicals are organic. Residues of these compounds remain in soils, sediment, and biota levels sufficient to cause death in some bird species. Also be wary of products with the prefix “eco”, “environ”, or allegedly “green.” Always read the product label first for proper use instructions, use restrictions, and environmental effects, for a truer sense of its impact. In many cases there are less dangerous alternatives to chemical pest control and lawn care. For example, grub control could be pursued with biological methods such as the use of Bacillus popilliae (Milky Spore), or nematodes.

Human safety concerns

As long as you or your children do not munch on grubs, beetles, or birds you should be fine. Make sure your pets do not eat dead or debilitated birds. Wash your hands thoroughly after digging in the garden and before touching food. If you find a sick or injured bird in New York City contact the Wild Bird Foundation: www.wildbirdfund.org. In New Jersey contact the Raptor Trust: info@raptortrust.org .

About the Author: Marcia is the bed bug and vector management specialist for the Pesticides Program in Edison. She has a BS in Biology from Monmouth, second degree in Environmental Design-Landscape Architecture from Rutgers, Masters in Instruction and Curriculum from Kean, and is a PhD in Environmental Management candidate from Montclair – specializing in Integrated Pest Management and Environmental Communications. Prior to EPA, and concurrently, she has been a professor of Earth and Environmental Studies, Geology and Oceanography at Kean University for 14 years.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations 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.

30 years after the EPA Ban, Chlordane still Poisons Local Birds

2013 June 17
Chlordane

Chlordane

By Marcia Anderson

During a visit to the New Jersey Raptor Trust, a wild bird rehabilitation center, I became aware of recurring and confirmed regional chlordane poisonings in our local bird populations. This prompted my investigation into its cause. Songbirds and raptors in suburban areas of  New Jersey, New York and surrounding states have been found dead and dying of chlordane poisoning every summer, for over 14 years. The gruesome event occurs like clockwork every June and July.

Why? The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Fish and Wildlife and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation tested soils from some local golf courses and found that wildlife poisoning still occurs where there was a substantial effort to control beetle grub populations with organochlorine pesticides for more than 30 years, from the 1950s to the 1980s. This resulted in turf contamination by the very persistent and commonly used organic pollutant (POP) chlordane. While environmental problems have lessened, they have far from disappeared.

 Chlordane Background

Chlordane was introduced in the United States in 1947 as both an insecticide and an herbicide to control lawn, garden, and commercial pests and weeds in turfgrass.  In 1979 restrictions were imposed on the use of chlordane because of its potential human carcinogenicity. It was banned for home, garden and agricultural uses in 1983 – 30 years ago. Chlordane products were allowed for restricted underground termite control for an additional five years until suspended in 1988. The ban of a toxic chemical does not immediately eliminate it from the environment, and chlordane poisoning of birds is still common.

Chlordane is environmentally persistent, and once applied, much of it still remains unaltered in the environment. Residues remain in soils, sediment and biota at levels sufficient to cause death in some bird species. Evaporation is the major route of removal from the top soil layer where chlordane slowly volatilizes into the atmosphere. Sunlight can also break down small amounts of chlordane. Chlordane rapidly binds to clay and soil particles making it highly immobile within soil layers. Chlordane does not chemically degrade and is not subject to biodegradation in soils. Perhaps the only good news is that chlordane has a low potential for groundwater contamination, because it is insoluble in water.

How chlordane is re-exposed:

Many bird mortalities were discovered when the New Jersey Fish &Wildlife Department was testing what they thought was an outbreak of avian West Nile Virus. They discovered that the deaths were attributed to high chlordane concentrations in already resistant insects. Concentrations of chlordane were high in Scarab, June, and Oriental beetles and highest in adult Japanese beetles from suburban area golf courses.

Spring emergence of grubs and adult beetles directly coincides with summer peaks in bird mortality. Songbirds were exposed to chlordane through the ingestion of soil invertebrates, including the aforementioned beetle grubs. In spring, beetle grubs are eaten by grackles, robins, starlings, and crows. By June, emerging adult beetles are eaten by kestrels, blue jays and house sparrows.

The timing of raptor deaths, such as Cooper’s hawk mortalities, coincides closely with the July peak in songbird mortalities, as hawks often feed on smaller songbirds debilitated by the chlordane. Chlordane and its breakdown products are lipophilic, meaning that it bioaccumulates in fatty tissues. Chlordane also affects the nervous system by blocking important chemical signals and enzymes that result in overstimulation and death.

If you find a sick or injured bird in New York City contact the Wild Bird Foundation: www.wildbirdfund.org . In New Jersey contact the Raptor Trust: info@raptortrust.org .

About the Author: Marcia is the bed bug and vector management specialist for the Pesticides Program in Edison. She has a BS in Biology from Monmouth, second degree in Environmental Design-Landscape Architecture from Rutgers, Masters in Instruction and Curriculum from Kean, and is a PhD in Environmental Management candidate from Montclair – specializing in Integrated Pest Management and Environmental Communications. Prior to EPA, and concurrently, she has been a professor of Earth and Environmental Studies, Geology and Oceanography at Kean University for 14 years.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations 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.

Summer Season Begins Annual Terrible Times for Terrapins

2013 June 12

By Marcia Anderson

Terrapin

Terrapin

The seasonal vehicular migration that we make to the shore coincides with the beginning of diamondback terrapin nesting season in the northeast, often causing hundreds of turtle fatalities. Most of the terrapins that are squashed under car tires are pregnant females looking for a place along the shoulder of the road, above the high tide line to dig their nests and lay their eggs.

Terrapins are relatively small, harmless turtles that live in salt marshes along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of the United States. They are closely related to freshwater turtles and are the only turtles that are adapted to living exclusively in the brackish waters of coastal salt marshes. Their range extends along the Atlantic coast of the United States from Cape Cod to Southern Texas. The Jersey Shore, Long Island and Staten Island have beleaguered “vulnerable” populations of terrapins. In Massachusetts and Rhode Island, terrapin populations are considered “critically imperiled.”

 So What? Why is it important to save terrapins? Terrapins are a predator of periwinkle snails that feed on salt marsh grass. Periwinkles are known to destroy thousands of acres of salt marsh, converting marsh meadows into mudflats. Some salt marshes in the United States have experienced explosive populations of periwinkles due to over-fishing of blue crabs, yet another predator. The destruction of wetland habitats may lead to increased flooding, ultimately affecting coastal property values.

Road Kills: Coastal development has led to considerable terrapin habitat destruction of barrier beach islands and sand dune nesting sites due to the construction of communities and roads adjacent to coastal salt marshes. This results in large numbers of road kills from Memorial Day Weekend through mid July. Female terrapins are killed while attempting to cross roads in search of suitable nesting habitat.

Students from the Wetlands Institute, a part of New Jersey’s Stockton State College, and local volunteer residents conduct road patrols during the terrapin nesting season to minimize the number of road kills of nesting females, as well as the removal of potentially viable eggs from the carcasses of road kills.  Collected eggs are incubated and, after hatching, are raised at the institute’s “turtle farm” for at least four months. The young turtles are then weighed, measured and tagged with an embedded  microchip and then released back into the salt marsh. This highly successful diamondback terrapin conservation project has been conducted in the salt marshes of the Cape May Peninsula since 1969.

 The Wetlands Institute has also initiated “The Barrier Fencing Project,” created to help lessen the number of terrapin road kills of pregnant females looking for alternative nesting grounds. After much experimentation with various barriers and fences, they found that six-inch corrugated plastic drainage pipe was proven to be an effective, inexpensive, and easy way to install a barrier. In June 2010 over 7,000 feet of corrugated tubing was installed. Shortly after, road kills were reduced along the entire length of this new safety barrier.

The take-home message: Terrapins are in serious trouble throughout the coastal northeastern regions of the U.S. and it is up to us to ensure their survival. When you see a terrapin crossing the road: slow down, stop, pick her up, cross her in the direction she was traveling, and wish her good luck.  Contact the Wetlands Institute for more information on the diamondback terrapin conservation project:  http://wetlandsinstitute.org/conservation/terrapin-conservation/.

 

About the Author: Marcia is the bed bug and vector management specialist for the Pesticides Program in Edison. She has a BS in Biology from Monmouth, second degree in Environmental Design-Landscape Architecture from Rutgers, Masters in Instruction and Curriculum from Kean, and is a PhD in Environmental Management candidate from Montclair – specializing in Integrated Pest Management and Environmental Communications. Prior to EPA, and concurrently, she has been a professor of Earth and Environmental Studies, Geology and Oceanography at Kean University for 14 years.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations 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.