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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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Watching Robins

2014 June 10

By Janette Mieles

Blue Robin eggs

Picture 1 of 5

Every so often, during the spring, the sheltered underside of our backyard deck becomes a nesting place for birds. When the summer starts up, we clean up and remove the used nests. Once in a while, we find eggs and, when we do, we’ll leave them be until the birds have hatched and flown off.

This past May we were prepared to clean up the empty nests when we came across one that was still occupied by four blue Robin’s eggs. I took a series of photos of the eggs and hatchlings, with great care so as to avoid an attack or abandonment by the mother Robin. By Mother’s Day they had all hatched and one-by-one have flown away. 

About the author: Janette started her career with EPA in 1988 working in Human Resources and is now in the Region 2 Division of Enforcement and Compliance Assistance. Outside of work Janette is the mother of three children who keep her busy with their afterschool sports and in her down time she enjoys planting and volunteers at St Paul at the Food Cupboards.  

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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How NYC Deals With Food Waste

2014 May 27

By Shane Nelson

Compost bins at the Union Square Greenmarket

Compost bins at the Union Square Greenmarket

Each year, New York City generates over two million tons of food waste, which represents significant impacts to the environment via agricultural production, use of natural resources and fossil fuels, and production of greenhouse gases. In an effort to combat these impacts, the Office of Recycling Outreach and Education of GrowNYC launched a pilot program in March 2011 that featured food scrap collection sites at seven NYC Greenmarkets.

In April 2012, driven by demand as shoppers came out in droves to compost, the program was expanded as a partnership with the NYC Department of Sanitation (DSNY), and has now grown to 35 drop-off locations. To date, the program has diverted a whopping 2 million pounds of food scraps from disposal – enough to stretch the length of Manhattan from Inwood to Bowling Green. New Yorkers can drop off fruit and vegetable scraps for composting at ‘Sustainability Centers’ while shopping for healthy, local produce at the Greenmarket. The scraps are then transported by GrowNYC or the Department of Sanitation, with the help of community volunteers, to one of several local sites where the food scraps are transformed into a nutrient rich soil amendment for urban farming and greening purposes throughout the five boroughs.

The DSNY Bureau of Waste Prevention, Reuse and Recycling (BWPRR) continues to experiment with various models for convenient food scrap drop-off sites, including subway commuter drop-off sites, public library-based drop-offs, and a Zero Waste Island initiative on Governors Island. In May 2013, NYC began a bold, new initiative to provide curbside collection of organics. The program started in Westerleigh, Staten Island, and has expanded to include other communities in the Bronx, Brooklyn and Staten Island, as well as large apartment buildings on the west side of Manhattan, in parts of Brooklyn, and on Staten Island. DSNY’s organic waste collection is now reaching more than 30,000 homes and 200 public schools.

About the Author: Shane Nelson is a scientist in the Region 2 Sustainable Materials Management program and serves as the LGBT Special Emphasis Program Manager. Shane holds a B.S. in Biology/Env. Science from Auburn University and a M.A.S. in Environmental Policy & Mgmt from the University of Denver. Shane’s extensive experience in site remediation, RCRA, and TSCA has advanced projects during his 13 years at EPA and prior tenure with the Alabama Department of Environmental Management.  

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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A Walk in the Park

2014 May 21

Black and White Warbler

Black and White Warbler
Picture 1 of 8

(All photos courtesy of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology)

By Kevin Kubik

Finally it seems that winter is truly done and spring is finally here. As I’ve written about before, May is a great time to do some bird watching especially out at Sandy Hook, NJ. Sandy Hook is part of the Gateway National Recreation Area and so many species of birds migrate through on their way to points west and north. My wife and I missed last year’s migration since Sandy Hook was closed due to the damage done by Hurricane Sandy. Equipped with only our binoculars, Jan and I set out for a nice walk in the park. And within minutes we saw three species of warblers: a Black and White Warbler, a Black-Breasted Green Warbler, and a Yellow Warbler.

As we continued on our walk we saw many other colorful birds. And most spectacularly, for 30 minutes we watched two Scarlet Tanagers picking at insects on the top of some trees, amazingly highlighted by the sun. If you think cardinals are red, Scarlet Tanagers are iridescent red.

So get out and explore a park, before summer when it may be too hot!!!

About the Author: Kevin Kubik serves as the region’s Acting Director for the Division of Environmental Science and Assessment out of EPA’s Edison Environmental Center. He has worked as a chemist for the region for more than 32 years in the laborat

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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Upgrading Our Vegetable Garden

2014 May 19

By Janette Mieles

Batches of Seeds

Batches of Seeds

My husband and I love to grow some everyday vegetables. Of course, we all know how unpredictable Mother Nature can be, last year we had a lot of rain and our garden didn’t do too well. Our previous in-ground garden didn’t have enough drainage making it difficult for me to grow my basic crops such as tomatoes, peppers and lettuce. So my husband decided to build a raised garden bed. We purchased six, 8-foot long, 2×6 cedar boards to build a 4×8 raised garden bed. We filled it with approximately 20 cubic feet of garden soil and three cubic feet of peat moss to help with drainage.

So far our garden looks great. The board across the top is movable and I use it for better access to the garden so that I don’t harm the vegetables. I also have a mini-nursery that allows me to cut and replant some of the

Raised Garden Beds

Raised Garden Beds

vegetables throughout the summer. Do you have a vegetable garden? Let us know about your gardening challenges and successes in the comment section.

About the author: Janette started her career with EPA in 1988 working in Human Resources and is now in the Region 2 Division of Enforcement and Compliance Assistance. Outside of work Janette is the mother of three children who keep her busy with their afterschool sports and in her down time she enjoys planting and volunteers at St Paul at the Food Cupboards.  

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 Latino Asthma Conundrum

2014 May 13

By Elias Rodriguez

Franklin D. Roosevelt East River Drive

Franklin D. Roosevelt East River Drive

It was a hazy and hot day as I sat in my grade school New York City classroom. Suddenly, everyone’s attention was drawn to my classmate’s wheezing and labored breathing. Àngel was one of the biggest kids in our class, but he was clearly in distress and the memory of his pain is vivid. I now understand that my friend was having an asthma attack. Thankfully, our teacher knew precisely what to do and she had his inhaler inside her desk and ready.

Our Manhattan public school was located adjacent to a major highway known as the FDR Drive, which snakes up Manhattan’s eastside near the Williamsburg Bridge. The combination of high population density, cars, trucks and industrial activity was a recipe for dismal  air quality.

Àngel and many of my inner-city cohort shared a Puerto Rican ancestry. To this day, I remain puzzled by the disproportionately high asthma rate among Latinos. Latinos are 30 percent more likely to go to the hospital for asthma, as compared to non-Hispanic Whites. For reasons that are not fully understood, Puerto Ricans have double the asthma rate as compared to the overall Latino population.

While asthma rates have increased in the general population over the past two decades- what accounts for the alarming disparities? Are the reasons economic? Do groups in the lower income strata demonstrate more adverse health effects as a result of limited resources and less access to quality medical care?  Is the reason pegged to location? Does the propensity of certain groups to seek jobs in metropolitan areas lead to higher incidence in geographic clusters? Could culture be a culprit? Spanish was the first language of my parents and there are links between limited-English proficiency and barriers to quality care. We’d love to hear your theories. Solving this socio-economic-medical mystery is imperative for all of us since it is estimated that medical expenses associated with asthma cost a staggering $50 billion every year.

The explanation for these asthma rates among demographic groups is complex and multidisciplinary. The good news is that we have the power to take proactive steps. May is Asthma Awareness Month and it’s a great opportunity to remind people that having an Asthma Action Plan is one of the key tips EPA offers to people who live with asthma. EPA also encourages people to check local air quality at Air Now. The site uses a color-coded system to display whether pollutants exceed air quality standards and indicates the air’s impact on different populations. Give it a try at airnow.gov. Grab a tool. Get a plan and Adelante.

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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Environmental Standouts Are Celebrated

2014 May 7

By Mike McGowan

Eva Sanjurjo receives her award.

Eva Sanjurjo receives her award.

Recently, Region 2 honored its 2014 Environmental Quality Award winners, who work at improving the planet every day.

EQA winners from New York, New Jersey, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands were hosted at R2 headquarters in lower Manhattan to showcase their good work. Among them:

  • Chris Bowser, who has made “glass eels” (young American eels migrating from the Atlantic Ocean into freshwater streams) the focus of an unique environmental education project that goes from building knowledge about eels to promoting stewardship of this fish and the habitats essential to its growth cycle;
  • Ironbound Community Corporation, which, since 1969, has worked to create a healthy and sustainable environment in one of Newark’s culturally rich neighborhoods. The ICC monitors air quality, provides environmental justice tours and organizes an active community to speak out for environmental protection in New Jersey’s largest city.
  • Dr. Ralph Spezio, a public school principal from Rochester, who helped found the Coalition to Prevent Lead Poisoning, an education and advisory group dedicated to eliminate lead poisoning in Monroe County, New York. His work has helped reduce blood lead levels in Rochester’s children.
  • Eva Sanjurjo, a founder of the Hunts Point Awareness Committee, took on polluters in her Bronx community in defense of all the neighborhood children who were suffering from asthma. Among other projects, she started an educational program called “Greening for Breathing” which planted hundreds of trees in the neighborhood.

These are just several of the awardees, all of whom made a special and lasting impact on the environment in the last year. We’ll be reporting on some of the other winners in subsequent blog posts.

About the Author: Mike is Chief of the R2 Intergovernmental and Community Affairs Branch in Public Affairs. He is a 10-year veteran of EPA.

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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Did Teddy’s Bear Cause His Asthma Attacks?

2014 May 5

By Elias Rodriguez

Furry toys may attract dust and allergens.

Furry toys may attract dust and allergens.

What famous native New Yorker charged through life unimpeded by his frequent bouts with asthma? This person was the only U.S. President born in the Big Apple. He excelled at sports, hunting, ranching and making every day a reason to be active. He was an avid nature lover. Nearly 230 million acres of land and 150 national forests were preserved thanks to him. Have you guessed yet? Here’s a final clue. He is prominently featured in the contemporary classic film, A Night at the Museum. Yes! The answer is Teddy Roosevelt, the gentleman Teddy Bears are named after.

Our 26th President, Theodore Roosevelt, was born at 28 East 20th Street, New York City on October 27, 1858. Despite being born into a wealthy family that had ample access to the best medical experts of his day, Roosevelt’s coughing, wheezing and asthma attacks were frequent. Roosevelt’s vigorous hobbies and adventures prove that you can enjoy an active lifestyle in spite of asthma. May is Asthma Awareness Month and it’s important for parents, caregivers and children to learn more about this disease and its triggers.

Pollutants in the outdoor air, including particulates (soot!) and ozone (smog!) are major asthma triggers. When ozone levels increase, most commonly in the summer months, they can affect people’s health, especially children with asthma. Ozone can irritate the respiratory system, causing coughing, throat irritation and aggravating asthma. When ozone levels are high, more people with asthma have attacks that require a doctor’s attention or medication. Asthma triggers include pets, pesticides, cockroaches, dust mites, mold and cigarette (secondhand) smoke. Ozone makes people more sensitive to allergens, which are common triggers of asthma attacks and lead to increased hospital admissions and emergency room visits.

Having an Asthma Action Plan is one of the key tips EPA offers to people who live with asthma. People can learn to control their symptoms and still be very active. Keep in mind that Roosevelt was famous for his love for the outdoors and his message of living The Strenuous Life.

So, did Teddy’s bear cause his asthma attacks? No. The Teddy Bear was not created until Theodore was a grown-up and already serving as President. Furry toys may attract dust and allergens but a thorough cleaning should keep you and your pals in healthy harmony.

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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Refreshing…

2014 April 30
The Enviroscape model

The Enviroscape model

By Amelia Jackson

In celebration of Earth Day this year, I had the opportunity to visit Mrs. Mulloy and Ms. Jackson’s 5th grade science class at Union Valley Elementary School in Sicklerville, NJ. (Yes, student teacher Jackson is my soon to be college grad-but that’s another blog). During the year, the class has been visited by many parents discussing their careers, to demonstrate why it’s important to study English, Math, Science, Social Studies, etc. and provide a glimpse into a day in the life of an adult.

The discussion began with what the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is, why it was formed, what we do and the various categories of careers that are needed to make it all work. I also engaged the services of the current Gloucester County Watershed Ambassador, Morgyn Ellis, who eagerly demonstrated the concepts of point and non-point source pollution in a watershed. To 5th graders, a lecture on this would seem boring, but they got to be hands on as Morgyn used Enviroscape, which is a 3D model town, complete with a residential area, factory, farm, park/golf course, roads, creeks, streams and a river. The kids used colored water and various candy pieces to represent different types of pollution, and made it ‘rain’ with a water spray bottle. They got the biggest kick out of using chocolate ice cream sprinkles to simulate various animal’s waste (remember they are 11 years old!) and to see where it all actually winds up after a storm.

I was impressed with the level of knowledge and environmental awareness the children possessed. They knew about aquifers, groundwater uses, watersheds, organic farming, ecosystems and how their actions affect the communities in which they live and play. They offered suggestions on what they and their families could do each day, including reduce, re-use, and recycle to assist in protecting our planet.

I was reminded of the eagerness and the ‘I can do anything’ attitude that is the very core of an 11 year old, and found it contagious. If you can, spend some time with kids and talk to them about our environment and what we do each day at work.  You too, will find it refreshing.

About the Author: Amelia Jackson serves as the Superfund Support Team Leader in the Division of Environmental Science and Assessment out of EPA’s Edison Environmental Center. Amelia holds a Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry from Rutgers University. Amelia’s career spans 26+ years with EPA in support of the regional Superfund Program in the areas of quality assurance, field sampling and laboratory analysis.

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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