Solstice Seed Gathering 2016!



Silliness after seed gathering. HarborLAB sponsor NY Waterway/East River Ferry in the background. Photo by Erik Baard.

HarborLAB’s annual Winter Solstice Seed Gathering with Hunters Point Community Middle School was a fun educational outing, thanks our volunteers, science teacher Mary Mathai and Western Queens Manager Norman Chan of the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation. The seeds we gathered will help make our spring and summer greener and our autumn even more golden!

We focused our efforts on goldenrod and pitch pine along the park’s East River waterfront. HarborLAB Executive Director Erik Baard presented a brief slide show about the importance of these two native species in providing food and shelter to birds and insects. Students also learned about how these goldenrod and pitch pine evolved to thrive in poor soil and to harness the wind to distribute their seeds. HarborLAB has partnered with Hunters Point Community Middle School since before it opened its doors. Over the years we’ve delivered oysters to the school by kayak from the Billion Oyster Project on Governors Island, taken faculty and staff on paddling trips, taken students on local field trips, and conducted classroom activities and lectures on topics ranging from seeds to water quality.

At this Wednesday, December 21 event, HardborLAB volunteer Diana Szatkowski, PhD, joined Hunters Point Community Middle School faculty and staff in helping selected special needs students focus during their field work with tactile and interrogative learning techniques.The group filled zip bags for later planting and seedball making. We left plants still in flower undisturbed and also limited our gathering of goldenrod seeds so that birds would have plenty of food stock for the winter ahead. In 2016 we planted gathered seeds directly and by seedball on shorelines throughout NYC, including Bushwick Inlet, Newtown Creek, South Brother Island, Coney Island Creek, and Plumb Beach. We communicate with park authorities and conservation organizations to identify locations and species that would best support native habitat restoration.


Photo gallery below by Baard and Szatkowski. 

Instruction for Inclusion Starts!



HarborLAB volunteers Dee Dee Maucher, Steven Chu, and Scott Wolpow launched our Instruction for Inclusion program on Saturday with single-seat kayaks provided by Manhattan Kayak Company (rather than our usual touring tandems) and pool time provided by the LIC YMCA! We’re thrilled to bring these American Canoe Association-certified introductory paddling and water safety lessons to new communities over the winter so that in the spring participation in our educational adventures across the estuary and watershed will be more diverse. This is especially helpful in our work to inspire young people to study STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) fields through experiences with the greatest teacher: nature.

As we expand Instruction for Inclusion to other times and locations (including the East River at Gantry Plaza State Park in summer), we’ll particularly focus on building the paddling skills of teachers, youth counselors, and other staff members of schools and organizations who partner with HarborLAB. This will ready these professionals to aid us on HarborLAB’s service learning field trips and educational outings in local tidal wetlands and at the Neversink Reservoir in the Catskills. This makes young adventurers safer and helps overcome a basic fear of the water, which is one of our city’s greatest cultural barriers to the joy of learning from nature.

“It was wonderful to see and the HarborLAB volunteers were great,” said Erycka de Jesus, whose teenage children and Ravenswood neighbors participated. “HarborLAB strives to bring the waterfront to the people, counteracting injustice and making the shores accessible to marginalized New Yorkers. Thanks, HarborLAB!”

In addition to a TF Cornerstone sponsorship to train our staff, HarborLAB funded two life guards and one high school student-worker to help the event go smoothly and safely. Great thanks to Mambo Tse and Erycka De Jesus for community outreach assistance and help with the inaugural program.

Thank you TF Cornerstone, Manhattan Kayak Company, LIC YMCA, Prime Paddlesports, and HarborLAB volunteers (from accounting to ‘yaking!) for making this program possible!

We look forward to expanding Instruction for Inclusion in 2017!

Gallery below by Erycka de Jesus.




HarborLAB’s Oyster Restoration Station



HarborLAB participates in the Billion Oyster Project (BOP), which seeks to restore this mollusk to our local waterways as an ecological and cultural heritage. Our oyster team led by Dane Bell, William Bezouska, Tito Alvarado and Dee Dee Maucher is part of HarborLAB’s  Environmental Monitoring Crew, managed by Josue Silvestre, EIT.  The four were trained and equipped by BOP at New York Harbor School on Governors Island.

Our team installed an oyster cage in November at HarborLAB’s GreenLaunch dock. This past weekend the team checked in on them. Dane reports:

Bill and I conducted this initial pull-up of the oyster cage. Supplies were organized, and protocol was reviewed. First site conditions, and then water sampling were conducted.  Then we pulled up the cage, which fortunately seemed to not have been disturbed since its placement.

On first impression  we were pleasantly surprised at the amount of algal growth on the ropes and cage itself, and took that as a good sign of creek health. We had some errors with the sizes of our collection bins being just an inch or two small to fit the cage, which hampered proper protocol. In the mobile trap, nothing crazy, though we did find a decent-sized shrimp (image attached) and various small arthropods. There was not very diverse growth in the sessile section on the ceramic tiles, which seemed to be uniformly covered in green algae. It will be interesting to see if sessile biotic diversity increases with time.  We still do not have a species identification guide on site, so took pictures for later, at-home identification. We should see if BOP has a bound one they can give us or if we can at least print one from their site to bring.

We recounted and weighed (for the first time) each of the ten tagged oyster clusters in the oyster section of the Oyster Restoration Station. There were some discrepancies with the original count on the tags, which could be due to either miscounting or oysters breaking off with cage shuffling (we found several live oysters unattached to any larger substrate).  Because of the cold and wind exposure and setting sun, two people was not enough to measure each other to dozens of live oysters in the cage, but it was good that we got weights and counts as comparative baseline for our pull-ups in the spring.  I think a group of 4-6 would be ideal for subsequent expeditions. It is also interesting to note that the mussels found on our site-scouting expedition along the creek, which Bill placed into the cage, have attached to some of the substrate and seem to be thriving. It would be advisable to ask a representative from BOP with this would be disruptive of the controlled cage environment, and therefore hamper proper scientific experimentation (e.g. as competing filter-feeders which are already thriving in the creek environment, mussels may negatively impact oyster growth).

I will try and go through the photos and identify the species this week, and then collate the data. (Editor’s note: We’ll update this post with that data and more images integrated.)

All in all, I’d say it was a success and we learned a lot.  It would be extra-nice if we were able to find a place in the area with less exposure (to the wind and cold in the colder months, and blazing sun in hotter). This is also important for making sure our organisms don’t quickly desiccate while we have them on land.

Instruction for Inclusion!

Saturday night pool party? Well, close!  🙂

Community organizations, please contact us at to arrange for your mature teens and adults to learn basic kayaking safety and paddle strokes so that by spring they can join us on longer and more adventurous tours! Our fun outings are based around exploration and service learning, to inspire environmental stewardship and further study. This is also a great way for parents to gain confidence through skills that allow them to help introduce their children to boating, even if (or perhaps especially if) they were deprived of such experiences when they themselves were younger.

Both the pool instruction and youth programs are FREE.

If you’re a kayaking instructor certified by the American Canoe Association, Red Cross, or British Canoe Union and interested in joining the teaching staff, or an experienced kayaker interested in assisting, please email us at

Great thanks to program leaders Steven “Chuubie” Chu, Dee Dee Maucher, and Scott Wolpow; sponsor TF Cornerstone; LIC YMCA for pool use; and Prime Paddlesports for making this program possible!