June 14 Saturday Science Stumper!

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Welcome back, Chrono Art Clock! What? It’s not the clock that befuddled Oscar Madison on “The Odd Couple” in 1973 (appearing at 12:45)? No. But it does tell you if it’s a safe time to be in the water! So what are we looking at?

ANSWER TO LAST WEEK’S SATURDAY SCIENCE STUMPER:

Horseshoe Ctab Blood

MARK THIESSEN/National Geographic Creative

 

Much like the Vulcans of “Star Trek,” horseshoe crabs have blood that uses copper instead of iron to transport oxygen. It also happens that their blood is a fantastic tool for detecting bacteria that might contaminate pharmaceutical instruments and injections. Horseshoe crabs (not really crabs at all) are captured, tapped for blood to be used for this purpose, and released. For those of us who are less bloodthirsty, you can see their moon-driven, ancient mating migrations this weekend along beaches throughout NYC! More about our local horseshoe crabs at Nature Calendar.

“Expedition to White Island”

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HarborLAB partnered with the Interdisciplinary Laboratory for Art, Nature, and Dance (iLAND) on Sunday to document, and elicit a creative response to, the restoration of marsh grasses, dune grasses, and other native life to White Island in Marine Park Preserve. Videographer Charles Dennis led the wonderful ‘iLANDing Expedition to White Island” as both guide and artist.

For HarborLAB this was an invaluable opportunity to build relationships with artists who care about ecology and might share their skills with the communities we serve. It was also a scouting mission to a new area of the harbor for us, Gerritsen Inlet, where we now plan to bring partner groups for beach cleanups and birding. We saw a great egrets, skillfully diving terns, reed-perching red winged blackbirds, an oyster catcher, a mated pair of Canada geese, herring gulls, great black backed gulls, black crested night herons, double crested cormorants, and an osprey atop, and circling, its nest platform.

Osprey platform. Rachel Carson's book "Silent Spring"  alerted the world about how the osprey and other species were vanishing because DDT insecticide spraying interfered with birds making strong egg shells. Now ecologists are helping helping ospreys to restore their numbers by building nesting platforms near food sources and away from harm. More here:  http://www.nhptv.org/wild/silentspring.asp  (Photo by Gil Lopez)

Osprey platform. Rachel Carson’s book “Silent Spring” alerted the world about how the osprey and other species were vanishing because DDT insecticide spraying interfered with birds making strong egg shells. Now ecologists are helping helping ospreys to restore their numbers by building nesting platforms near food sources and away from harm. More here: http://www.nhptv.org/wild/silentspring.asp (Photo by Gil Lopez)

The intertidal zones held marshes of spartina, but we could see clumps of the grass being undercut by erosion from below. Dense stands of invasive phragmites formed a feather-topped fence just a few paces upland from the water. At the foot of the reeds were glinting and colorful assortments of sea glass, complete antique bottles and glassware, and porcelain shards. Of course there were seashells of every kind and scattered bones, bleaching in the sun. White Island itself had various plantings dotting its sands like new hair plugs. As Charles Dennis described the mammoth operation to restore the island’s ecosystem, one could picture an amphibious assault by ecologists like a green D-Day.

The inlet itself was alive with horseshoe crabs, eels, other fish, sea weeds, and jellyfish. There was a mysterious pulsing buzz underwater that was almost certainly mechanical, not organic.

HarborLAB is grateful to iLAND, NYC Department of Parks and Recreation, and volunteers Gil Lopez (a green roofing instructor and certified permaculture landscape designer), Mairo Notton, and especially Patricia Erickson for making it possible to enjoy this outing, which was coordinated on the HarborLAB end by Erik Baard.

June 7 Saturday Science Stumper!

Horseshoe Ctab Blood

SATURDAY SCIENCE STUMPER from HaborLAB!

What is this profoundly ancient, living and life-saving substance from the sea, bottled by science? Hint: It’s at your nearby hospital and coming ashore right now…

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ANSWER TO LAST WEEK’S SATURDAY SCIENCE STUMPER:

While the New York Wheel will be a wonder to paddle beneath, Baltimore paddlers might be more grateful for their solar-powered wheel, which removes tons of garbage from the water daily! More here:http://gizmodo.com/baltimores-solar-wheel-pulls-in-25-tons-of-harbor-garba-1578474782

Saturday Science Stumper!

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SATURDAY SCIENCE STUMPER from HaborLAB!

Kayakers in the summer of 2017 will love paddling under Staten Island’s grand New York Wheel, the tallest observation Ferris wheel! How cool will that be? But we Newtown Creek paddlers might be even more grateful to have something like this less-flashy wheel. What do you think it is?

ANSWER TO LAST WEEK’S SATURDAY SCIENCE STUMPER:

These beautifully and precisely engineered pieces are just about now becoming something equally amazing and more recognizable — flounder! From February through the end of May, the Army Corps of Engineers suspends dredging in channels where Winter Flounder eggs, pictured above, are laid. To learn more, visit Nature Calendar:http://naturecalendar.wordpress.com/2008/03/23/a-better-day-for-eggs-winter-flounder-that-is/

“Jane’s Walk” to Our Reawakening Waterfront!

 

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Mitch Waxman, crouching, and MAS Jane’s Walk participants in front of the HarborLAB gate and boats. Newtown Creek Alliance board member Laura Risi Hofmann towards the left, in bright blue shirt. Photo by Erik Baard.

HarborLAB was honored to be a featured stop on the Greenpoint-to-Long Island City “DUPBO” 2014 Jane’s Walk.  Newtown Creek Alliance historian Mitch Waxman guided the tour, a walking conversation, sharing insights about development, preservation, sustainability, resilience, and cultural vitality. In NYC, the prestigious Municipal Art Society organizes the annual, free urban planning walks honoring Jane Jacob‘s spirit of criticism and query.

Erik Baard, who interviewed Jane Jacobs in the 9/11 aftermath, greeted the crowd that arrived at the end of Vernon Boulevard, where a bridge once spanned the Newtown Creek to Manhattan Avenue, Brooklyn.

What made our site so interesting? It’s that we’re creating the greatest length of green, soft shoreline on the Newtown Creek!

Many thanks to Citizens Committee for NYC for our seed grant (more on that to come) to begin transforming our 125′ waterfront, kindly provided to us by Schumann Properties. Rather than rebuilding our crumbling bulkhead, we’ll follow New York State Department of Environmental Conservation guidelines for using salt tolerant native plantings to stabilize shorelines. We’ll also restore wetlands in the intertidal zone with spartina, mussels, oysters, and other indigenous life. Upland we’ll grow edibles in planters, including hardy kiwi and grape for shade. To maximize the service learning value of this project, we’ll invite college students to participate and follow the advice and directives of biologists Dr. Holly Porter-Morgan and Dr. Sarah Durand of LaGuardia Community College.

HarborLAB Facilities Manager Patricia Erickson will oversee safety stairs, platforms, the dock, and other improvements, aided by Mairo Notton and other skilled volunteers. Our space has been too crowded with bricks on pallets since occupation to do much work, but that’s scheduled to change over the next few weeks.

HarborLAB has also begun a campaign to create a bioswale and rain garden at the dead end of Vernon Boulevard. In some sense, this revives a decade-old effort that New Yorkers for Parks ushered into a design in 2006. With our launch site reworked and a green pocket park, Vernon Boulevard will end in a beautiful long stretch of green that improves Newtown Creek water quality by reducing combined sewage overflows.

The Newtown Creek Superfund designation, however, is based on carcinogenic sediments that line its bed and can sometimes rise through the water column when disturbed. Advocacy for dredging is our chief activity on that front. Our vital ally there is the Newtown Creek Alliance. We were happy that this Jane’s Walk included Newtown Creek Alliance Board Member Laura Risi Hofmann, a greenpoint health and green spaces activist, among its saunterers.

Because of the sometimes high sewage bacteria levels (common to all of western Queens’ waterfronts) and industrial pollutants (exceedingly high also in Anable Basin and Steinway Creek), HarborLAB has two blanket policies:  1) We bring boats to cleaner, safer waters in the region for children to enjoy. The Newtown Creek launch is for adults only. 2) We use canoes for venturing East of the Pulaski Bridge, and sit-on-top kayaks for paddling west, where water quality is much better.

 

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HarborLAB boats and the raw 125′ shoreline, facing East to the Pulaski Bridge. Photo by Erik Baard.

The HarborLAB "boat ladder," a launch system used by cultures around the world. Note the crumbling shoreline that we'll slope and stabilize with plantings.

The HarborLAB “boat ladder,” a launch system used by cultures around the world. Note the crumbling shoreline that we’ll slope and stabilize with plantings.

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Intertidal area that will be planted with spartina or other native species. Photo by Erik Baard.

 

 

Join the Cardboard Kayak Race!

Calling all educators, campers, and community groups to join us and the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance on July 12 for the 2014 Cardboard Kayak Race! Everyone comes by boat to Governors Island for City of Water Day, but only the most creative and humorous mariners make their own zany boats right at the festival. Let your team of kids be among them!

HarborLAB will be providing public paddling programs at City of Water Day and safety support for the cardboard kayak race, as we did last year. We would be happy to help teams of junior high, high school, and college students practice their paddling in the weeks before competing in this unique design-build-paddle event! We and the MWA can also connect you with swim instruction organizations.

For information and registration, please click HERE. To partner with HarborLAB, email edu@harborlab.org.

 

 

 

Support MWA’s Waterfront Action Agenda!

Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance’s “Waterfront Action Agenda.” HarborLAB enthusiastically supports these integrated goals for a flourishing estuarine archipelago city.

The Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance is our region’s most dynamic and effective advocate for reviving the economic and ecological potential of our waterways. This inclusive network promotes waterborne transportation for commuters and cargo, while also supporting habitat restoration and sustainable recreation, like paddling. The MWA’s Waterfront Action Agenda synthesizes this comprehensive vision and outlines achievable goals. This five-point program grew out of work by the MWA’s urban planning staff and from ideas that bubbled up from the hundreds of harbor stakeholders that the MWA brings together.

If you want your organization to be part of this community, sign up here to join the MWA and benefit from conferences, events, seminars, community meetings, workshops, calls to action, and Waterwire newsletter.

Please let your elected officials know you support the Waterfront Action Agenda. Not sure who represents you? The League of Women Voters’ online district locator will guide you. No need to know your nearest buoy, just punch in your zip code!

 

 

 

Clearwater Festival and City of Water Day!

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Wonderful news! Thanks to our volunteers’ fantastic service last year, the two largest annual water ecology festivals in the metropolitan area have asked HarborLAB back to provide their public programs in 2014! Join us in Croton Point State Park in the Hudson River Valley for the Clearwater Festival on June 21 and June 22 and on Governors Island in the center of our harbor for City of Water Day on July 12!

Types of Fog

The fog comes

on little cat feet.

It sits looking

over harbor and city

on silent haunches

and then moves on.

—  Carl Sandburg, 1916

Gothamist has been obsessing over fog this season, and for good reason. These beautiful cloud colonizations of the understory highlight our city’s skyscraper peaks and shroud our harbor in mystery and danger.

The National Weather Service, part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, explains that what we experience is called “advection fog,” which is generated by “the horizontal movement of warm moist air over a cold surface. This means that advection fog can sometimes be distinguished from radiation fog by its horizontal motion along the ground. Sea fogs are always advection fogs, because the oceans don’t radiate heat in the same way as land and so never cool sufficiently to produce radiation fog. Fog forms at sea when warm air associated with a warm current drifts over a cold current and condensation takes place.”

Learn about the different types of fog from this National Weather Service educational page.

 

Shooters Island, Along the Staten Island Circ

Shooters Island in the Arthur Kill, from Bayonne Bridge. Wikimedia Commons.

 

One highlight of the summer will be HarborLAB’s circumnavigation of Staten Island. This video about Shooters Island illuminates the “secret” historical significance of even one little harbor heron refuge along the way. Drifting past that sleepy island today, it’s hard to imagine that mobs surrounding a Prussian prince, Teddy Roosevelt, and Thomas Edison bent its planks. Many thanks to artist and kayaker Harry Spitz for pointing out this video.