Thursday, May 18, 2017

Ocean Fun Day Saturday May 20 at Island Beach State Park


Island Beach State Park, the jewel of New Jersey’s State Park System, will give visitors an opportunity to watch the release of young diamondback turtles into their natural habitat, as well as other youth-oriented environmental activities during Ocean Fun Day on Saturday, May 20. The diamondback terrapin release is new this year at Island Beach State Park.

Island Beach State Park is one of the few remaining undeveloped barrier beaches on the north Atlantic coast. With approximately 3,000 acres of beaches, dunes, maritime forests, freshwater wetlands and tidal marshes, the park is home to the state’s largest osprey colony, as well as peregrine falcons, wading birds, shorebirds, waterfowl and songbirds.

This year’s 14th annual Ocean Fun Days are scheduled from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. May 20 at Island Beach State Park in Ocean County, and on Sunday, May 21 at the New Jersey Sea Grant Consortium’s headquarters in the historic Fort Hancock section of Sandy Hook in Monmouth County. Admission and parking are free. A free shuttle bus will be available at both parks to take visitors to tour sites.

Ocean Fun Day events encourage visitors to enjoy a day outdoors while learning about New Jersey’s coastal ecosystem through educational displays, nature tours and interactive programs that include seining, crafts, a scavenger hunt, touch tanks, youth fishing clinics and more.

Diamondback Terrapin
“Ocean Fun Day is a great way to teach visitors about the critical, yet fragile coastal ecosystems along the unspoiled barrier island that is Island Beach State Park,” said Director of Parks and Forestry Mark Texel. “The planned activities will show why Island Beach is a unique classroom to learn how ocean dynamics create barrier islands, and how the plants and animals here have adapted and thrived.”

Events at Island Beach State Park will be at Ocean Bathing Area 1, which is about four miles past the park’s gatehouse.

The turtle release will be done by students and faculty from Project Terrapin and the Marine Academy of Technology and Environmental Science (MATES). The Sandy Hook event will include guided tours of Sandy Hook sites and an open house at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/James J. Howard Marine Sciences Laboratory. Both sites will also offer a program on how to build a better sand castle by understanding the science behind cohesion, adhesion and surface tension.

“Ocean Fun Days have become a wonderful tradition for New Jersey’s families and visitors, and that is due to strong partnerships,” said Claire Antonucci, Executive Director of the New Jersey Sea Grant Consortium. “This year, we are delighted to partner with the Marine Academy of Technology and Environmental Science (MATES) to add a new activity to Ocean Fun Days with students and faculty from MATES Project Terrapin inviting the public to join them to release young diamondback turtles back into their natural habitat.”

Ocean Fun Days is presented by founding sponsor New Jersey Natural Gas, in partnership with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, New Jersey Sea Grant Consortium, Asbury Park Press, New Jersey Division of Parks and Forestry, National Park Service and NOAA.

The New Jersey Sea Grant Consortium is an affiliation of colleges, universities and other groups dedicated to advancing knowledge and stewardship of New Jersey’s marine and coastal environment through innovative research, education and outreach programs. To learn more about the consortium or Ocean Fun Days, call (732) 872-1300, Ext. 19 or visit: njseagrant.org

For more information about Island Beach State Park, visit: islandbeachnj.org/ or find the park’s Facebook page at: facebook.com/islandbeachstatepark/


SOURCE: nj.gov/dep/newsrel/2017/17_0045.htm


Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Citizen Scientists in New Jersey


I read a post celebrating the "citizen" in citizen science. There are many people who like to say that citizen science is about citizenship as well as science.

Citizen science is sometimes called crowd science, crowd-sourced science, or civic science. It can be the volunteer monitoring of a habitat or species. It can be doing scientific research conducted voluntarily, in whole or in part, by amateur or nonprofessional scientists. It is public participation in scientific research, and by conducting this research, people are likely to become a better citizen. It may cause you to become involved in the cleanup of a waterway in your area, or get you to become involved in protecting a species. You will certainly be learning more about your physical world.

My own entry into citizen science began when I volunteered for the state's Wildlife Conservation Corps in 1990.  I began by working on educational programs along with other volunteers at the Pequest Trout Hatchery and Education Center. I was able to develop and present some programs on tracking, map and compass and even nature writing. I also participated in fishing instruction, visitor services, trail maintenance, and bird house and butterfly garden maintenance.

Away from Pequest, I also volunteered at deer check stations, went on dead deer exccursions with NJDEP biologists to monitor how and why deer were dying or killed over winter (unrelated to hunting).

I also have participated in the Speaker's Bureau giving presentations to community groups and schools.

My focus over the past decade, as you might guess from this blog, has been working with the Endangered and Nongame Species Program (ENSP).

All volunteers for the NJDEP Division of Fish and Wildlife are members of the NJ Wildlife Conservation Corps (WCC) which is the largest natural resource management volunteer group in the state. WCC citizen science activities can assist in a wide variety of Division activities: operation of turkey, beaver and otter check stations; spring, fall and winter trout stocking programs; operations at the Rockport Pheasant Farm; fishing instruction at the Pequest facility; upkeep of hunter training ranges located in Wildlife Management Areas; and various activities with the Endangered and Nongame Species Program.


And there are a good number of other opportunities to volunteer in NJ.

The NJ State Forestry Services Volunteers in Forestry Program provides an opportunity for individuals and groups to help improve and enhance our forest resources. These citizen scientists are stewards of the land and value conserving our natural resources. If you'd like to donate your talent and time, go to state.nj.us/dep/parksandforests/

The NJ Audubon Citizen Science Program aims to develop information datasets through citizen participation, on the abundance distribution, and demography of avian species. Using information collected through the contributions of Citizen Scientists to provide the basis for managing bird populations at multiple spatial and temporal scales, to improve our knowledge of the ecology of New Jersey, and to promote habitat preservation.

The American Littoral Society was founded by scientists and naturalists who believed in the value of citizen science. They also engage members of the public in field research to increase the data collected and to connect our volunteers more closely to the natural world. This is a way that you, your kids, your students and your friends can get involved in science that will help the coastal environment by working with programs such as their Fish Tagging Program and Spill Spotters Network (reporting oil spills or other severe pollution events).

I also volunteered for several years in the National Park Service's Volunteer in the Parks program at Sandy Hook. I worked summers on the beaches monitoring and trying to protect nesting shorebirds from beachgoers by educating them about the species there.

There are probably many programs in your county or hometown. Citizen Science in Newark, New Jersey might mean helping the EPA monitor air sensors to help the Ironbound community. The Ironbound neighborhood is surrounded by a number of industries and a dense network of roadways and other transport routes. Residents of the community are getting a technological boost from EPA in their efforts to learn about sources of harmful air pollutants and improve public health with portable air sensor developed by EPA researchers to monitor levels of particulate matter and nitrogen oxide – pollutants that cause short- and long-term health effects and are regulated under the Clean Air Act.

You can even do citizen science from home. One example is WhaleFM which helps marine researchers understand what whales are saying. Volunteers listen to recordings of Orcas and Pilot Whales on your computer and help match them to like recordings. This project is sponsored by Scientific American, Zooniverse, and marine scientists from around the world. This is great for ocean lovers who don't live near an ocean or are limited in their ability to get outside.

banding osprey chicks  - NJDEP

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

90 Years of the Presby Iris Gardens in Montclair


The Essex County Presby Memorial Iris Gardens in Montclair. the "Rainbow on the Hill," celebrates its 90th anniversary this May. The Presby Memorial Iris Gardens is recognized internationally for its horticultural and historical significance. 

Following them on Instagram, I am reminded that forsythia blooming means its time to fertilize my own irises. Autumn is the time to divide irises, but if you buy new ones or just have a really crowded bed, take a look on their YouTube channel which has a video on how to divide the clumps and replant. (see below).

For many years, it was a Mother's Day tradition for me to take my mom to the gardens, as irises were always one of her favorites in our own home garden.


The anticipated bloom season is May 12 through June 2. The bloom season begins with the “minis” bearded collection, then to the famed tall bearded irises and ends with the non-bearded irises.
The gardens were established in 1927 to honor Frank H. Presby, a Montclair resident involved in improving the town's parks and recreation as well as the Montclair Art Museum. Presby was also a founding member of the American Iris Society, hence the decision to focus on that plant.

Starting with two 4-foot-wide beds, the public gardens now contain nearly 14,000 irises of approximately 1,500 varieties.

In addition to enjoying the iris blooms, you can visit the Bloom Room gift shop, and their Plant Sale will offer iris dug from the gardens.

The Essex County Presby Memorial Iris Gardens is located at 474 Upper Mountain Avenue in Upper Montclair, New Jersey. During bloom season, admission is a suggested $8 donation to help fund garden costs. The Gardens are open daily from dawn until dusk.
Bloom Room Gift Shop Opens & Iris Plant Sale
Friday, May 12 through Sunday, May 14 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The Bloom Room Gift Shop features an exciting mix of affordable home and garden accents. Potted and bare root irises from our collection are available for purchase. Visitors also may reserve summer grab bags.
Mother’s Day
Sunday, May 14 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Enjoy the day with Mom at Presby. Treat her to a special iris or item from the Bloom Room Gift Shop. Enjoy a free music program. A special luncheon is planned; check the website for ticket information. Artist Lisa Palumbo will be available from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. to sign artwork.
Family Garden Party
Saturday, May 20 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Essex County Family Garden Party is a free community event sponsored by the Essex County Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs with entertainment, crafts, face painting, booths from local organizations such as the Essex County Environmental Center and Master Gardeners, and various food trucks. A student art exhibit will also be featured. Rain date: Sunday, May 21.
Live Jazz Music
Weekends during Bloom Season from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.
TaikoZoku Japanese Drumming Show
Sunday, May 21 from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Hear the thrilling sounds of this Japanese style drum troupe from Glenn Weber’s New Jersey School of Percussion in West Orange.
Outdoor Movie Screening Disney’s Moana
Saturday, June 3 at 9 p.m.
Hosted by the Montclair Film Festival and Essex County Parks System.






Wednesday, April 26, 2017

The American Shad Spawning Run on the Delaware River

American Shad    -   via Wikimedia

Along with the migration of shorebirds and horseshoe crabs converging on Delaware Bay in spring, another spring migration is that of the American shad up the Delaware River.

American shad, part of the herring family, migrate up the Delaware River to spawn. The numbers and timing of the "shad run" vary year to year depending on river levels, rains, drought and temperature.

Shad are primarily saltwater fish, but they swim up freshwater rivers to spawn in the spring. Unlike some other fish species, many shad survive the spawning and swim back to the Atlantic Ocean. Shad are found in all areas of the Atlantic Ocean, as well as several seas across the world.

The first shad of the 2017 season was already caught in the Delaware on March 26 in the northern Delaware Bay near Mad Horse Creek. It was a female shad that weighed in around 5 pounds.

Shad - Lambertville, NJ  - via Flickr
Low water and warm temperatures usually mean an earlier shad run in the Delaware River. The warm water effluent of the power plant in Trenton usually attracts shad and anglers who get early catches.

On the river, there are some seining (netting) activities which harken back to the Lenni Lenape Indians of our area who used that method long before colonists appeared.

It is another encouraging sign that the once very polluted Delaware River has recovered enough that shad have returned to using the deeper waters of the Delaware River as a spawning ground.

MORE

Monday, April 24, 2017

Environmental and Science Documentaries at the Montclair Film Festival


The Montclair Film Festival (April 28-May 7) has in its offerings this year a group of documentaries that should be of interest to readers of this blog and anyone who is concerned about the environment, science and activism.

You can find these films at montclairfilmfest.org/genres/environmental-interest/ but here are those films with some information and links to purchase tickets.


BILL NYE: SCIENCE GUY    May 6
Bill Nye is on a journey to change the world! Once the host of a popular kids’ show, Nye has transformed himself into a leading voice against the forces that would deny the value of science. Nye not only is speaking out, he is leading by example, on a mission to launch a solar-powered satellite into the cosmos and advocating for the importance of research and discovery. The film is a urgent portrait of a scientist on a mission, taking on climate change deniers and creationists in the real world to create a more scientifically literate and engaged universe. Directed by David Alvarado and Jason Sussberg   There will be a post-screening conversation between Bill Nye and Stephen Colbert, co-Presented by Audible.


DO DONKEYS ACT?    May 4 and 5
This film by David Redmon and Ashley Sabin is an unexpectedly moving, one-of-a-kind documentary that seeks a new form of empathetic understanding. Shot entirely on farms dedicated to rescuing beasts of burden from abuse and overwork, the film is a conversation between human curiosity and the experience of the animals. Immersed in their world, the camera never leaves the animals, constantly looking into their eyes and searching for meaning and comprehension of their lives. Featuring a warm narration by Willem Dafoe and filled with warmth and grace, DO DONKEYS ACT? is a must-see for those who love animals



TROPHY   May 6
In their new documentary TROPHY, filmmakers Christina Clusiau and Shaul Schwarz take an in-depth look into the powerhouse industries of big-game hunting, breeding, and wildlife conservation in the U.S. and Africa. The film is unflinching in its examination of the push and pull of illegal poaching, sanctuary, and legalized hunting, revealing a complex economic ecosystem manufactured by humans to both take and preserve the lives of the animals they covet. Featuring stunning photography that is at once intimate and terrifying, TROPHY is a necessary portrait of human behavior, unravelling the complex consequences of treating animals as commodities.


THROUGH THE REPELLENT FENCE: A LAND ART FILM   May 6 and 7
Follows art collective Postcommodity as they strive to construct Repellent Fence, a two-mile long outdoor artwork that installs a series of 28 huge, inflatable spheres that stretch across the U.S. – Mexico border. THROUGH THE REPELLENT FENCE is an adventure in the artistic process and a road trip of discovery, exploring how land art can generate community interaction and perceptual shifts in how we interpret, engage, and draw inspiration from our natural world. Director Sam Wainwright Douglas


NO MAN'S LAND April 29 and 30 
In recent years, a new battle between ranchers and the federal government have arisen in the American West over the issues surrounding federal land use and the lines between private business and the public interest. Bitter antagonism between right-wing militia and the federal government has boiled over into rebellion, with recent events in Nevada and Oregon creating a firestorm of recrimination, politics, and tragedy. NO MAN’S LAND is director David Byars’ incendiary look at these battles, following the insurrection from inception to demise and exploring the issues and people that are reshaping what remains of the American frontier. In Person: Director David Byars


DOLORES    April 29 and 30
This film is a reclamation of an heroic American life. The film sheds light on the enigmatic, intensely private Dolores Huerta, cofounder of the United Farm Workers union and among the most important activists in our nation’s history. But as woman standing atop an organization of men, her constant battle against injustice was mirrored by the gender discrimination she faced internally. Featuring interviews with Angela Davis, Gloria Steinem, Hillary Clinton, and Luis Valdez, the film reveals her ever-expanding wave of influence through decades of activism, and leading many to ask why her contributions have been erased from our history. In English and Spanish with English Subtitles. Dolores Huerta in attendance on Saturday, April 29

BENDING THE ARC   April 29 and 30
Thirty years ago, a group of improbable heroes came together on a mission that was medical and moral, and, by everyone’s estimation other than their own, highly unlikely to succeed. Their goal was simple but daring: to make high-quality health care available to everyone, even in the world’s poorest countries. Fighting entrenched diseases, political and bureaucratic machinery, and the charity-industrial complex itself, these crusaders forced the international community to embrace the idea that health care must be a basic human right in every society. BENDING THE ARC is a story of hope and courage in the face of seemingly insurmountable barriers. In English, Haitian Creole, Spanish, Kinyarwanda with English Subtitles.







Friday, April 21, 2017

Earth Day 2017 and the March for Science


Tomorrow, APRIL 22, is Earth Day.

2020 will mark the 50th Anniversary of this annual event that was first celebrated in 1970. Worldwide, various events are held to demonstrate support for environmental protection.

Earth Day events in more than 193 countries are now coordinated globally by the Earth Day Network.

More than 1 billion people now participate in Earth Day activities each year, making it the largest civic observance in the world through education, public policy, and consumer campaigns.

I recall the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970. I was in high school and the events I saw had a "hippie" feel, but 20 million Americans from all walks of life participated and the day is viewed as launching the modern environmental movement. The passage of the landmark Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act and many other groundbreaking environmental laws soon followed.

In 1990, Earth Day went global, mobilizing 200 million people in 141 countries and lifting environmental issues onto the world stage.

Some of the Trump Administration's objectives and views are certainly part of the reason that this year Earth Day will also be the March for Science, a rally and teach-in on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

Science isn’t Democratic or Republican, liberal or conservative. Indeed, threats to science are pervasive throughout governments around the world.

There will also be local events for Earth Day and the March for Science. The New Jersey March for Science is a satellite march that will meet outside the Trenton War Memorial in Trenton, on April 22, 2017 at 10:00 a.m. The march will be approximately a half mile to the State House Annex where a short list of speakers will give a call to action.
In the nation's capital, the day’s program will include speeches and trainings with scientists and civic organizers, musical performances, and a march through the streets of Washington, D.C. The crowd will gather at 8:00am, and the teach-in will begin at 09:00am.

Science serves all of us and its ties to the Earth and environment are many. Science is how we protect our air and water, preserve our planet, save lives with medical treatments, create new industries, puts food on our tables, educate the next generation, and safeguard our future.