Students Conduct Hands-On Exploration of Long Island's River Ecosystems

Oblivious to a drizzling rain, early in October 868 enthusiastic young citizen scientists from 16 Long Island school districts gathered at several sites in the Peconic Estuary to learn how to collect and analyze data on the health and other characteristics of the eco-system. “A Day in the Life of the Peconic Estuary” was the second of three days of field study that introduced nearly 2,000 students to techniques used to study water and other environmental issues on three of Long Island’s four major river systems. In September, more than 400 students from 9 schools explored the Carmans River and on October 15, nearly as many worked on the Nissequogue River.

More than 30 partner organizations and agencies from the professional outdoors community, led by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Lab’s Portal to Discovery and the Central Pine Barrens Joint Planning and Policy Commission, participated in the effort to connect students and their teachers to environmental issues through authentic scientific experiences. The participants collected and analyzed water samples, caught fish in nets and examined other aquatic life to learn how the pieces of the complicated ecosystem fit together. At the Peconic, the students were joined by Suffolk County Legislator Al Krupski and project coordinators Melissa Griffiths Parrott of the Central Pine Barrens Commission, Ron Gelardi of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and Melvyn Morris, special projects manager for Brookhaven Lab’s Office of Educational Programs. 

“These three days are actually a part of a large distributive experiment in which students are conducting authentic science research having to do with the health of these three systems,” Morris said. “Many of the students have never been out in these locations. In addition to giving the students a firsthand experience in their local environment, the data that they collect will be posted on our website and be used over the years to monitor the health of these watersheds. These students are true citizen scientists.”

This is the third year that students have explored the Carmans River, but the first for the Peconic and Nissequogue. Read about last year’s activities on the Carmans.

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