Welcome Luciana & Lindsay!

Welcome Luciana & Lindsay!

Luciana Ranelli (left), new education coordinator at Wisconsin’s Lake Superior Reserve. Lindsay Charlop (right), new coastal training program coordinator at New York’s Hudson River Reserve.

NERRA extends our warmest welcome to the two newest NERRds in the family. Each brings a wealth of skills, passion, and experience to their roles in the education and coastal training sectors, respectively. To Luciana & Lindsay—welcome! We’re so excited to have you join us.

Luciana Ranelli recently joined the Lake Superior Reserve as the new education coordinator. She brings with her national experience in training environmental educators on community engagement and social and environmental justice. 

I am excited to be a learner at the start of my position and throughout—learning about past and current education programs and partnerships, and stories of the St. Louis River estuary,” says Luciana. “In the coastal environment around our office I’ve already seen ‘new-to-me’ sights, like crayfish claws left over from seagulls eating. I’m joining a team that is developing community action programs, and I’m energized by the opportunity to fold community input into the process.”

Luciana holds a Masters of Science in Environmental Studies from Antioch University New England and a Bachelors of Science in Biology and Secondary Education from University of Minnesota-Morris. She also has middle and high school Minnesota teacher licenses in life science.

Lindsay Charlop is extremely excited to be joining the Hudson River Reserve team and the larger NERR network. She combines a love of the Hudson Valley with a clear understanding of the region’s challenges and dynamics, honed while working with the Environmental Monitoring and Management Alliance (EMMA). There she assisted in building a regional coalition of land managers, focused on long-term environmental monitoring and stewardship-based strategies for managing large-scale ecological threats, including climate change. 

“I am so excited to be back in the Hudson Valley, learning more about the river and getting to know the wonderful community that helps to protect it,” she says.

Lindsay has experience with various aspects of conservation, including stewardship, education, field-based research, project coordination, and coalition-building. She loves work that involves planning, problem-solving, and innovation. In her spare time, Lindsay loves to be outside, preferably in a swamp, especially if there are frogs or turtles around to chill with. 

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Tech Brings Hudson River into Student Homes

Tech Brings Hudson River into Student Homes

Educators seine for fish in the Hudson River estuary for students to identify in a series of virtual activities.

Teamwork and technology are keeping the New York’s Hudson River estuary alive for students, teachers, and caregivers in 2020. This fall, the Day of the Life of the Hudson and Harbor field education program connected thousands of children to the Hudson River Estuary and New York Harbor through a series of vibrant educational resources, videos, and safely-held live programs.

Now in it’s eighteenth year, this event is a collaboration of the Hudson River Reserve, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYDEC), the Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory, and dozens of environmental education organizations throughout the region. Since its inception in 2003, the program has helped more than 56,000 students and educators explore their local estuary.

“Day in the Life is often the first time our students are exposed to the environment outside the classroom, and they are able to learn about what is in their own backyard,” says Janet DeStefano, a teacher in the Newburgh City School system. “When they are provided hands-on experiences with the Hudson River, they become stewards of the environment.”

This year’s program was designed to support students unable to go into the field due to the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 35 partner organizations helped to compile an online data set on water quality, weather, fish, and other aquatic life in the Hudson River and New York Harbor. Three interactive videos—narrated by professionals and educators from waterfront communities and available on YouTube—bring this data and the day’s adventure into the schools and student homes. The videos are designed to help students identify fish and compare the diversity of sites and conditions in New York Harbor, the lower estuary from Yonkers to Newburgh, and the upper estuary from Poughkeepsie to Troy, with a special glimpse of the Adirondacks! 

“This year, our older students were excited to mentor younger peers who participated for the first time in Day in the Life,” says Grace Sanvictores, STEAM educator at Hudson Montessori School in Jersey City. “Our upper elementary students enjoyed creating ‘how to’ videos for their younger friends that show them how to use scientific instruments to measure different parameters of the Hudson River. They also were excited to digitally meet the partners who recorded what is happening on their side of the river. They were all very curious about the different fish caught that same day!”

Day in the Life of the Hudson and Harbor encourages students to have a “hands-on” experience with the estuary and discover it for themselves—even if they’re unable to visit the field.

NYSDEC, Lamont Doherty, and other partners provided extra support to teachers this year with pre-trips and post-trips that put the videos in context for students at home and in the classroom. These programs introduce students to the estuary before they access the videos, and help them discover the wonderful diversity of sites and stories they can explore online.

“Even though many schools can’t have the same field experiences as in past years, Day in the Life partners are excited that these online resources can be used beyond the event itself,” says Chris Bowser, education coordinator at the Hudson River Reserve. “It’s a great opportunity for the many voices of environmental education to reach more students than ever.”

“Any student anywhere can look at these videos and explore their estuary,” he adds. “They can see what their estuary looks like and understand that it ranges from a waterfront park in Albany, to a beach under the Brooklyn Bridge, to a creek in Duchess County, and into the East and Harlem rivers.”

Superstars Among Us

Superstars Among Us

We know they’re awesome, but it’s wonderful to see Reserve staff from around the System receiving formal accolades for their creativity and hard work in support of estuaries and coastal communities. A big congratulations to these NERRS superstars—and thank you for all you do!

Sarah McGuire Nuss, Education Coordinator, Virginia’s Chesapeake Bay Reserve

Sarah McGuire Nuss received the 2020 Conservation Educator Award from the Garden Club of Virginia. This prestigious statewide award honors Sarah for her education and outreach programs that bring marine science to K-12 students. These include family-friendly Discovery Labs, summer camps, teacher training workshops, and partnerships with local schools

She has also served as president of the Mid-Atlantic Marine Education Association and helps lead the Virginia Scientists & Educators Alliance. Through these and many other activities, she has impacted thousands of children in tidewater Virginia and beyond. During the current COVID-19 pandemic, Sarah and the education team have continued to provide alternative online opportunities for learning about the environment. 

Julie Stone, President of the Garden Club of Gloucester, says “Sarah’s students not only learn about marine science but also about how to bring a spirit of scientific inquiry to exploring nature. Whether her students are in elementary school, middle school, or high school, or are teachers themselves, they are truly inspired by her energy and passion for science.”

Kristin Evans, Education Coordinator, Texas’s Mission-Aransas Reserve

Kristin Evans received the Higher Education Award from the Coastal Bend Bays Foundation’s Environmental Conservation & Stewardship Award program. Kristin’s award recognizes her work with educators, students, families, and professionals across the Texas Coastal Bend.

The foundation credits her as being “among the most innovative educators in the Coastal Bend, holding over 25 years of experience which include education, professional services, and hands on pedagogical expertise.” They also acknowledge how her ability to deliver effective education programs during unpredictable, challenging times “has shaped the community of not only teachers and students, but families, and other educators in the informal realm.”

Rose Masui, Harmful Species Program Coordinator, Alaska’s Kachemak Bay Reserve

Rose earned the Alaska Invasive Species Partnership’s Outreach Award for her outstanding efforts and commitment to the early detection of marine invasive species. She continues to build partnerships across communities and agencies to provide education and outreach, share protocols, guides and datasheets to support local efforts for the early detection of marine invasive species.

Rose is also the coordinator for the Kachemak Bay Community Monitor European Green Crab Early Detection Program and the Kachemak Bay Reserve’s Invasive Tunicate Monitoring Program. Her nomination recognizes that she pursues all her work “with a professionalism, openness and reliability that enables partnerships and programs to thrive.” Rose also coordinates the statewide Harmful Algal Bloom Monitoring Network, a lifesaving outreach program.

Chris Bowser, Education Coordinator, New York’s Hudson River Reserve

Chris Bowser received the 2020 Leadership Award from the New York State Outdoor Education Association in honor of his 25 years of service as an environmental educator in the Hudson Valley. 

This touching and inspiring video (that Chris was asked to prepare by the awards committee) recognizes how the programming he has run behind for many years has made a difference in  one of the New York communities he supports. Thanks in part to Chris’s work, there is a new generation of environmental stewards emerging in the Hudson River Valley. Now that’s something to be thankful for!

Lake Superior Reserve, Wisconsin

The Lake Superior Reserve won an award from the National Weather Service (NWS) in September for enhancing community understanding of lakeshore flooding. The Ambassador of Excellence awards recognize local community members who have made significant contributions to helping build a weather-ready nation. The Lake Superior Reserve was recognized as a critical partner on multiple fronts, most recently in organizing a local conference on the subject of high and low water levels in Lake Superior, at which the National Weather Service presented. The conference connected National Weather Services resources with dozens of stakeholders across the Lake Superior shoreline. Afterwards, the Reserve partnered with NWS to establish the working group CHAOS (Coastal Hazards of Lake Superior), whose activities are continuing to connect communities with science, data, and best practices around lakeshore flooding and other coastal hazards.

Talk NERRdy to Me: Chris Bowser

Talk NERRdy to Me: Chris Bowser

Talk NERRdy to Me is a monthly column about leaders and luminaries from across our 29 Reserves. This month, NERRA’s correspondent-at-large Nik Charov chatted with Chris Bowser, the “funnier”  NERRA auctioneer and education coordinator at New York’s Hudson River Reserve. They covered a hundred-mile estuary replete with science, eels, volunteers, and one wrong Seger.

Nik: One purpose of Talk NERRdy is to explore what it means to be a NERRd across sectors and geographies. Why this bizarre collection of people, in this small little boat of a system, navigating the changing world? So let’s start there. Why are you a NERRd, Bowser?

Chris: I think maybe something NERRds have in common is they don’t like to be pigeon-holed. They don’t like to be just one thing. Everybody’s attracted to Reserves because they do education, AND research, AND stewardship. We can’t settle on just one thing, and I’m thankful the NERRS is about trying to do everything. Which has its pros and cons. I’ve been with NERRS for 13 years and education coordinator for six. Before that, I worked for the nonprofit Hudson River Sloop Clearwater.

Nik: Oh yeah, with Bob Seger! 

Chris: Well, it’s actually Pete Seeger, but funny story: When I first started working on the Clearwater, I thought it was Bob Seger’s boat and I was like ‘I love Night Moves!’ I was colossally disappointed to find out it was not Bob Seger. But I quickly adopted the easy joy that is Pete Seeger’s message and music. 

Nik: Before that, you were in the Peace Corps, weren’t you?

Chris: I was. I lived in Mauritania in West Africa for two years. That’s where I really decided I was not just into science, but more in education and communities. For all the talking I have to do, the Peace Corps taught me to listen more. It’s a lesson I’m always coming back to. I went into it very naive and with a mindset that wasn’t always productive. But after a year I had a real epiphany and I said ‘Bowser, you need to listen more.’ And thankfully I did. It turned that experience around and the latter part of my Peace Corps experience was one of the best times of my life.

Nik: What caused the epiphany?

Chris: I realized that it’s wonderful to bring science to bear on many problems, but science has to be paired with a respect and recognition for the people on the ground. The people who are living in a situation, whether it’s historical trauma or environmental degradation, have a lot of the solutions built into their community. Science can help, but science can not replace that.

The listening started by saying: “Here’s the small set of tools I can bring to the problem—what is the much bigger set of tools that the community is already engaged in? How can I contribute in small but legitimate ways?” That’s not unique to desertification in West Africa. That’s applicable across the entire planet.

Nik: And even the NERRS. I think a lot of us came in with the attitude that if you bring good science, the rest follows. Is that not your experience?

Chris: I don’t think you can just bring the science. I heard a presentation earlier this week from an educator on the Clearwater named Amali Knobloch. She didn’t start her presentation with the river or science or education or advocacy. She started out talking about trust.

It really clicked in my mind—that’s a huge element in all these issues, whether social or science or environmental. You can’t just bring science to a problem without also making sure you’ve established trust. I think often throughout history, it’s been assumed that science IS trust. It’s science, right? It’s vetted. Nope… that’s naive and incomplete. That’s just not how people work.

Nik: How does the education sector accomplish bridging science and trust and conservation? Is that your role?

Chris: I think it’s everybody’s role. I just love it when people discover the river for themselves. My favorite education programs are the ones where we talk the least. To me, the ideal program is some version of: “Here are some tools, go out and explore, and YOU tell ME what you find.” Enabling people to explore their river on their terms, in their community, whether it’s in Kingston or Yonkers or Staten Island.

Nik: You just covered 100 miles there! New York is a major estuary. How do you get people to understand that scale?

Chris: I don’t really worry about that. You just try to get people to care about their piece of the estuary. You’re in Poughkeepsie? Great. Let’s go down to the Poughkeepsie waterfront. And once we’re there, we’ll talk about estuaries, because look, the water level is changing before our very eyes because of the tides. 

I think a lot of things click into place for people then. You’re suddenly connected from Albany to New York Harbor to the Atlantic ocean and the world. You say, ‘Look, this is a baby eel, it was born a year ago, 1,000 miles away and now it’s come to your town, to your creek.’ Then eels are no longer just cool fish, they’re concrete reminders that we live in a larger connected world. That’s a great thing for people to realize and discover. Teaching about estuaries means we’re constantly teaching about connections and how nothing exists on its own. 

Nik: When people start to grasp this, what actions do they take? How do you turn education into action on the Hudson River?

Chris: People learn in different ways: some by reading, some by doing, some with music, some with motion. Similarly, the actions people take are different. For some, it’s volunteering once a year for a river clean up. For others, it’s donating to a local nonprofit or joining the town zoning board. That’s all awesome. 

Doing any kind of service allows you to feel good about yourself. I volunteer a couple nights a week with a local ambulance squad. Sure, I’m grateful to do something for the community, but the truth is that it does something for me too.

In the NERRS, I think it’s good for us to make sure we prioritize the people we want to be involved in conservation action. It’s great to pick up trash and save the whales, but the first message should be ‘You’re going to get something out of this. This is going to be something important to you.’ 

A few years ago, the Cary Institute surveyed our eel volunteers. They found the reasons young people wanted to volunteer with us was that they could spend time with their friends, they liked being outside, and it felt good to be in the riveras opposed to ‘oh, I want to help the environment.’ That part was nice, but it was the internal motivators that really mattered. That really changed how we frame volunteer recruitment. 

Nik: But you’re volunteering to be an EMT in a freaking pandemic!?

Chris: It’s been a really important source of strength and recovery for me. During calls, everything just goes away—my personal issues, my work issues. I’m just focused on what’s going on. It can be intense, but it’s also good to have something to focus on during tough times. 

Nik: Huh… well, listen, I was instructed that, because this was the Chris and Nik show, it had to be funny. So far I don’t think we’ve laughed once.

Chris: They pigeon-holed us! Why didn’t you tell me at the beginning? Now all the funny stuff’s going to be at the end.

Nik: People gave up reading a few answers ago. 

Chris: We could talk about some of the other great aspects of being an educator.

Nik: That should be comedy gold.

Chris: Ok, here’s one. One of the funniest moments in my entire education career was two years ago when I was onstage at a public festival doing an eel program, and I called up a volunteer from the audience to touch an eel.

And this girl—let’s call her Daria—comes up. Daria’s mom is in the front row filming with her phone, and I say, ‘Ok Daria, choose a finger, and you’re going to use that finger to touch this eel. Now show me your finger.’ And this four-year-old girl looks at me and just slowly extends her middle finger, giving me the bird on stage, and the whole place is falling apart laughing. She sticks it right in the tank and uses it to touch the eel. It was probably inappropriate, but it was just one of my favorite education moments of all time.

Nik: Kid must have been from New Jersey.

Chris: Well, we were in NYC, that’s all I can tell ya.

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Kids of All Kinds Clean Up the Hudson

Kids of All Kinds Clean Up the Hudson

Daisy—who likes to munch on invasive veggies—was one of many volunteers who cleared the way for native species restoration at the Hudson River Reserve during I Love My Park Day 2019.

More than 40 people—including families, college students, and one hungry goat—attended the 2019 I Love My Park Day event at New York’s Hudson River Reserve headquarters. As part of the day-long cleanup and restoration event, they picked up trash, painted picnic tables, and cleared brush along the shoreline. The star of the day was Daisy the goat, who is skilled at eating invasive vegetation. She worked with the brush clearing team to clear an area for replanting with native flora.

Many volunteers at I Love My Park Day were families and college students. The event gave the next generation a hands-on role in stewarding our estuaries, not only for themselves, but also for future Reserve visitors.

“In our programs, we talk about environmental problems and solutions,” says Chris Bowser, the education coordinator at the Reserve. “It’s essential we make sure that everyone, especially the kids, can be a part of those solutions. When they come back to the Reserve and see the table they painted, the beach they cleaned, or the tree they planted, that adds agency and ownership to their experience. They can see that they had a real, positive effect.”

That positivity will be felt by everyone who comes to the Reserve this year. The headquarters host more than 7,000 visitors annually, many of them students. The I Love My Park Day cleanup site is the most visited and visible part of the Reserve. “Improving the site enhances our educational efforts,” says, Chris. “We can say: this is what a clean shoreline looks like, and here’s what native vegetation looks like.”

Now in its eighth year, I Love My Park Day is a collaboration between the New York Department of Conservation, New York State Department of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation, and many other partners. The work at the Reserve’s headquarters was one of more than 140 cleanups that took place, engaging more than 8,000 volunteers. Together they demonstrated what a difference we can make for estuaries when we collaborate—even when it’s across species lines!

Thank you…Eels?

Thank you…Eels?

 Photos courtesy Hudson River Reserve, New York

The American Eel might not be at the top of everyone’s list of charasmatic estuary critters, but on New York’s Hudson River, these eels are local celebrities.

Hatched in the warm waters of the Atlantic’s Sargasso Sea, tiny eel larvae go on an epic journey that begins with a ride on the Gulf Stream and ends in estuaries like the Hudson River. Along the way, they undergo a remarkable transformation. They enter the estuary as small, see-through “glass eels,” and as they migrate up river, they gain the familiar brownish-green color and grow up to four feet long. In the process, they inhabit virtually every aquatic habitat—from mountain streams and farm ponds to city creeks.

 

All of this might not have been enough to make American eels so popular, were it not for one problem—dams and other barriers have placed ecological pressures on these fish and drastically reduced their numbers. In an effort to turn the tide on this challenge, our Hudson River Reserve worked with partners to establish the Amercian Eel Citizen Science Project,  a monitoring initiative that has engaged hundreds of volunteers to count half a million eels since 2008. Participants have even encouraged the testing of new technologies like the “eelevator” to help young eels get over barriers and continue their journey upriver.

For the staff at our Hudson River Reserve, the eel is a symbol of the strong connections between local communities and their river. The spring arrival of young eels tells Reserve staff that it’s time for more than 750 citizen scientists to start checking specialized eel nets. It’s also time for the Reserve to launch education programs that teach more than 8,000 students and people about the Hudson River Estuary. The sight of students and volunteers enjoying hands-on interactions with the eels is not only a symbol of those connections, it’s an indicator that the estuary is healthy enough to have diverse fish populations that support healthy ecosystems and tourism in New York each year.

Thank you, American Eels! Your presence in the Hudson River inspires us to work harder to build connections between communities and the estuaries they depend on to thrive.

Have you had an encounter with an eel or another critter at one of our Reserves? We’d love to hear about it! Share your Reserve story. 

ReservesHudson River, New York