It was only one day, but for students fromWalter Panas High Schoool's AP Environmental Science, the Day in the Life of the Hudson River project was a day well spent learning about the environment they live in and near. The project, now in its 10th year, gave the students a unique, hands-on look at the river at the Riverfront Green in Peekskill.
Organized by the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation's Hudson River Estuary Program, the project gives students along in the Hudson Valley from NYC to Albany an opportunity to collect data on the river. Students collect scientific information to create snapshots of the river at dozens of locations, and then share their data using Web-based technology so they can better understand how their piece of the river fits into the larger Hudson estuary ecosystem.
The results become part of the database that is tracking the river's health. In 2011, more than 3,000 participants sampled the estuary at 64 locations.
Field work is an integral part of the Advanced Placement Environmental Science Class at Panas, explained Walter Panas teacher Michael Billy, who teaches the class. The Hudson River project gives students a unique opportunity to do hands-on research on a body of water that sits right in their backyard.
"The students not only get an idea of the sampling methods an environmental scientist has to do, but also they get more of an appreciation of the Hudson. Until now they might have only been here for a picnic or on a boat, but not looking at the river in depth," Billy said. "I am hoping they get a deeper appreciation for it."
The Walter Panas' class, similar to other groups up and down the river, used seine nets and lab equipment to investigate aquatic life, water chemistry and quality, tides and weather. The students were able to wade into the Hudson collecting the sample and catching and identifying several small fish before releasing them back into the river. Some of the class also collected core samples of river bottom mud for analysis by the DEC.
"I think this class is extremely valuable," Billy said about his AP Environmental class which uses hands-on trips to enhance the curriculum. "At this point in time an understanding of environmental issues is part of being a good citizen and what they, as citizens, can do to help out."
The Panas students were joined by a class from Blue Mountain Middle School.
In partnership with the National Estuarine Research Reserve, the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University, and Cornell's NYS Water Resource Institute, the Estuary Program has recruited and trained river educators to work with students at each site. Findings will be posted online within days of the event.
"There are many benefits to this program," said Zoraida Maloney, one of DEC's citizen science educators, who was on hand to help the students. "It is a great way to get the kids working hands-on with the environment," she said. "A lot of kids don't realize how much they have until they are actually out there feeling and sampling the river themselves. It gives them a much better appreciation of what's in their back yard."
For more information on the program, you can go to http://www.dec.ny.gov/lands/47285.html