The project, now in its 11th year, gave the students a unique, hands-on look at the river at the Riverfront Green in Peekskill. "It gives them an understanding of the Hudson River that they never experienced or every thought about before," explained Michael Billy, the AP Environmental Science teacher at Panas.
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 2013, more than 3,500 participants sample the estuary at 64 locations during the one day event.
This was the largest class from Panas that has participated with 24 students taking part in the research opportunity. This year's effort caught a lot of fish most notably striped bass and shad. "This is a key indicator of river health," said Mr. Billy." Additionally, he offered "being partnered with the Constitution Marsh Audubon Conservancy is a great help, not just for having more hands available, but also the chance to gain even more knowledge."
"As the students begin to think through their experience," said Mr. Billy, "They will begin to understand the Hudson as a large ecosystem that changes from salt to fresh water but is connected in a way that one part depends on and is influenced by the other. Global thinking such as this can bring real understanding of natural systems," continued Mr. Billy.
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 Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University.
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.
For more information on the project, go to http://www.ldeo.columbia.edu/edu/k12/snapshotday/