Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Restoration Efforts in the City with a Ring Around It

By Paul C. Focazio, Web Content Manager, New York Sea GrantThe greater New Orleans area is a melting pot of complex issues that often overlap and sometimes conflict. We've seen the impact that major hurricanes (like those in the 2005 season, Katrina and Rita) have had on the area, which are only heightened because of accelerated wetlands loss. According to data from partners of the Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection and Restoration Act initiative, "If nothing more is done to stop this land loss, Louisiana could potentially lose approximately 700 additional square miles of land, or an area about equal to the size of the greater Washington D.C.-Baltimore area, in the next 50 years."

Overall, these wetlands serve a vital purpose, both as physical habitat and nursery grounds for a wide variety of marine organisms as well as storm buffers by reducing wind and wave action in shallow shoreline areas. But, over the years, their presence in the Barataria-Terrebonne Estuary System (BTES) has declined, mostly due to subsidence, a complex process in which marsh sediments compact and sink under their own weight. Historically, annual floods over the banks of the Mississippi River provided freshwater and sediment inputs to BTES marshes and kept them above water. But, the levees that have been constructed to protect shoreline communities from these floods are also preventing water and sediment from reaching BTES marshes.

Over time, the process of subsidence drowns coastal marshes, causing chemical changes in wetland soils which, eventually, kill marsh vegetation. Without plant roots to hold it together, marsh soil breaks up and is carried away by wave action. The end result? Marsh is converted to open water. This additional volume of water causes an increase in the tidal prism, forcing passes to enlarge and reducing the lengths of barrier islands such as Grand Isle, which protect interior marshes from wave action and hurricanes.

"From hurricane flooding to wetlands loss and subsidence, these are complex issues that we're facing as a city," says Caitlin Reilly [pictured above in (1) with an educator from our NYSMEA / NYSG trip]. Reilly, a Sea Grant extension specialist at Louisiana State University (LSU), led the group during a morning of plant propagation and re-potting at the Pelican Greenhouses and Wetland Plant Center [pictured below in (2)] in City Park, New Orleans, LA.

Before beginning their work at the Center, the educators [pictured below in (3)] asked Reilly a series of questions that are likely on the minds of people outside of the area ...

"Why should I care?" ... "A lot of the area's natural resources are in peril," says Reilly, citing oil at the top of that list. One-quarter of all of the U.S.’s crude oil comes from the Gulf. And, Louisiana relies on oil for more than just the day-to-day luxuries of life. One out of every 13 Louisianans work on the drilling and production platforms off the coast. So, without the drilling off the Gulf a lot of people would be out of a job. New York Sea Grant's Long Island Sound Study specialist Larissa Graham discusses the facts, figures and concerns comprising this 'big picture' issue in her February 2011 blog post, "The Louisiana Coast: Oil spills and more."

"So how do we teach sustainability when our economy doesn't dictate it?," one educator asked, using how the oil industry drives the local economy as an example. "Show all sides of the issue and let the students decide for themselves," says NYSG's Graham. "It's something we haven't figured out how to incorporate into our economies," adds Reilly, "but we're going to have to as issues related to and the effects of climate change play a greater part in situations affecting millions of people."

"What can I do at home, focusing on my habitats, to make a difference?," the educators asked. "People are largely unaware of the resources here," says Reilly, "so it's hard to understand what, if anything should be restored." She encourages people to learn more about the Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection and Restoration Act and decide for themselves.

The other big question on the minds of the educators was something they said they don't hear much, if anything about, in the news anymore: the oil spill. As we're all aware now, on April 20, 2010, the Deepwater Horizon drilling platform exploded, flooding the surrounding waters with crude oil. An estimated 4.9 million barrels of oil were estimated to have flowed into the Gulf before it was completely sealed in September 2010. During the cleanup process, 6.8 million liters of soap-like dispersant were used at depth and surface levels to break up the oil. The Deepwater Horizon incident was the largest oil spill to date—in the world.

"There are a lot of unanswered questions," says Reilly, such as the level and effects of the dispersant used, the distribution of oil in the water column, how much oil either evaporated from or was consumed by microbes in the waters of this warm climate. "Compared to all the other issues we're dealing with, the impacts seem relatively negligible at this point," she says, "though large-scale systemic implications may arise down the road."

Like many people in the country, the educators wondered how the seafood industry has been faring through all of this. According to February 2012 report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Fisheries Service, Gulf seafood is safe to eat since 2010's Deepwater Horizon BP Oil Spill. The report was published in the prestigious journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and outlines the steps that federal and state experts used to safeguard seafood safety. The report, co-authored by Gina Ylitalo of NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center and others from NOAA and the Food and Drug Administration, shows that the public can be confident about the seafood they eat, solely based on the integrity of the science process. For more on the report, see NOAA Fisheries Service's related news release, "Study: Seafood Safe After Deepwater Horizon."

While at the Pelican Greenhouses and Wetland Plant Center [see pictures (4) - (5)], the educators propagated some 612 plantings of bitter panicum, one of a variety of commonly used more salt-tolerant plant species used in and around New Orleans restoration sites [see pictures (6) - (9)].

“We have a lot of salinity issues in this part of the country, so we’re always trying to figure out what will stay in place once we get it in there,” says Reilly.

Other plant species include Gulf bluestem, bullrush, oyster grass and Spartina patens (marsh hay), the latter of which the group also helped to re-pot in larger planters for a future restoration effort [see pictures (10) - (16)]. All weeds were removed from each Spartina plant, as the plants do not compete well once planted. Also, the plants were re-potted using a mixture of mostly sand with some mulch and peat moss.

Following their time at the Center, the educators took a tour around the greater New Orleans area to get a better sense of why restoration efforts are so important in this region. At the heart of discussions was the newly-constructed ring around the city.

In June 2011, a $14 billion effort was completed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that put a 350-mile ring of levees, 20-foot flood walls, gates and pumps around the greater New Orleans area to defend against the effects of a severe storm. The comprehensive system - outlined in the map below - is a marked improvement from the patchwork of levees and walls that were breached during Hurricane Katrina. This map also features some of the key areas the educators visited, including the Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge (A), Bayou Bienvennue (B), the French Quarter (C), the Lower 9th Ward (D) and one of the system's southernmost flood walls (E). For a larger view of this map, click here.

During the tour, the educators discussed with Reilly some of the problems facing the region. They began at Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge [as seen in pictures (17) - (19), its muds cracked from recent rains after a long spell of severe droughts in southern Louisiana]. Established in 1990, Bayou Sauvage encompasses approximately 25,000 acres in New Orleans. It is the largest urban wildlife refuge in the country and one of the last remaining marsh areas adjacent to Lakes Pontchartrain and Borgne.

Lake Pontchartrain is part of the area’s estuary system north of New Orleans, which also includes Lakes Borgne and Saint Catherine. These spots, along with the eastern side of the city of New Orleans, are where much of the storm surge swept into New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina.

“New Orleans is in a bowl, so the [Mississippi] River is actually where the high ground is,” says Reilly. “So, when Katrina was happening, you could actually still walk along the River. They called it ‘The Isle of Denial” or ‘The Sliver By the River.’ There are also some ridges near the bayou that are high ground that didn’t flood.”

Historically, it was flooding from the Mississippi River that was the issue of concern. But, with all the modifications to the River’s hydrology in the last 100 years, “it’s changed to where we don’t have as much protection against hurricane storm surges,” says Reilly.

In the French Quarter, you might have seen some short-term flooding of rainwater. But, all of that went down really fast. “The real problems came from sitting water over time,” says Reilly. “So, there was minimal damage to the French Quarter and right along the [Mississippi] River. It was in the areas closer to where the levees breached throughout southeast Louisiana and Mississippi that the main thrust of damage occurred.”

Hurricane flooding in the modern era has been contributed to largely by die-offs of areas like the Cyprus Triangle, near the Ninth Ward, which is located in the easternmost downriver portion of the city of New Orleans. Such locales, including Bayou Bienvenue [as seen in (20), below] never recovered after the opening of the Mississippi River limited sediment transport to keep plants and grasses in place. This move also prevented freshwater from flushing out the land after flooding from severe storms like 1965’s Hurricane Betsy, which left considerable salt staining. All this has caused not only more flooding, but sinking as well.

“This land has been sliced and diced, with nothing to help build the land back up,” says Reilly. “So, there are a good number of dedicated dredging and restoration projects that continue to this day to help combat these issues.”

Adding additional stress to already troubled areas such as the former cyprus forests of Bayou Bienvenue are non-native species such as nutria, a semi-aquatic rodent introduced from South America that has literally eaten up Louisiana's coastline [as seen in (21), below, which was taken during the first NYSMEA/NYSG tour of this area in February 2011].

Nutria live in fresh, intermediate, and brackish marshes and wetlands and feed on vegetation that is vital to the area's coastline. Their "eat-outs" create opening in the marsh vegetation, and, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, they are currently affecting an estimated 100,000 acres of coastal wetlands. With Louisiana's coastal wetlands converting to open water at an annual rate of 25-35 square miles, nutria are an additional burden to an already stressed ecosystem.

One of the areas in the New Orleans area hit hardest by Hurricane Katrina, which set down in late August 2005 [(22, above], was the Lower 9th Ward. As seen in the diagram above, damage to the Lower 9th Ward was extensive - pre-Katrina houses noted in red, post-Katrina houses in black. With sustained winds of 130 miles per hour in New Orleans, this area accounted for 1,000 of the 1,836 total fatalities and more than 4,000 homes destroyed. And, with estimated damages in 2006 totaled $84 billion, some much needed help has continued to come in the form from Make It Right Foundation and Common Ground Relief, among others.

The educators visited one of the southernmost 20-foot flood walls [(23), above] from The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recently-completed comprehensive system of levees, flood walls, gates and pumps around the greater New Orleans area. Another flood wall can seen around the Lower 9th Ward [see in the distance in (24), below]

During our visit to the Lower 9th Ward, we came across a mixture of damaged or abandoned homes [(26), below], empty house plots and homes currently under construction [(27), below]. NYSG's Larissa Graham, one of this year's tour facilitators, had a personal connection to the area's rebuilding, having traveled to New Orleans with a group of students from Virginia Tech in 2006, some six months after Hurricane Katrina. Graham was then a graduate student volunteering with Common Ground Collective. Here, in her words, is the work she took part in at a church on Egania Street [see (25), above].

"In Tyvex suits and respirators, we spent four days removing debris from the church and gutting it. The pastor would stop in on us every now and then and bring us Gatorade and water to thank us for our hard work. Once we were finished, the Common Ground staff that were with us said that there was termite damage and they weren't sure if the church would be saved. So, you can imagine why it brought tears to my eyes when I saw that it was reopened. The men rebuilding the house next door said that the pastor had just left for the day - seeing him would have been the icing on the cake. The rebuilding in the area has taken years and still has a long way to go. Although it's just one, little piece, it's nice to know that our hard work wasn't wasted."

Now, we're heading further south for a habitat restoration planting at the Port Fourchon Maritime Forest Ridge and a return visit to a very unique mature maritime forest on Louisiana's Grand Isle.

Monday, February 27, 2012

At to the 'Center' of Plant Restoration

By Paul C. Focazio, Web Content Manager, New York Sea Grant

Louisiana is where you'll find 30% of the lower contiguous U.S.'s coastal wetlands. This translates to about 7,000 square miles of some of the most diverse habitats in the world and constitutes the largest adjoining wetland system in the lower 48 states.

Coastal wetlands like these are vital, protecting against storm surge, or the rise of water associated with a hurricane or other storm, plus tide, wave run-up and flooding. They also help maintain water quality and provide habitat for wildlife. These and other coastal environments generate billions of dollars annually through such industries as commercial fisheries and tourism.

So, it should come as no surprise that there's considerable concern over these fragile environments disappearing at an alarming rate. Louisiana marsh loss accounts for over 90% of the nation's total. According to data provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), Louisiana loses an average of 25-30 square miles of coastal marsh each year. Since the mid-1950's, nearly 1 million acres of coastal marsh have been lost, most of which has been converted to open water. And, if the current rate of loss isn't slowed, an additional 800,000 acres of wetlands will disappear by 2040, and the Louisiana shoreline will advance inland as much as 33 miles in some areas.

That's why places like the Golden Meadow Plant Materials Center (GMPMC) in Galliano, Louisiana are so important. GMPMC is a leader in coastal wetland ecosystem restoration. The Center develops plants and procedures to reverse the loss of coastal wetlands in the service areas of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas. Golden Meadow is one in a network of 27 USDA Plant Materials Centers across the country under the NRCS's Plant Materials Program. These centers serve as learning sites to stimulate and foster an understanding of the importance of plants in the environment and their role in conservation programs.

In New York, there's Big Flats Plant Materials Center located in Corning (about an hour south of Cornell University in Ithaca), which provides plants in the Northeast region - New York, Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania. These plants include ‘Niagara’ big bluestem, ‘Glacial Lake’ butterfly weed, ‘Keystone’ buttonbush, Glacial Lake Albany Germplasm wild lupine and ‘Golden Jubilee black-eyed Susan.

During their five-day trip in southern Louisiana with NYSMEA and NYSG, the educators stayed and volunteering at GMPMC [see pics 1-3 below], which is located within the Barataria-Terrebonne Estuary, one of the largest and most productive estuarine systems in the United States. The Estuary spans a 4.2 million acre region between the Atchafalaya and Mississippi Rivers, whose preservation and restoration has been the mission of the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program (BTNEP) since 1991.

BTNEP is one of 28 nationally-significant U.S. estuaries identified under the Clean Water Act. In New York, there are several nationally-recognized estuaries, including the New York-New Jersey Harbor & Estuary, Peconic Estuary, and the Long Island Sound (LIS), the latter of which is supported by NYSG via its LIS Study (LISS) Educator Larissa Graham. See NYSG's LISS news archive for some recent initiatives and, for more on estuaries, see the Environmental Protection Agencies' National Estuary Programs Web site.

"Our main objective is providing habitat restoration plants to reduce coastal erosion," says GMPMC's Garret Thomassie [pictured in (4) above]. As Thomassie explained to the educators, the Center develops a variety of plants for coastal wetland remediation, restoration, and enhancement - such as inland saltgrass (5), Pelican black mangrove (6), seashore paspalum (7), Gulf cordgrass (8), switchgrass, red mulberry and Gulf bluestem, Gulf Coast marsh hay cord grass, among others.

The reason for the Center's plant varieties [some more of which are seen in pics (9) - (11)] is that each of the grasses, trees and shrubs have different salinity tolerance levels to accommodate the different sands and soils found in the surrounding environments, which include salt marsh, brackish marsh, tidal freshwater marsh and swamp, mangrove swamp, beaches and dunes.

"We try to make these plants more easily available so that people aren't going into these fragile environments to harvest plants for restoration efforts," said Thomassie.

Part of the process in cultivating plants at the Center involves harvesting seeds [see pics (12) and (13)], which are then planted in trays with soil for germination using, among other equipment, a needle seeder [pictured in (14)]. After these trays have grown the intended plants [such as Gulf bluestem, pictured in (15) - (18)], they are then clipped and propagated to increase their amounts. A full table of Gulf bluestem [as pictured in the Center's greenhouse, (16) - (18) will be enough to satisfy the approximately 20 commercial growers who have requested about 100 plants each for this spring.

As Thomassie showed the educators [as seen in pics (19) - (23)], propagating these restoration plants involved clipping them, placing several in each of the tray's sections and then trimming the clippings to spur additional growth and increase their chances for survival.

After an afternoon of working on the Gulf bluestem propagation project, numerous trays were filled by the educators [as pictured in (24)], which greatly helped the Center to fulfill the upcoming requests of commercial growers.

For more on plants for coastal restoration in the Gulf Coast region, check out NRCS's Web site. And for wetland loss and restoration efforts in southern Louisiana, visit Click over to see how you can "Get Involved," either in southern Louisiana or in your area, and check out the "Education" section for teacher and student resources and wetlands videos.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Meet The Educators ... and Their Revisited and New Restoration Efforts

By Paul C. Focazio, Web Content Manager, New York Sea Grant

The educators taking part in this year’s southern Louisiana restoration and wetlands exploration run the gamut in terms of their experience – from high school teachers on Long Island and in New York City to instructors at the American Museum of Natural History and an environmental center in Queens. The group is being led by New York State Marine Education Association’s President Meghan Marrero and New York Sea Grant’s Long Island Sound Study Educator Larissa Graham.

New York Sea Grant’s Long Island Sound Study Educator Larissa Graham and New York State Marine Education Association’s President Meghan Marrero , pictured here in February 2011 during a plant propagation at the Wetland Plant Center in City Park.

In addition to her duties at NYSMEA, Marrero is an Associate Professor of Secondary Science Education at Mercy College in Dobbs Ferry. This is her second Gulf trip, this time accompanied by two graduate students funded through a grant from the Mercy College Faculty Development Committee. Marrero holds degrees in biological science and science education and has worked as a high school teacher, curriculum director, and educational consultant. Her research interests focus on marine education, specifically in improving ocean literacy and also increasing teacher pedagogical content knowledge in the STEM disciplines.

Marrero co-led last year’s Louisiana trip with Graham, who has a Bachelors of Science in Environmental Science and, after college, worked for the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection for a few years tracking lobster populations in Long Island Sound. In 2007, she received her Masters degree in Fisheries Science from Virginia Tech. Her research focused on bycatch in the horseshoe crab trawl fishery. After graduating, she began working at New York Sea Grant, teaching stakeholders about Long Island Sound.

“I’m especially excited to see how the restoration sites we worked on last year – with Louisiana Sea Grant and the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program – have progressed," says Graham. "I’m also looking forward to visiting new sites and areas that we didn’t have a chance to see last year, such as the Louisiana State Universities Marine Consortium.”

Last year, NYSMEA educators and NYSG staff volunteered with several dozen students from Andrew Jackson Middle School in nearby Chalmette, Louisiana at Louisiana State University (LSU) AgCenter's Wetland Plant Center (WPC) in City Park. The group - led by Caitlin Reilly, a Sea Grant extension specialist at LSU - propagated 2,700 strands of Gulf Bluestem (a wetland plant) and re-potted 320 Spartina alterniflora (smooth cordgrass, a wetland plant), for future WPC restoration efforts.

The educators also spent a day on the Port Fourchon Maritime Forest Ridge for restoration efforts with Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program (BTNEP) staff, including Plant Materials Coordinator Matt Benoit. By the end of the volunteer activity, they planted nearly 800 salt matrimony vine tree/shrubs on the rather vegetatively bare ridge. These small, native evergreens have a high success rate in most soils and are also tolerant of salt spray and drought conditions. And, as the group learned first-hand, in the face of Louisiana’s unparalleled coastal wetlands loss, restoring rather bare ridge habitats such as this one into more maritime-like forests are vital because they serve as a refuge for many animals including the millions of migrating birds that cross the Gulf of Mexico in the spring each year on their way back to their breeding grounds in the eastern United States and Canada.

Educators on this year's trip will undertake, as Graham mentioned earlier, a mix of experiences from last year as well as some new challenges. Here’s more on the professional backgrounds of some of these educators, as well as some insights into what they were most looking forward to during this five day trip, in their own words:

Mark Barone (pictured in 1,above), High School Special Education Instructor, Hammondsport, NY

I took part in the Gulf Restoration 2011 trip. It was fantastic! Last year, I left the comforts of home in Hammondsport, New York (Currently, tied for 1st place in Budget Travels “Coolest Town in the USA” contest) to fly down to New Orleans, Louisiana. The nature of the volunteer work that we did (erosion control) was stimulating and gave me a clearer vision of the many good things that happen when people work together. NYSMEA’s leaders and members really bring the ocean literacy concepts to life. I sincerely believe that the work that we have started will endure in ways that are beyond what I may have imagined.

One objective that I have for this trip is to better understand the meteorological movement of air masses and formation of major storms. I would like to develop the skills necessary in order to take proactive steps toward protecting the natural environment of coastal Louisiana. Finally, I would like to share a dedication toward stewardship and science in learning about Earth’s precious waterways.

Dyan Freiberg (2), Educator, Alley Pond Environmental Center, Douglaston, NY

I grew up on Long Island, currently live in Manhattan and have worked as an Educator at Alley Pond Environmental Center in Douglaston, Queens since 2001. There, I teach students of all ages about the plants, animals and ecosystems that are found in the New York metropolitan area, and more specifically Alley Pond Park.

I have a Masters Degree in Elementary Education from Hunter College and a Bachelors in Zoology from the University of Wisconsin.

I’ve never been to Louisiana and consider the NYSMEA trip a wonderful opportunity for me to offer my help as a volunteer as well as meet new people.

Coleen Grant (3), High School Science Teacher, Centereach, NY

I have been teaching high school science for the past 15 years in the Middle Country School District at Centereach. After attending college at Long Island University Southampton, I got my teaching job and a park ranger job at Fire Island National Seashore. I worked for the park service seasonally for about six or seven years as an Interpretation Ranger. While there, I ran children’s programs and nature walks. It was wonderful teaching in the field.

Currently, I have started teaching a couple of new half year electives in Environmental Studies and Oceanography. When I saw the opportunity to be a part of this program, I was thrilled to share in this chance to make a difference. I love to travel and bring experiences back to my students. I had recently visited Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa and have incorporated many of my experiences in these two new classes.

Karen Matsumoto (4), Marine Science Education Coordinator, Seattle Aquarium, WA

I’m the project lead at the Seattle Aquarium in Washington State for the “Citizen Science” high school nearshore monitoring program and the Olympic Coast Ocean Science literacy program for fourth and fifth graders. I’ve worked in the field of conservation biology and environmental education for over 25 years. I love to share nature with children through art and journaling.

My connections with the New York State Marine Educators Association are through my participation in the Project Power Wetlands Education Program with Merryl Kafka at New York Aquarium as well as through my friendship with colleague NYSMEA President Meghan Marrero, who I met at the NOAA-sponsored Papahanaumokuakea Ahahui Alakai leadership Program on Midway Atoll.

Lauren Mahony (5), Student Teacher, Lehman High School, Bronx, NY

In addition to student teaching at Lehman High School, I currently attend Mercy College, where I’m pursuing a degree in secondary biology. It’s also the place I came to meet NYSMEA President Meghan Marerro. I mentioned to her that I would love to do some field work and so she suggested that I take part in this trip. I am a National Geographic junkie and Science Channel junkie so I’m excited to apply my knowledge to real life situations.

Elizabeth Platt (6), Science Teacher [AP Environmental Science and the Living Environment/Biology], Smithtown High School West, Smithtown, NY

Teaching is my second career. My first was working as a field biologist for the Nature Conservancy, identifying potential preserves throughout New York State and field checking rare plants and some animals. I love wetlands and spend a lot of weekend time birding in them with my husband.

I cover habitat restoration in my AP environmental science course. I try to get as much personal experience in all the topics that I teach. This wetland restoration project with NYSMEA and Sea Grant will help me to get closer to my goal. I hope to get my students and my Ecology Club involved in a restoration project on Long Island.

Tom Armentrout (7), High School Teacher, Bainbridge Island, Puget Sound, Seattle, WA

I currently teach 5 sections (144 total students) of Marine Science, a year-long elective for juniors and seniors at our public high school on Bainbridge Island in Puget Sound. Our island is a 30 minute ferry ride due west out of downtown Seattle. I've taught for 25 years, starting with 5th-8th grade in a small rural school near The Dalles, Oregon.

Before teaching, I worked a couple seasons as a commercial fisherman off the Oregon and California coasts for Salmon and Tuna. I worked as a boatbuilder in Hood River, Oregon for 5 years. I was treasurer/secretary for the Northwest Aquatic and Marine Educators (NAME) association for two years. For several years I worked on a Marine Science curriculum dissemination project, and in 1993 I got to teach a two-day workshop for local school teachers on the Louisiana coast. I'm looking forward to re-visiting this amazing landscape inhabited by wonderful folks.

In my photo (pictured in 7, above; in yellow), I'm with my students on a marine science sailing research voyage in the San Juan Islands of Puget Sound.

Russell Taragan (8), Education Department, American Museum of Natural History

I was lucky enough to visit Louisiana last year, and enjoyed the trip immensely. I am 29, and live and work in New York City. I have always loved science and nature, particularly marine science. My first memory from around age two is of walking on the beach looking at shells. The enjoyment and exploration of nature is most evident in my many hobbies including rocketry, microscopy, SCUBA, kayaking, and backpacking. These hobbies are all-consuming and highly addictive once you get into them.

In college I studied biology including ecology, conservation, oceanography, and microscopy. I was lucky enough to participate in marine research for several years, culminating in a trip to Italy for two weeks with a professor. I find myself torn between environmental education, and research. Accordingly, the best fit so far has been in informal education. This field is usually at the intersection of research, education, and conservation.

As part of The American Museum of Natural History’s Learning Experiences team, I currently work with students and teachers in outreach and professional development. About 80% of this time is with a program called “The Moveable Museum.” This program uses a museum exhibit on a large Ford Winnebago to visit schools within New York City in third to twelfth grades. Our exhibit is called “Dinosaurs: Ancient Fossils, New Discoveries” and is based on a temporary exhibit of the same name that was at the AMNH about 9 years ago. For more information about this program, visit us here.