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2020 LONG ISLAND NATURAL HISTORY CONFERENCE

(Abstracts/Bios listed in alphabetical order by speaker)

Brooke Bateman, PhD

Senior Climate Scientist, National Audubon Society

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Survival by Degrees: 389 Bird Species on the Brink

The National Audubon Society report- Survival by Degrees: 389 bird species on the brink-addresses how climate change will affect birds and the places they live. Our team of scientists paired 140 million bird observations, recorded by birders and scientists, with environmental information to model the range of 604 North American bird species. We then used the latest climate models to project how each species’s range will shift with climate change. Additionally, we assessed how nine climate change-related threats could further put species and places at risk. The findings are dire, two-thirds of North American bird species are at risk from climate change range shifts. Further, no species will escape from climate change, with birds also facing multiple coincident threats. In New York, 116 species are vulnerable to climate change, including charismatic species like the Scarlet Tanager, Wood Thrush, American Woodcock, Saltmarsh Sparrow, and Piping Plover. New York will experience greater extreme heat events, increased coastal and inland flooding from sea level rise and heavy rainfall, and disrupted ecosystems. The good news is that our science also shows that if we take action now we can help improve the changes for the majority of species at risk. To address these concerning findings, Audubon is focusing on climate adaptation and mitigation. This includes strengthening our understanding of how birds are responding to climate change as it is happening with a combined forecasting and monitoring approach. Audubon’s Climate Watch program integrates the range models and climate projections with community scientists’ local knowledge to track how birds are responding to climate change. Skilled volunteers from across the U.S. collaborate with Audubon scientists by testing the predictions of target species’ mid-2020s climate model projections through on-the-ground monitoring. Here I will provide an overview of Audubon’s groundbreaking climate science, as well outline how Climate Watch is directly testing hypotheses about bird responses to climate change.

Dr. Brooke Bateman is a Senior Scientist, Climate at the National Audubon Society. Brooke leads the climate science team at Audubon to develop research focused on climate and the conservation of birds. In this role she led a team of scientists in developing the 2019 Birds and Climate change Report. Brooke is also the Director of Climate Watch, where she works with community volunteers to understand how climate change currently affects birds in North America. Her research focus is on spatial ecology and conservation, emphasizing the effect that extreme weather events and climate change have on biodiversity. Before joining the Audubon science team in 2016, Brooke conducted postdoctoral research on the influence of climate and weather on birds and marsupials in Australia and at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Brooke received her PhD in Zoology and Tropical Ecology at James Cook University in Australia in 2010.

 

Christopher Clapp

Marine Scientist, The Nature Conservancy

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Dr. Bradley Peterson

School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, Stony Brook University

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Oyster Reefs Then Now and In the Future

Oyster reef restoration efforts in New York have been increasing in recent years with the goal of enhancing both oyster fisheries and the ecosystem benefits provided by oyster reefs. In 2014, the Shinnecock Bay Restoration Program was the second entity to be granted permits to construct four additional oyster reefs in Shinnecock Bay.  The goal was to restore oyster reef ecosystem services in western Shinnecock Bay, ranging from improving water quality to habitat provision. However, oysters are not a new addition to the south shore estuaries of Long Island.  There is a rich history of oysters in Long Island waters. This presentation will present a historical perspective of oysters in the south shore estuaries the forces that lead to their demise and efforts to restore this great resource and potential future threats. In addition, the ecosystem services of the current oyster reefs in Shinnecock Bay will be discussed including their impact on water quality and fisheries enhancement for finfish and mobile invertebrates that utilize the reefs as primary or transient habitat.

Christopher Clapp received a B.S. in Biology from Stony Brook University and an M.S. in Marine Science from Stony Brook University where he utilized geophysical instruments to identify benthic habitats in the Great South Bay, particularly Oyster Reefs. He currently works for the Nature Conservancy and is focused on reducing nitrogen loads that have since been identified as hampering estuarine restoration efforts.

Bradley J. Peterson received a B.S. degree in Marine Biology from the Florida Institute of Technology, a M.S. degree in Zoology from the University of Rhode Island, and a Ph.D. degree in Marine Science from the Dauphin Island Sea Lab. Currently, Brad is an Associate Professor at the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences of Stony Brook University.  He and his lab have published articles on topics ranging from landscape ecology to ocean acidification. His research interests include the impacts of climate change on marine communities, anthropogenic effects on landscape ecology, ecosystem engineering and restoration ecology.

 

Peter Daniel

Professor and Chair of the Department of Biology, Hofstra University

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Survey of Crayfish (Decapoda: Astacida) on Long Island, New York

Crayfish are a diverse group of freshwater crustaceans, with over 600 species described globally.  In New York state, there are fewer than 15 species, and on Long Island specifically very little is known about the diversity, distribution and abundance of crayfish. A number of specimens representing eight species were deposited to the New York State Museum and Smithsonian Institution from several areas on Long Island between 1912 and 2009, though no thorough investigations have been made before now to confirm or refute these findings. The museum specimens were used as guidelines to study the diversity and distribution of crayfish on Long Island.  Thirty one locations were sampled in Nassau and Suffolk counties using two methods, dip netting and trapping. Two species were found at 14 of the locations sampled: a presumed native, Orconectes limosus and a known invasive, Procambarus clarkii.  The findings bring to question the validity of the museum specimens and set the stage for future work on Long Island.

Peter Daniel’s research interests include chemosensory biology of crustaceans, mechanisms of behavior in sea stars, conservation biology of anadromous fishes, and distribution of native and invasive crayfish on Long Island.

 

Robert DiGiovanni

Founder and Chief Scientist of Atlantic Marine Conservation Society (AMSEAS)

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Conservation Update: Marine Mammals and Sea Turtles

Rob will be presenting a summary of marine mammal and sea turtle strandings in NY since 2017, and discuss the changes that are being observed in the marine environment.

 

Louise Harrison

New York Natural Areas Coordinator, Save the Sound

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Conservation Update: Plum Island

Louise will report on the latest efforts to prevent the sale of Plum Island and preserve a significant portion of the island as a conservation area or wildlife refuge.

 

Joel Horman

Editor, Long Island Mycological Club

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Mushrooms and other Fungi of Long Island: An Introduction

An introduction to the biology, ecology and phylogeny of the fungi of Long Island, their amazing variety, bizarre beauty, as well as their benefits and dangers, with representative images.

Joel received a Master's in Social Psychology and was employed by NYS as a Parole Officer. With a deep interest in natural history, after retirement he became a federally licensed bird bander, volunteering at the Fire Island Project and then running a MAPS (mapping avian productivity and survival) station at the South Shore Nature Center for 10 years. About 25 years ago, he followed his wife (president of the LI Mycological Club) into the study of Mycology, and now is a local leader of the Mycoflora of NA project (Mycoflora of Long Island), documenting our local species, which entails vouchering specimens with the NYBG herbarium and depositing their DNA sequencing in GenBank.

 

Jeffrey Levinton

Distinguished Professor of Ecology and Evolution, Stony Brook University

Fiddler Crabs: Their Life is More Exciting than Yours (or Mine)

Three species of fiddler crabs live in our region, each occupying a distinct habitat. Males occupy a burrow and strut about waving their giant major claw to attract females to their burrow for mating. Females must mate and develop their eggs in time for the next spring high tide to release them out to sea. Males live under constant food and thermal stress and literally become exhausted and heat stressed as they compete to attract females. This is an extremely female-limiting world as males wave furiously for the few females, who can and do choose the most attractive and large waver. On the global scale fiddlers include over 100 species spread throughout the tropical world. They can be phenomenally abundant, especially on Long Island.

Jeffrey Levinton is Distinguished Professor of Ecology and Evolution at Stony Brook University. He has been designated Fellow of the American Association for Advancement of Science; John Simon Guggenheim Fellow; Fulbright Senior Scholar (Australia); and President's and Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Teaching, SUNY and National Academies Education Fellow in the Life Sciences. He is author or senior editor of books on Macroevolution, the Hudson River Estuary, Marine Ecology and Marine Biology. He has been an editor or editorial board member of numerous journals, including The American Naturalist, Ecology, Ecological Applications, and Global Change Biology. He is an author of ca. 150 publications. He was Chair of the Hudson River Fund Panel of the Hudson River Foundation and has served on numerous NSF funding panels. He has mentored 22 Ph.D.s and numerous masters students and postdoctorals. He serves on the Advancement Board for Friday Harbor Laboratories and on the Board of Directors for The River Project. He was a Sterling Honorary Fellow at Yale University and winner of the Ward Medal in Geology at the City College of New York. Jeff was born in New York City and fell in love with marine biology after seeing Jacques Cousteau’s “The Silent World” when he was 10. He received his B.S. in Geology from City College of New York and his Ph.D. in Geology and Geophysics at Yale University.

 

Carl LoBue

New York Ocean Programs Director, The Nature Conservancy, NY

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Conservation Update: Menhaden

The health, abundance, and diversity of life in and around New York’s ocean’s depends in large part on an oily little fish that people don’t generally eat—the Atlantic menhaden.  Known locally as “bunker,” menhaden strain tiny plankton from the water with their specialized basket-shaped gills. Like clams and oysters, they are part of an important group of filter feeders that were historically incredibly abundant in New York’s waters.  Menhaden are also an essential food source for predators—including striped bass, bluefish, tuna, sharks, seabirds, ospreys, seals and dolphin. Humpback whales, which will eat up to 3,000 pounds of fish per day, can swallow hundreds of menhaden in a single gulp. When these fish are scarce, the health and abundance of other sea life suffers.

Over the past decade, The Nature Conservancy has been working with fishermen, scientists, and many other ocean advocates to limit the coast-wide menhaden harvest and rebuild these fish to high abundance.  While great progress has been made and coast-wide abundance is rebounding, provisions for management of this fishery remain controversial and uncertain.  This presentation will provide an update on recent and anticipated developments concerning coast-wide and NY specific management changes to the Atlantic Menhaden fishery.

Since 2002, Carl LoBue’s focus areas at The Nature Conservancy in NY have included advancing system-wide water quality improvements, restoration and management of estuarine shellfish, stewardship of Conservancy owned underwater lands, fishery policy reform, connecting people and nature through film, and promoting marine life protections within the growing offshore energy arena.

 

Dr. Nicole P. Maher

Senior Coastal Scientist, The Nature Conservancy, NY

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Medical Imaging: It’s Not Just for Human Patients Anymore!

Medical imaging is routinely used to increase the visibility of internal body parts and diagnose human health conditions. It helps a medical team detect what’s broken, diagnose an invisible disease, or assess a problem before it gets worse. This technology helps determine the best course of treatment and can inform the path to recovery. One of these imaging techniques can also be used to look at obscured parts of our coastal ecosystems and evaluate environmental health. In a partnership with Northwell Health, The Nature Conservancy scientists, Adam Starke and Nicole Maher are using computer-aided tomography (CT) to evaluate saltmarsh root and soil structure. CT imaging has proven to be a rapid and high-resolution approach to quantify roots, rhizomes, peat, and soil particle densities in coastal wetlands, all indicators of wetland health. The CT instrumentation’s standard “lung” settings are used because marsh roots resemble the bronchioles in peoples’ lungs. Salt marshes play a critical role in filtering water, supporting the coastal food web and absorbing wave energy, but many marshes on the coast of Long Island are sick. Chronic nitrogen pollution from septic systems and sewers has changed the way that the plants grow above and belowground and the erosion resistance of the marsh itself. This poor water quality compromises the ability of saltmarshes to keep pace with sea level rise and provide the myriad benefits on which both people and nature depend. Improving water quality should improve their condition and ability to persist in a changing climate. We have initiated a study to measure saltmarsh response to the dramatic improvements in water quality anticipated from upgrading the Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant in western Hempstead Bay and connecting it to an ocean outfall. This water quality improvement project will essentially “turn off” the largest nutrient supply which has been compromising this waterbody for a long time. This gives us the opportunity to measure the response of saltmarshes to these anticipated dramatic water quality improvements and test whether, and on what timeframe, improving water quality can reverse these detrimental changes in our coastal saltmarshes.

Dr. Nicole Maher is the Senior Coastal Scientist with The Nature Conservancy in NY. Nicole works on coastal projects to ensure that both people and nature are resilient in the face of Climate Change and have the clean water that they both need to thrive. Nicole earned her B.A. in Biology and Environmental Studies from Bowdoin College and her M.S. in Marine Environmental Studies and her Ph.D. in Marine and Atmospheric Sciences with a concentration in Biological Oceanography from Stony Brook University.

 

Terrence McNamara

Board Member of the H. L. Ferguson Museum, Fishers Island, NY

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The Flora and Fauna of Fishers Island

Fishers Island is the easternmost island off Long Island’s North Fork and part of the same glacial moraine. Although a part of the Township of Southold, it is primarily reachable only by ferry from New London, CT. As a result of this and other factors, very few people are familiar with the island or its natural features and creatures. Among the diversity of habitats on the island are maritime grasslands which are managed through rotational burns and mowing. This will be an informational presentation with an emphasis on the flora, fauna, habitats, and the ongoing conservation efforts on the island.

Terry McNamara is a summer resident and homeowner on Fishers Island. His career as a Physics teacher and as Science Chairman at Commack High School has enabled him to spend the past 50 summers on the island. Now retired, he leads weekly nature walks for the Ferguson Museum and helps maintain the many miles of trails on the Museum’s Land Trust properties.

 

Greg Metzger

Chief Field Coordinator, SoFo Shark Research and Education Program

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Conservation Update: White Shark Research

This talk will discuss the highlights of the SoFo Shark Research and Education Program established in 2015 to better understand the population dynamics of all large coastal sharks found in Long Island waters, and whose focus to date has been on the young of the year white sharks found here.

Greg Metzger has been teaching marine science and aquaculture at Southampton High School since 2001. He had the opportunity to design and build one of the most state-of-the-art marine labs found in a publicly funded high school in the country. Metzger holds a Master Near Coastal license and runs a successful charter business. He has delivered public lectures and conducted workshops educating citizens on the basic biology of sharks and the scientific methods used by shark biologists to gather data.

 

Niko Nantsis

Co-Director, District 1, New York State Chapter of the American Chestnut Foundation

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Conservation Update: American Chestnut

This talk will discuss the deregulation process thus far for Transgenic American Chestnut trees, updates on the restoration efforts on Long Island and how people can help.

Niko Nantsis is an Honors College Graduate of the Honors College at SUNY Old Westbury and the Co-Director of District 1 NY-TACF. He is also a wildlife artist and is researching the ecological history of Long Island during the 1600's. 

 

Enrico Nardone

Executive Director, Seatuck Environmental Association

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Byron Young

President, Eastern Long Island Audubon Society

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Conservation Update: Diadromous Fish

This update will focus on ongoing efforts to restore connectivity in Long Island’s rivers and streams and restore populations of diadromous fish, which includes River Herring, American Eel and Brook Trout. It will also provide an update on the status of the breached dam on West Brook in Bayard Cutting Arboretum State Park.

Enrico Nardone is the Executive Director of the Seatuck Environmental Association and Chair of the Long Island Diadromous Fish Work Group.

Byron Young is a retired Marine Biologist. He was employed for the New York State DEC, Marine Resources program for 33 years working on striped bass and other anadromous fisheries for New York and retired as the chief of the Marine Fisheries program being responsible for the supervision of the program’s fisheries investigation and management efforts. Since retirement Mr. Young has continued to volunteer with Alewife restoration efforts and efforts to document the presence of alewives in local streams and to document the results of restoration efforts primarily in the Peconic River.

 

Casey Pendergast

NYSDEC Wildlife Technician & MSc Student at the University at Albany

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Conservation Update: Northern Long-eared Bats

From 2017-2019 we have been monitoring Northern-long eared bats on Eastern Long Island in an effort to uncover the mechanisms by which this population is able to resist mortality from infection with White Nose Syndrome. We have conducted year-round acoustic monitoring to determine seasonal activity trends and landscape use. In the Fall season we capture bats through mist-nets and use radio tracking to characterize roosts and hibernacula. Starting in 2018 we began to look into the possibility that the mild coastal climate might allow winter insect activity which would allow mid-hibernation feeding for these infected bats. Through the use of citizen scientists we have tracked the activity of insects during the hibernation period and identified potential prey species.

Casey is currently studying the ecology of Northeastern U.S. bats and their reaction to White Nose Syndrome. Her interests include wildlife conservation and wildlife disease dynamics, particularly emerging infectious wildlife diseases.

 

Lisa Prowant

Ph.D. Candidate, Stony Brook University

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Life History and Occurrence Patterns of Eastern Box Turtles on Long Island, NY

Eastern box turtles are a charismatic species native to Long Island. They are an integral part of Long Island ecosystems as both seed dispersers and prey to several species. Box turtle populations are declining throughout much of their range. These declines are predicted to continue in the future. Understanding the natural history of an organism is often the first step to its conservation. This presentation will detail the life history of Eastern box turtles along with some contemporary conservation research involving this species. I measured box turtle density at 27 locations across Long Island, from the city to the forks, to estimate what environmental cues were driving their occupancy patterns. I also examined box turtle sex ratio, shell damage, and overall health at these locations. This presentation will explore how Eastern box turtles are distributed across Long Island, how those populations are faring, and aims to predict what could be contributing to these patterns.  

Lisa Prowant is a conservation ecologist and PhD candidate in the Akçakaya lab in the Department of Ecology and Evolution at Stony Brook University. She is broadly interested in quantitative and applied conservation methods aimed at reducing the risk of decline for species in the midst of the current biodiversity crisis. Her dissertation research involves combining aspects of community ecology with population dynamic, occupancy, and species distribution models to determine appropriate future conservation actions for Eastern box turtles.   

 

Mike Scheibel

Regional Coordinator for NYS BBA III, NYC & LI Region

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Conservation Update: The New York Breeding Bird Atlas Project

The New York Breeding Bird Atlas III is a 5-year community science project to document where and when birds are breeding in New York State.  From 2020-2024, NY BBA III will provide critical information on how New York's birds are faring, informing management decisions and conservation efforts. Anyone from beginner to expert birders can participate.

A lifelong birder, Mike grew up on Long Island, attended Cornell University majoring in Wildlife Science; on Long Island he directed the endangered species programs as Senior Wildlife Biologist for NYSDEC, and later worked as a Natural Resource Manager for TNC at the Mashomack Preserve on Shelter Island.

 

Matthew Sclafani, Ph.D.

Senior Extension Resource Educator, Cornell Cooperative Extension

ms332 @cornell.edu

Conservation Update: Horseshoe Crabs

Horseshoe crabs play an important role in our coastal ecosystems and to human health. Yet, surprisingly little is known about their temporal and spatial distributions and vital statistics in our local waters. This presentation will cover our recent studies of horseshoe crabs on Long Island that assess their spawning abundances and movements. A brief update for conservation management resulting from these assessments will be presented.

Matthew Sclafani has been working for Cornell University Cooperative Extension’s Marine Program for 19 years and has established a broad range of marine research, monitoring and educational outreach programs throughout Long Island, NY. He has received his Bachelors Degree in marine science from the University of New England (Maine), his Masters in biological oceanography from Dalhousie University (Nova Scotia) and his Doctorate in biology from McGill University (Quebec). His research interests include marine fish and invertebrate ecology, restoration ecology, conservation management and developing green solutions to marine ecosystem challenges.

 

Stephen T. Tettelbach, Ph.D.

Cornell Cooperative Extension, Marine Program, 3690 Cedar Beach Rd, Southold, NY 11971

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Long Island Bay Scallops: The Success of Restoration Efforts and Threats of Climate Change

Intensive restoration efforts, conducted in the Peconic bays of eastern Long Island since 2006, have driven order of magnitude increases in larval recruitment, benthic population densities and commercial fishery landings of bay scallops, Argopecten irradians irradians. Harvest levels in 2017 and 2018 were each ~107,000 pounds of meats: 32 times the average annual harvest during the 12 years prior to the start of our restoration efforts. A very large set of juvenile scallops in summer and fall 2018 led to expectations of another excellent season. However, a mass die-off of these (adult) scallops occurred between late June and early October 2019, with mortality levels of 90-100% at most sites; landings in November-December were much lower in 2019 than in the two previous years. Ongoing research into the cause(s) of scallop mortality suggest that harmful algal blooms (HABs) were not responsible. As yet, no definitive factors have been identified, but climate change is suggested as the likely underlying driver. 

Dr. Stephen Tettelbach is a Shellfish Ecologist at Cornell Cooperative Extension and Professor Emeritus of Biology at Long Island University. He received his B.S. (Biology) from the University of Miami, M.S. (Fisheries Biology) from the University of Washington, and Ph.D. (Ecology) from the University of Connecticut. His team’s research is heavily field-oriented and focuses on the biology, ecology and restoration of marine mollusks. He has worked on bay scallops for over 40 years and serves as co-leader of the ongoing, 16-year project, “Restoration of Peconic Bay Scallop Populations and Fisheries”, the largest of its kind in North America.

 

John Turner

Conservation Policy Advocate, Seatuck Environmental Association

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Conservation Update: Diamondback Terrapins

This will focus on the Mt Sinai Harbor/Cedar Beach Roadkill Mitigation Project and on the most recent meeting of the L.I. Diamondback Terrapin working group.

John Turner is a naturalist, conservationist, and writer whose 2nd Edition of "Exploring the Other Island: A Seasonal Guide to Nature on Long Island" has recently been published. He is also founder and president of Alula Birding & Natural History Tours, a nature tour company connecting people with the natural world and a co-founder and past board member of the Long Island Pine Barrens Society.  Until his retirement in 2010, Mr. Turner served as Director of the Division of Environmental Protection for the Town of Brookhaven. He is currently employed part-time as a land acquisition specialist for the Town of Brookhaven and part-time as a Conservation Policy Advocate for the Seatuck Environmental Association working on a variety of wildlife, open space, and water quality issues. 

 

Joe Warren

Associate professor, School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, Stony Brook University

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From the Wrack Line to the Twilight Zone: A Tour of New York's Less-famous Marine Creatures

While New York's whales, dolphins, sea turtles, and striped bass get much of the news coverage, there are numerous lesser-known species that avoid the limelight (or sunlight) while playing an equally-important role in the coastal and oceanic ecosystems of New York.  Hard to see gelatinous animals like salps and siphonophores, small crustaceans (such as the skeleton shrimp) with boom-or-bust population growth, and creatures (vipers and dragons) that inhabit the darkest parts of the ocean are rarely seen by the public, but all play important roles in our marine ecosystems. This talk will introduce a variety of organisms that occur in New York's shallowest to deepest habitats and discuss why their bizarre and unique adaptations make them important residents of our state.

My primary research field is the use of active acoustics to measure zooplankton and fish populations, although I have also begun using passive acoustic technology to study temperate and tropical ecosystems.  Active acoustics offers scientists an amazing tool to explore, measure, and study marine life in the ocean. Fish and zooplankton can be observed with acoustic methods at a much higher resolution (in both space and time) than traditional net surveys or optical methods which can provide novel insights into animal behavior and ecology. My lab group conducts field surveys in a variety of ecosystems ranging from the Antarctic to the sub-Arctic and numerous locations in between.  We work across a wide range of New York habitats from shallow (2 – 5 m) estuaries to the deep (~ 1-2 km) mesopelagic scattering layers; and study a wide variety of organisms ranging from sub-millimeter zooplankton in lakes to the foraging behavior of 100 ton baleen whales.

 

Steve Young

Chief Botanist, New York Natural Heritage Program

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Conservation Updates: Seabeach Amaranth / 2019 West Brook Pond Dam Breach

An update of Seabeach Amaranth (Amaranthus pumilus) on Long Island. Seabeach Amaranth is a federally threatened and state-threatened (S2) low-growing plant that occurs on the south shore beaches of Long Island. The New York Natural Heritage Program, the US Fish and Wildlife Service and many other partners have continued to survey the plants from the early 90s through 2019. The plant numbers show an interesting pattern of fluctuation through the years with a jump in numbers in 2019.

The dam forming the West Brook Pond in Islip between 27A and the Sunrise Highway was breached by a storm in June 2019. This resulted in the draining of the over 100 year-old pond and revealed the original stream bed and pond bottom. This resulted in the germination of many plants from the seed bank, including state-listed plants and invasive exotics. The botanical results of the breach will be presented.

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