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BOP Schools and Citizen Science Partner Spotlight: Elisa Bone

By Heather Flanagan
April 25, 2016

Billion Oyster Project Curriculum and Community Enterprise for Restoration Science (BOP-CCERS) is a community of students and teachers, professional scientists and citizen scientist volunteers, schools, universities, businesses, and community organizations, all working together to conduct oyster restoration-based scientific research in New York Harbor.  BOP-CCERS is funded through a three-year educational research grant from the National Science Foundation’s Division of Research on Learning in Formal and Informal Settings.

Part of what’s so exciting about the BOP-CCERS project is that NYC’s public school students are getting access to some of the city’s best and most enthusiastic scientists, educators, and youth development professionals.  We’ll be introducing you to the people who are making it happen in our Partner Spotlight series.  Today, we’re getting to know Elisa Bone of the science team.

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What’s your job? What do you spend your day doing? How did you end up doing that work?
I’m working as an independent consultant and am part of the science team on the CCERS project.  Basically, I am my own business and work part-time from my home way across the other side of the world in Sydney, Australia. (The rest of my time is taken up with looking after my two young daughters).  Although this project is currently my main work focus, I’m also meeting and consulting with other science and education groups here in Sydney and have started working with local schools and getting them involved in marine field science, with longer-term goals to set up international collaborations.  Currently this means that, aside from the CCERS work, my days largely consist of a lot of talking, meetings, and proposal writing, but my research background is in marine invertebrate ecology and I’ve previously worked as a lecturer (at Columbia in New York as well as in Australia), a marine researcher (in New Zealand) and a scientific editor and publisher (back in Australia).

What’s your role in this project?
My role in the project is to make sure the science is both accurate as well as accessible for students and citizen scientist groups.  I write the scientific content for the field monitoring and advise on curriculum ideas and lesson plans for teacher training.  To do this from over in Australia, I communicate regularly with the rest of the science team – Bob Newton, Matt Palmer, and Mollie Thurman – as well as the field and management team, and the digital team.  Lately I’ve been refining our field monitoring protocols and developing species identification keys and guides for this coming summer season.  I help with designing aspects of the digital data interface and platform as well as developing and grading teacher assessments.  When I’m in New York, I also assist with the field training.

What got you interested in the Billion Oyster Project?
At Columbia, I became fascinated with the tale of the oyster’s boom and decline in NYC.  Always keen to give my students as many field and hands-on experiences as possible, through Bob Newton I got in touch with Pete Malinowski from the Harbor School and arranged an excursion for my Coastal and Estuarine Ecology students out to Governor’s Island, where they got a run-down on the BOP’s oyster gardening and aquaculture programs.  The collaboration ran from there, with Harbor School interns working on an assessment of shoreline habitat that I led in 2014, and continues with my current work on the CCERS project.

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What are you most excited about?
I’m basically really happy that the BOP and the Harbor School exist and that they are doing such amazing work.  It is also very exciting to be a part of the expansion of these hands-on coastal science programs that are getting students out and on to the water.  I especially love that it will be urban kids leading the surge to help restore and conserve their marine and estuarine environments.

What’s your favorite waterfront spot? Why?
In 2014 we completed a project looking at shoreline habitat assessment and this allowed me to explore waterfront spots around the city that most people wouldn’t visit.  One of my favorite spots is under the Brooklyn Bridge in Brooklyn Bridge Park – working off the boat ramp and looking across stumps of old pier pilings is just a picturesque sight.  Another favorite spot is from the waterline at Liberty State Park in New Jersey and looking back towards Manhattan.  Although it feels a world away, it’s a great vantage point for the city.

What advice do you have for young scientists?
My main message would be not to overthink it!  At this stage, it’s about having fun and satisfying your curiosity.  Don’t be afraid to ask questions and be guided by what you’re interested in at any given time.  And don’t be afraid to ask us questions, as we love to answer them!

Interested in reading more about BOP-CCERS and how we’re bringing hands-on restoration science to classrooms all over the city?  Sign up for our newsletter and click here to read all BOP-CCERS posts!