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Scientists Display Their Work in Environmental Restoration and Commitment to STEM Education at the Annual BOP Research Symposium

By Heather Flanagan
July 5, 2016
Melissa Rex of The River Project displays local orange sponges!

Melissa Rex of The River Project displays local orange sponges!

The Second Annual Billion Oyster Project Research Symposium on June 10th was an opportunity for the 168 teachers and their students at 56 BOP schools all over the city to develop and present original research and celebrate their hard work and commitment to environmental stewardship.  This year, we were so fortunate to have an amazing array of scientists present their work in environmental restoration alongside the BOP students.  We asked them to share a little about their organizations and their experiences at the Symposium- check out their work below, and click here to see all the scientist photos on the BOP-CCERS Tumblr!

The River Project, “Microscopic Life in the Hudson”

From Melissa Rex, Educator, The River Project (a BOP-CCERS project partner): “Scientists from The River Project had a great time at the BOP Symposium showcasing the tiny inhabitants of the Hudson River under our smartphone microscopes! We loved watching students’ and guests’ faces as the many writhing legs of amphipods and clam worms came into focus magnified to 40 times their size. The River Project is a marine science field station that performs research and provides education on the Hudson River estuary.  To learn more about The River Project, visit, or visit our Wetlab aquarium at Pier 40!”

(Note: The River Project’s 30th Anniversary Celebration is coming up- click here if you’d like to hop on their anniversary dinner cruise!)

 University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, “Conceptual Diagrams for Science Communication”
Science Communication intern Dylan Taillie, left, with Research Associate Professor Judy O'Neil of UMCES

Science Communication intern Dylan Taillie, left, with Research Associate Professor Judy O’Neil of UMCES.

Students designing conceptual diagrams at the UMCES table.  Photo credit: Dylan Taillie.

University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES) is a BOP-CCERS project partner– they facilitate the development of the digital platform, help with science communications, and liaise with the development of the field science protocols and water quality monitoring.  Science Communication intern Dylan Taillie wrote an awesome post about the Symposium and the work he and Research Associate Professor Judy O’Neil did that day “help[ing] students design conceptual diagrams as a science communication activity.  Students used a New York Harbor centric symbol library to create their vision of a healthy versus an unhealthy New York Harbor.  Students were able to clearly picture inputs such as sewage and nutrients, as well as visualize what a clean harbor would look like with oyster reefs and restoration initiatives.”

Dylan has written a number of blog posts on BOP-CCERS before- here are some of the highlights:

SCAPE, “Living Breakwaters”

From Nans Voron, Urban Designer, SCAPE: “The Living Breakwaters project is an innovative infrastructure project being led by the Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery (GOSR) and the SCAPE Team. The project is a system of breakwaters located offshore of Tottenville, Staten Island with complimentary onshore strategies to achieve three primary goals:

RISK REDUCTION by attenuating wave energy and addressing shoreline erosion

ECOLOGICAL ENHANCEMENT by increasing the diversity of aquatic habitats

SOCIAL RESILIENCY through fostering community education and stewardship”

To learn more about Living Breakwaters, check out:

BOP is involved in Living Breakwaters too!  Read more about our part here.

Spheryx, “Monitoring Water Quality with Total Holographic Characterization”


Pictured from left to right: Mr. Jaroslaw Blusewicz, Scientist; Dr. Fook C. Cheong; Chief Technology Officer; Dr. David Ruffner, Director of Analytical Services and Senior Scientist; Dr. David Grier, Professor of Physics, New York University AND Advisor to Spheryx; Dr. Laura Philips, President and Chief Executive Officer; Mr. Spencer Harris, Software Developer. Photo courtesy of Spheryx.

From Laura Philips, Spheryx’s CEO: “Spheryx’s Total Holographic Characterization(TM) has a unique ability to determine the size and composition of particles suspended in water, so it is an ideal technology to help monitor the impact of oysters on the water quality in the East River.”

Background on Spheryx: “Spheryx delivers solutions for suspensions with a revolutionary technique providing a new window into suspensions at the sub-microscopic level. Suspensions are a part of our lives from detergents and food, to industrial fluids and medicines. These products must be created and manufactured.  Spheryx’s Total Holographic CharacterizationTM provides information to develop products and control their production like never before. These measurements enable new products, increased quality assurance and cost savings in manufacturing.”

New York City Water Trail Association, “How clean is the water? Citizen science and bacteria monitoring in New York Harbor”

Rob Buchanan of the NYCWTA displays water quality testing equipment and results.

Rob Buchanan of the NYCWTA displays water quality testing equipment and results.


From Rob Buchanan: “The New York City Water Trail Association [NYCWTA] is an umbrella group that promotes the common interests of the harbor’s community boathouses (now more than 20) and independent rowers and paddlers. In partnership with The River Project, we run the Citizens Water Quality Testing Program, in which volunteers collect samples every week at almost 50 sites around the city and then analyze them for sewage-indicating bacteria (sewage is the number one source of pollution in the harbor, and can carry disease-causing pathogens). The main idea of our program is to create an easy-to-use database for boaters and swimmers who want a better idea of how clean the water is likely to be at their favorite dock, beach or launch site. The BOP symposium was a great way for us to bring the harbor’s sewage pollution issues to the attention of students and teachers, and to showcase the concept of citizen monitoring. We think both topics could become useful parts of the middle school science curriculum, and look forward to building on the many connections we made!”

Here’s a bonus picture Rob sent in of a “Gowanus milkshake”:

00_2016_6_23_Eymund at Gowanus Milkshake Water sampling site_crop

Photo credit: Rob Buchanan

“Eymund Diegel samples at two locations in the Gowanus Canal, including this one: the ‘Gowanus Milkshake’ site on Butler Street, where the so-called flushing tunnel, meant to pipe clean water into the head of the canal, is apparently churning up a great deal of contaminated sediment.  ‘The Gowanus Milkshake is my only sample ever that actually smells when we open it in the lab,’ reports Nina Zain, the lab manager at The River Project.  ‘Soon I’ll be able to analyze how much bacteria is in it by scent.'”

+Pool, “+ POOL, a water-filtering, floating swimming pool that cleans the river”


Jeff Franklin, Director of Community and Education, shows off designs for +Pool.


From Kara Meyer, Deputy Director of +Pool: “+ POOL is a floating pool in the inner harbor of the NYC waterfront, designed to filter the very river that it floats in through its walls, cleaning more than 600,000 gallons of water every single day. No chemicals, no additives, just natural river water. In addition to contributing to the health of our city’s waters, the + POOL offers Kids, Sports, Lap and Lounge pools. Each can be used independently, combined to form an Olympic-length pool or opened completely into a 9,000 square foot pool for play in one of New York City’s best natural resources.

+ POOL enjoyed being a part of the BOP Symposium to share our water quality research, to demonstrate the ways in which + POOL’s unique filtration system will create a safe place to improve public access to the river, and to use + POOL to help educate the students about the importance of clean water, raise awareness of the issues affecting our water quality, and promote water stewardship. We’re also launching some STEM classroom curriculum in Fall 2016 and look forward to collaborating with BOP on its dissemination!

Find out more about our project through the following video made by our friends at Fast Company:

Wildlife Conservation Society/New York Aquarium, “NY Seascape, Studying and Protecting Local Marine Species”



An “eel mop,” an artificial habitat for eels.

From BOP-CCERS project partner the Wildlife Conservation Society/New York Aquarium: “The New York Aquarium’s NY Seascape team shared our current field work/research, showcasing different local species from the American eel to sand tiger sharks. Some of the students who participated in the symposium also drew pictures or wrote ‘small poems for small fishes,’ as a form of public comment that the NY Seascape collected. It was truly amazing to witness the enthusiasm and passion for science that all of the students brought to the Symposium.”

If you’d like to be included in upcoming WCS alerts and events, email

Cornell University, “Performance of hatchery-produced oysters in diverse environments of the Hudson River Estuary.”


Matt Hare of Cornell brought his research, “Performance of hatchery-produced oysters in diverse environments of the Hudson River Estuary.”

Thanks so much to all these amazing scientists for coming out to share their work at a very successful BOP Research Symposium!  To learn more about the Symposium, read our post here or check out the BOP-CCERS Tumblr!

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!