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The River Project: Adventures in a Living Wet Lab

By admin
November 20, 2015

The River Project, a marine science field station located on Pier 40 in Manhattan, was founded in 1986 to protect and restore the ecosystem of the Hudson River estuary through scientific research, hands-on environmental education, and urban habitat improvement.  The River Project, which specializes as a local marine science and education facility, is one of the key partners in the BOP Curriculum & Community Enterprise for Restoration Science (CCE-RS) project.

In the spring of 2015, The River Project completed constructruction of a full-scale estuary exhibit, designed accompanying educational programs focusing on oyster restoration, and welcomed schools and teachers for active learning field trips as part of their commitment to the project.

Situated on a pier in the Hudson River, The River Project’s wet lab features numerous fish and specimen tanks that draw river water straight from the Hudson in a state of the art open loop system (meaning that the water is pumped from the river and enters the tanks untreated, and flows back into the river without any change).  The oyster estuary exhibit is no exception, offering students a chance to see a live oyster reef habitat in the same green-hued water flowing under the pier.

Wet Lab 1

The River Project hosted its first BOP CCE-RS field trip of the school year with BOP Fellows Christina Filep and Jyoti Dhar’s classes from The Island School.

The oyster exhibit at The River Project provides an excellent space for talking with students about a wide range of topics, including the history of New York Harbor and the historical presence of oysters, the concept of brackish water and tidal mixing, oyster ecosystems and keystone species, and where the Hudson River gets its greenish color (which the students learned is largely due to the presence of phytoplankton, or algae, which is an oyster’s primary source of food).

All this talk of oysters and a newfound understanding of their habitat offered an excellent segue into oyster anatomy.  Students were led through the full anatomy of a dissected oyster, and were given their own oysters and probes to explore the inner workings of these incredible, water filtering bivalves.

Wet Lab 3


Having learned the ins and outs of oysters and their habitats, students headed down to a floating dock to talk about ecosystem health and take water quality samples on the Hudson River.

Wet Lab 4

Students took the lead on investigating water quality in the Hudson, testing for temperature, salinity, turbidity, and dissolved oxygen, all of which are important factors in the health of the Harbor.

Wet Lab 5


After all parameters were tested, the students compiled their findings and engaged in an important discussion about data collection, replicable science, and why these water quality parameters are important for oyster restoration.

Wet Lab 6


After a morning well spent at The River Project wetlab, The Island School students left their field trip with a deeper understanding of oysters, eager and well-equipped to continue research on their own restoration station.