Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Oyster Gardening - Month Four: Students Observe the Oysters

Beczak Environmental Education Center, located on the Yonkers riverfront, is part of the NY/NJ Baykeeper Oyster Restoration Program. In June 2009, six hundred “seed” oysters from Baykeepers’ Governors Island site were resettled in a floating cage hung off a piling in the Hudson River behind Beczak. Fifty of the oysters are in a sample study and kept in a separate cage. Educator Vicky Garufi checks them monthly to report back to NY/NJ Baykeeper. Watch this blog for her updates.

My month four oyster check-up coincided with a September Catch of the Day seining program with a fourth grade class from Christ the King School in Yonkers led by teacher Kathryn Burke. The class was eager to experience all the river has to offer. They wore their waders proudly as they dragged the net through the water, catching blue crabs, shrimp and various slimy fish.

As an added bonus to the program, I waded out to a piling in the Hudson and hauled up Beczak’s oyster cage and opened it on a work table. The students picked their way through the muddy oysters, counting and sorting 12 empty shells from the live oysters. Nine shells were empty last month, which means that three more oysters have died since August. Using rulers, the students measured the biggest oyster at 50 mm and smallest oyster at 30 mm. Boys and girls were elbow deep in mud, and excited to see the tiny amphipods, shrimp and mud crabs creep their way out of the oyster pile.

After all the oysters were recorded, the class ventured back toward the marsh to watch me crawl into the river to set the cage again. The tide had risen since I first pulled the cage and I literally had to swim in my waders to reach the piling! The students cheered me on as I placed the oysters safely back to the water. I was soaked! But it was worth it to see the smiles and joy on the children’s faces. Mission Accomplished!

Vicky Garufi
Director of Education and Outreach

Find out more about Beczak’s oyster gardening program. Click on these links below.

Month One: The oysters arrive
Month Three: Oyster Check-up