Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Sea Robin Scenes

Sea Robin flesh is described as firm and tender when cooked. Great for a Julia Child bouillabaisse or for bait when fishing in the Long Island Sound, or so I’ve heard.

They can be seen at Beczak listening to Bizet, nodding their heads, fins swirling as they dance.

Sandra DeSando
Business and Grants Manager

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Oyster Gardening—Month Six: The “Spat” on 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.

Having oysters at Beczak has been a great advantage to our education programs. This past fall we incorporated the oysters into our outdoor seining programs as an extra station for the larger class groups. Now, as part of our ongoing work with Yonkers Public Schools in which Beczak provides the labs for Riverside High School’s AP environmental class, we will study Hudson River oysters more closely.

November 17, I collected the larger sample of 550 oysters from the river, tossed them in a bucket, and drove them to the class of 10th graders that Beczak educators teach once a month. I introduced the role of oysters in the Hudson’s eco-system and we discussed why their population has declined drastically over the years. They learned about mollusks, both bivalves (oysters, clams, mussels, and scallops) and gastropods (snails) by viewing various shells.

Then the students worked in groups to measure the oysters, record each one’s length onto a data sheet, and identify its predators such as amphipods, mud crabs, and worms. I also showed them the string of oyster shells that secure to the cage when submerged in the river. The purpose of this is to collect spat. “Spat” is the larval form of oysters. When these oyster babies are released, they drift in the water and attach to hard substrates such as rocks, drift wood and different kinds of mollusk shells. November was the first time we spotted spat!

Finding spat is a great indicator that the river is getting cleaner and gives hope that oysters can once again survive and reproduce in the Hudson!

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

Month One: The oysters arrive
Month Three: Oyster Check-up
Month Four: Students Observe the Oysters

NY/NJ Baykeeper Oyster Restoration Program
Beczak begins oyster gardening press release
“Moving Back Home” Hudson Valley Magazine

Vicky Garufi
Director of Education

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Commuting by Kayak

I ran from Beczak’s office to its marsh this morning to catch a glimpse of phenomenon I’d just heard about but never witnessed … a kayak commuter. And right in front of me, a yellow kayak pulled out of the choppy Hudson onto Beczak’s beach. A lean man unfolded out of the boat, took apart his paddle and placed it into a bag, hoisted his kayak onto his shoulder, carried it to nearby fence, and locked it up.

It was the practiced movements of any commuter.

I was amazed and a little jealous. I had driven to work that morning: he had an adventure. Who was this man?

Richard Scott, from Chestnut Ridge, NY—originally from England—and a software engineer at Aureon Labs in Yonkers.

“I've been commuting this way about 3 months. Today is crossing #45! I first had the idea earlier this summer during a walk at lunchtime when I saw the Yonkers Paddling and Rowing Club (YRPC) boathouse and the marina across the river in Alpine, NJ,” says Scott.

By car, Richard Scott’s 45-minute commute would take him across the Tappan Zee Bridge. In his preferred way, he drives 18 miles to the Alpine Boat Basin, in Alpine, NJ, where his kayak is chained to a tree in an undisclosed location. The second leg of the journey is a one-mile paddle across the river to Yonkers, NY. Leg three: stashing his gear and changing his clothes at YRPC and walking up the street to his workplace.

“I had no place to store my kayak on this side—getting permission from Cliff Schneider, the Executive Director of Beczak, to tie up here,” he said, motioning to the fence, “made all the difference.

“I soon realized that the crossing was feasible, in fact it is easy, and, I think, relatively safe. I don't understand why there isn't a small flotilla of kayakers crossing every day. What I have been most worried about is that someone may think of a reason why I am not allowed to do this, or may try to make it difficult,” Scott continued.

“It is a joy to cross this way—the river is incredibly beautiful in all weather conditions.”