Archives for posts with tag: environment

On May 19 6:30-8PM, our Living Things in an Urban Ecosystem series ended on a high note with Beyond the Honeybee: Exploring Critical Pollinators where we explored the role pollinators play in urban ecosystems and the ways in which individuals and community groups can support their habitats.

Ecologist Howard Ginsberg, Ph.D. from United States Geological Survey first presented a brief survey of native and non-native bee species typically found in NYC.  He found that our city has approximately 50 different species of bumble bees, compared to 100 found in more natural environments which is great news for our urban ecosystem. One fun fact is that bees tend to pollinate on specific seasons because they favor flowers in bloom during that time.  One example is Halictus ligatus, a communal or non-territorial summer bumblebee whose nests are typically found in holes in the ground and their workers are daughters of the queen, unlike honeybees whose workers are typically male.

Summer bee

Halictus ligatus – Summer bee

Our second panelist Tina Harrison, Ph.D. candidate from Rutger’s University Department of Ecology, presented some key ways to support our pollinators here in NYC.

Pesticides used in gardens

Chlorantranilliprole kills less worker bumble bees in a 2013 study

Gardeners and horticulturists should be mindful of the primary chemical used in the pesticide. For example, a study by Larson, Redmond and Potter showed that pesticides containing chlorantraniliprole kills only a small amount of worker bees, especially compared to clothianidin. So be sure to read those labels!

Effects of pesticides on bumble bee populations

Effects of pesticides on bumble bee populations

And finally, biologist Sam Droege, also from USGS, focused his presentation on the challenges of studying bumble bee populations.  He not only highlighted his work on cataloguing bee species (view the beautiful photography here), he spoke on the challenges scientists face when studying bees. One fascinating example was the attempt to study the Bombus bimaculatus, a bee species that, in natural settings, kicks out and takes over nests built by chickadee birds.  After scientists recreated these nests to attract this bee species, they were unable to replicate this occurrence in a controlled setting. Clearly there is more to be studied on attractive bee habitats, which, once successful, would lead to more effective methods of attracting and keeping them within our city.

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We then segued into the panel discussion, moderated by landscape architect Hans Hesselein, where we were truly able to unpack the issue of bee colony collapse (which actually does not effect bumblebees), action steps we can take to support their survival, and the potential for future on bee habitats studies .  Listen here for the entire discussion.

We at the Gowanus Canal Conservancy send our heartfelt thanks to our venue sponsor Threes Brewing for generously offering their event space, our panelists, volunteer coordinators and most of all our audience for being part of such a vibrant season.  Stay tuned for the fall schedule!

Join us on our next Clean & Green July 18 11AM-3PM by signing up at volunteer@gowanuscanalconservancy.org where volunteers will participate in the Tree Census and other stewardship activities.

Follow us on Twitter at @GowanusGreen and on Instagram @gowanuscanalconservancy for GCC news, volunteer events and trivia.

On March 24 6:30PM we kicked off the second lecture of our 4-part Urban Ecology Lecture Series series where we continue to unpack the theme Living Things in an Urban Environment, with our first panel discussion, Oysters: Limits and Possibilities.

Our panelists included, Chester Zarnoch, Assistant Professor of Environmental Science at Baruch College presented his current research on the potential effects of oyster reef restoration on nitrogen cycling, an overabundant nutrient that impacts water quality, and its implications on our waterway systems.

Assistant Professor of Environmental Science at Baruch College, C.U.N.Y.

Assistant Professor of Environmental Science at Baruch College, C.U.N.Y.

Marit Larson, Director of Wetland and Riparian Restoration of NYC Parks, spoke on salt marsh and shoreline restoration projects where she highlighted, the Oyster Reef Restoration Program , a partnership with NY-NJ Baykeepers to install oyster reefs and stocks as an oyster larvae attachment source.

Director of Wetland and Riparian Restoration at NYC Parks

Director of Wetland and Riparian Restoration at NYC Parks

Pete Malinowski, Director of the Billion Oyster Project, presented the mission of Billion Oyster Project, their partnership with the New York Harbor School, and the impact made not only on water quality but on the hundreds of thousands of student volunteers who otherwise would not have been exposed to our waterways, potential career opportunities and most of all the ecology of New York Harbor.

Director of Billion Oyster Project

Director of Billion Oyster Project

The panel discussion, moderated by Gena Wirth, our very own GCC Volunteer Coordinator and landscape designer, urban planner and horticulturalist at SCAPE Landscape Architecture.

Landscape architect, horticulturist and volunteer coordinator of the Gowanus Canal Conservancy

Moderator for the Oyster: Limits and Possibilities panel discussion

By opening the discussion on how the history of oysters in NYC influenced the panelists, each touched on the pride of being a native or transplant New Yorker, the desire to reach its ecological potential and the need to create healthier spaces for our community, a theme carried throughout the entire evening. Click here to listen.

It was a dynamic, thought-provoking evening, beers and all and we could not have done it without our venue sponsor Threes Brewing who generously provides their event space for our lectures.

If you are now all fired up about all things ecology and want to put your passion into action, here is a list of resources to help you get started as a volunteer:

www.gowanuscanalconservancy.org

www.billionoysterproject.org

www.nycgovparks.org/opportunities/volunteer

Continue the conversation and join us on:

April 28, 6:30-8PM for Native and Not: NYC’s Dynamic Flora, a conversation moderated by Leila Mougoui Bakhtiari of NYC Parks. We will unravel native and invasive urban plants, stewardship practices, and their ecological implications.

May 18, 6:30-8PM for Beyond the Honeybee: Exploring Critical Pollinators, a conversation moderated by Hans Hesselein of Apiary Studio.  We will discover the critical role insects play in urban ecology and the ways we can support their survival.

Follow us on Twitter at @GowanusGreen and on Instagram @gowanuscanalconservancy for GCC news, volunteer events and trivia.

As part of the Conservancy’s Urban Ecology Lecture Series, we invited Gabriel Willow to lead guests on a bat walk. Willow, who is a naturalist and urban environmental educator, has led tours and taught classes at NYC Audubon, Wave Hill, and was even the Senior Naturalist at the Prospect Park Audubon Center. Having a speaker as experienced and knowledgeable as him was a treat; what better way to learn about bats than from an expert?

To start the lecture, guests gathered at Gowanus Studio Space where they were given a brief presentation on bats. We learned that there are actually 47 different kinds of bats in the United States and that there are actually a few species that are common here in New York City! He also gave us some information on widely believed bat myths, like the fact that vampire bats DO exist (they don’t suck blood however, they actually lap in it).

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Most people consider bats to be rodents and overlook their value as a species. But, did you know that bats actually help manage mosquito populations, which greatly improves our quality of life? Their ability to do this however is greatly hindered by numerous threats to their survival, like white nose syndrome. White nose syndrome has no cure nor are there any means of preventing it. Discovering facts like these definitely changed our perspectives on bats and created a newfound appreciation for these nocturnal animals!

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After the lecture, we went to the Salt Lot and began our outdoor sunset walk. He taught us how to use an echo locator device which helps people find and identify bats. Because Willow is primarily an ornithologist, he also pointed out the species of many birds around the Salt Lot. We hope he can visit again and share his knowledge on birds with our community!

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Our walk ended at the Gowanus Dredgers‘ launching site and we celebrated the event with a nightcap. The night was a huge success with 41 people coming to learn about bats and their local presence. For more photos of the walk, please visit our Flickr.

A big thanks to our captivating and engaging guest lecturer; we hope you will come back! If you were unable to make it to this lecture, Gabriel Willow also leads bat tours in Central Park and you can learn more about that here. Stay tuned for the next event in our Urban Ecology Lecture Series; we hope to see you then!

50 Volunteers came out to the Salt Lot this Sunday to help the Conservancy create our monthly windrow. Along with creating our compost windrow, volunteers did some much needed garden stewardship in our 2nd Avenue Garden. It was also the first prototyping day for our Floating Gardens Designers. The Conservancy gives a big thanks to everyone who came and spent their morning with us!

Composting
Volunteers from the Kabbalah Centre helped us incorporate over 8,000 pounds of food scraps from GrowNYC Greenmarket collections. They were fantastic volunteers and we loved how fully they embraced the idea of promoting life in the watershed through the repurposing of food-scraps. It was a pleasure to host them and we thank them for working hard and staying enthusiastic through the midday drizzle of rain. We hope you can come back and volunteer with us again!

Volunteer Coordinator Christine explaining the science of compost:Untitled Browns, like sawdust and wood chips, are important to add between the layers of food scraps.20130728_113746 Volunteers working hard to even out the food scraps as it gets larger!20130728_130138 While the windrow was being built, we also had other volunteers sifting our finished compost. Sifted compost can be used for other projects like our tree and garden stewardship and for sealing our freshly-built windrow.

20130728_111019 After two weeks, the compost pile will host much beneficial bacteria that will generate heat and  break down the food-scraps. The windrow will then be turned weekly, for 5 weeks, then left to cure (or cool down) until it is ready to be sifted! We are constantly in need of compost windrow turners–you’ll use pitchforks and “turn” the pile systematically, to promote an aerobic environment and food-scrap decomposition. For more information on turning, contact info@gowanuscanalconservancy.org. For more information on composting workshops, other project sites, composting at home, and/or how to be a Master Composter, visit the NYC Compost Project’s website. For opportunities to build a compost windrow with the Conservancy, visit our website!

Tree Mapping
Tree mappers Judy and Talia completed some loose ends in our Tree Mapping Project. Stay tuned for more updates!

Garden Stewardship
We collected about 120 pounds of weeds from our 2nd Avenue Garden. Regular maintenance removes unwanted species and improves the garden’s ability to prevent erosion, absorb water, and preserves native plants.

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Floating Garden Prototyping
This year, we have 6 designers for Floating Gardens. Designs range from a bamboo structure that will serve as a seaweed habitat to a concrete “rock garden”. It was a largely experimental day, with all the designers testing different materials and methods for creating their prototypes. They all discovered new ways to refine their floating garden constructions and by the end of the day, we even launched a prototype!

Designers at work:20130728_124615
FG Designer Sarah learning about another prototype20130728_125804
Our Landscape Architect Summer Intern Jin weaving bamboo: 20130728_114946
Here are some photos of the first prototype launch! This design serves as both a plant and “stick garden”.

Designers Christine and Sarah getting ready to take it to the waterfront:UntitledUntitled And now, it’s in the Canal!Untitled
And after a few hours, everyone was able to enjoy some great grilled food, thanks to Whole Foods!

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For more images from the day, check out our Flickr!

Thanks to the Kabbalah Centre and everyone else who came to ¡Composting Gowanus! We hope to see you soon!

Over 60 volunteers joined us this weekend for our monthly volunteer day; we had guests from all over the city, tri-state area, and even from Massachusetts! This Clean & Green was especially exciting for the Conservancy as we hosted a special event: a community mural installation! In addition to the mural, volunteers also helped the Conservancy do some tree stewardship and tree mapping.

A big thanks goes out to Tonci Antunovic for his amazing photos (on our Flickr and on this blog post)! Though the day was packed with a lot of activities, it was a huge success due to the time and effort given by volunteer groups from NYCares, Whole Foods, and everyone else who spent their Saturday with us!

Tree Stewardship and Mapping
With our volunteers, we were able to clean and weed 15 trees, mulch 8 tree beds, and pull about 260 pounds of weeds and unwanted species. This goes a long way in helping keep our trees healthy!

Our Mapping Stewards finished up the southwest and southeast portions of the Forestry Study Area. We are currently 95% finished mapping, thanks to the hard work of all of our tree mappers! Look out for more details regarding when the TreeKIT map will be online for public viewing.

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Mural Installation
The Conservancy installed a mural depicting fruits and vegetables along Huntington Street.  It was designed by a volunteer artist, Ruth Hofheimer, and is meant to be a humorous contrast to its location within such an industrial neighborhood and alongside the Canal. A big thanks goes out to Build It Green!NYC for donating 20 gallons of exterior primer, Home Depot for contributing brushes, rollers, trays and 10 gallons of exterior paint, and to all those who made financial contributions to the project.  Here are some photos taken throughout the day:IMG_4630IMG_4828IMG_4821 (1)IMG_4735IMG_4723 (1)IMG_4739
And a shot of the finished product! 20130727_155149
There are plenty of pictures, so please check them out on our Flickr!
Also, don’t forget to take a look at these awesome articles about the mural from NY1 and The Brooklyn Paper!

After a long summer day, there’s nothing better than a good grill sesh, with food graciously given to us by Whole Foods. Thanks again to everyone who came on Saturday and we hope to see you at our next Clean & Green in August!

Our staff got a treat this week – another field trip! This week, we went to the Battery Park City Parks Conservancy and learned about their composting system. When we were determining which composting system to use, we contemplated the system currently used at Battery Park, an in-vessel unit. This system processes food scraps faster and does not require any labor since it is turned with an auger.

We met with a worker there who spoke to us about how they perfect their compost. They are more precise and scientific with their composting system, due to the fact that they use a microscope and look for certain bacteria which tells them whether the soil is healthy or not.
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Compost Curing & Finishing
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And now ready for use!IMG_1868
They also make compost tea, which they put on their grounds. Compost tea is a mixture of compost and water that has a higher bacterial count and brings extra nutrients to plants. Adding this to plants gives them more benefits than just using compost by itself.
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Staff members learning about the process:
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They also have an outside location where overs and larger pieces cure outside and eventually create compost!
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It was an amazing to learn about another facility’s composting process because it gave us an opportunity to reflect on our own system and figure out where there is room for improvement. Thanks Battery Park City Parks Conservancy for showing us around!

Afterwards, we walked around the Esplanade and enjoyed the view from the waterfront. We even took a visit to Teardrop Park and marveled at the amazing landscaping work done. It was a great day for learning for our staff members!

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Since most of the plants growing around the Gowanus Canal are invasive exotics, one of our Conservancy projects for environmental health is repopulating the canal area with native species.  We’ve started gathering our own collection of native seeds to plant, so we decided to take a field trip to Staten Island and learn more about it from the pros!

Heather Liljengren and Judith Van Bers led our seed collecting tour–they manage the seed collection at the Greenbelt Native Plant Center in Staten Island.  Heather will also be speaking at our upcoming Urban Ecology lecture on October 17.

We started our tour at the beautiful Conference House Park at the southern tip of Staten Island.

We learned about identifying different species of plants native to the New York metro area, including gorgeous giant sunflowers and purple lovegrass.

Once we collected seeds, we headed back to the lab at the Greenbelt Center.  Collected seeds, like seeds in the wild, need to go through several processing stages before they can grow into new plants.  First, the seeds need to be dried out.  Some species cure well laid out on newspaper or a tarp.

Other species, like milkweed, are slower to dry… so a screened box with air flow on all sides is a useful contraption to have on hand.

Once the seeds are cured, we need to separate the seeds from the “chaff” (seed casings).

If you’re doing a whole lot of seed collection, one of these heavy-duty seed cleaning machines might come in handy!

After being cured and cleaned, seeds go into the cold stratification chamber–this chamber is the seed lab’s version of a cold winter, when a seed usually lies dormant.  Seeds need this period to prepare for spring growth.

Once the seeds leave the cold chamber, they’re packed up and stored until it’s time for planting!

Our seed collection field trip was a great learning experience, and we’re excited to try out some techniques on a small scale right here in Gowanus! If you’re interested in learning more about seed planting, join us at the Salt Lot (2 Second Ave) this Sunday, October 14, where we’ll be cultivating native seeds.  And don’t forget, Heather Liljengren will be speaking more about native plants at the BuildItGreen! Gowanus Warehouse on October 17 as part of our Urban Ecology Lecture series.

This Sunday, GrowNYC dropped off 8,000 lbs of food scraps at our compost site (on the Salt Lot at 2 Second Ave.).  Volunteers were ready and willing to meet them, and we got right down to business!

It was a beautiful day to be outside, so it’s only natural we’d spend it working on one of our favorite projects.  Thanks to everyone who came out on Sunday!

We had a great turnout for our monthly Clean & Green event!  Volunteers came from all over the area to take part in installing a new garden along 3rd Avenue near 3rd Street.  The space started as a bare patch of weeds–there was a lot of work to do!

One of Gowanus’s local construction companies donated all the bricks to line the garden.  Thank you to our friends over at Monadnock Construction!

Once we turned the dry soil, it was ready to be covered with a new layer of cured compost from our Composting Gowanus project.

Pleasant Run Nursery graciously donated some plants for the garden–and the rest were propagated right here in Gowanus by our volunteers.

As always, we had a great time… both fixing up the neighborhood and meeting our neighbors!

This morning, we stopped by the Salt Lot to check on the Floating Gardens projects that were launched last month (click here for the full post on that).   The anchored bottle gardens are still afloat and intact along the shore, and we were pleasantly surprised to find volunteer spirtana alterniflora (a.k.a. salt marsh cordgrass) sprouting on the banks as well!

We spotted a large school of juvenile fish splashing about in the shelter of the gardens, most likely sampling the plankton living below the roots of floating plants.

Of course, young fish also provide a delightful snack for many creatures… a few hefty predators seem to be making their way to the area for a taste of the action.  We were very excited to spot some blue crabs scuttling around, and a bird making use of the new heron platform!

It looks like the floating gardens can play a useful role in the ecosystem… it’s great to see a thriving wildlife community on the Gowanus Canal!