Archives for posts with tag: water quality

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:

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.


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!

Last Sunday, August 19th, we welcomed volunteers from all over New York City to our monthly Clean & Green event.  We were lucky enough to have friends from New York Cares join us this month too!  We had a great turnout.  There was plenty of mucking around by the Gowanus Canal, and we topped it off with delicious barbecue and beverages!

The main feature of this month’s Clean & Green was the launch of several “Floating Garden” experiments.  The Floating Gardens project is a small scale attempt to provide habitat for marine life, as well as remediate the waters of the Gowanus Canal through the creation of inventive floating gardens made of recyclable materials (such as plastic bottles).  We had three “garden” experiments…
1. Han’s Heron Platform

Volunteers built floating wooden platforms that herons can land on while passing over the Gowanus Canal.  The platforms have a nest of sticks underneath to harbor young fish, and the slatted platform allows the herons to snack on a few if they’re hungry.  Long ropes hang in the water under the platform, a perfect invitation for mussels to latch on… it’s communal living space in true Brooklyn style!

Constructing wooden bases

Styrofoam for flotation

Branches for fish to hide in

Open for visitors!

2. John’s Floating Tessellated Bottle Garden

John’s team constructed small floating planters using recycled plastic bottles, plastic netting, and zip ties.  Each “basket” cradles a small native plant (one we’ve found thriving on the banks of the canal).  The bottle planters are held together with rope and tubing, creating a floating garden anchored in the canal!

John instructs his team on the details of construction

Finished bottle planters–complete with plant!

Prepping for the final launch into the canal

It took a dedicated team, a canoe, and plenty of mud… but the garden was launched!

3. Alex & Arthur’s “Spills” Bucket Garden

Alex & Arthur came up with a garden designed for plastic buckets.  The upper part of each bucket had a plant in soil, and they used styrofoam partitions to created a pocket of air in the lower half of each bucket to keep it floating.  They bolted all the buckets together to keep them upright and stable in the canal.

Alex & Arthur discussing bucket strategies

Bucket garden is now afloat!

We were delighted to have Lila from Brooklyn Urban Garden School… she volunteered for the day, but she also gave a wonderful demonstration on testing the pH balance of the soil along the Gowanus Canal.  The results were surprisingly positive!

Lila explains the importance of soil pH measurements

Not only were volunteers working on the floating gardens, but we also had plenty of help in our ongoing compost project!

Sifting compost

Chipping wood and leaves for compost “lasagna”

Of course, what we always enjoy most about the Clean & Green days are the smiling faces of our many volunteers… we couldn’t do any of this without you, and we can’t thank you enough!!