PEEKSKILL, N.Y. Students from Walter Panas High School's AP Environmental Science class recently participated in the Day in the Life of the Hudson River project to learn more about the environment they live in and near.
The project, now in its 10th year, gave the students a hands-on look at the river at the Riverfront Green in Peekskill. Day in the Life was organized by the state Department of Environmental Conservation's Hudson River Estuary Program, and students along in the Hudson Valley from New York to Albany participate.
Students collect scientific information to create snapshots of the river at dozens of locations, and then share their data using web-based technology to better understand how their piece of the river fits into the larger Hudson estuary ecosystem. The results become part of the database that is tracking the river's health. In 2011, more than 3,000 participants sampled the estuary at 64 locations.
"The students not only get an idea of the sampling methods an environmental scientist has to do, but also they get more of an appreciation of the Hudson. Until now they might have only been here for a picnic or on a boat, but not looking at the river in depth," said teacher Michael Billy. "I am hoping they get a deeper appreciation for it.
The Walter Panas class, similar to other groups up and down the river, used fishing nets and lab equipment to investigate aquatic life, water chemistry and quality, tides and weather. The students were able to wade into the Hudson collecting the sample and catching and identifying several small fish before releasing them back into the river. Some of the class also collected core samples of river bottom mud for analysis by the DEC.
"There are many benefits to this program," said Zoraida Maloney, one of DEC's citizen science educators, who was on hand to help the students. "It is a great way to get the kids working hands-on with the environment. A lot of kids don't realize how much they have until they are actually out there feeling and sampling the river themselves. It gives them a much better appreciation of what's in their back yard."