Student Scientists Spend a Day in the Life of the Peconics

Photo Above: Southampton HS at Sebonic Inlet, with teacher Jennifer Keller, looking through their seining finds. In the net are shrimp, killies, silversides, mussels and slipper snails.

Nine hundred and twenty students from the third through twelfth grade spent last Friday, Oct. 21 engaged in hands-on citizen science exploration at 23 sites with the help of 30 natural history experts on the Peconic Estuary.

“A Day in the Life of the Peconic Estuary” allows students to explore and collect firsthand information about the health of their river and estuary.

This is the third year that students on the East End have participated in A Day in the Life of the Peconic Estuary, a project organized by Mel Morris of Brookhaven National Laboratory, with the help of the Peconic Estuary Program, the Central Pine Barrens Commission, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County and environmental groups and science teachers throughout the East End.

“The A Day in the Life program is a perfect vehicle for teachers to integrate various disciplines, including math, media, social studies, and certainly science into their curriculum.” said Mel Morris, who serves as Special Projects Manager in the Office of Educational Programs at Brookhaven National Laboratory. “These activities are examples of authentic science research and mirror the way scientist collect and analyze.”

Students examined the physical and chemical aspects of each site, including salinity, the amount of sediments, nitrates, phosphates, and oxygen levels in the water and biodiversity inventories of the flora and fauna in and around the rivers and estuary.

Their work will be available on the “A Day in the Life” website, www.portaltodiscovery.org/aday.

Riverhead Charter School and their expert from Brookhaven National Lab monitoring dissolved oxygen levels on the Peconic River behind Roadhouse Pizza on West Main Street in Riverhead.
Riverhead Charter School and their expert from Brookhaven National Lab monitoring dissolved oxygen levels on the Peconic River behind Roadhouse Pizza on West Main Street in Riverhead.
| courtesy photo

Friday’s event took place on a surprisingly beautiful day.

According to the organizers, freshwater sites were filled with a diversity of sport fish, including bass, chain pickerel, bluegill, pumpkinseed, and black crappie, and hundreds of macro invertebrates, especially large quantities of damselfly nymphs.

The marine estuary sites were rich in biodiversity, with a variety of crabs, shrimp and bait fish, an indication of good water quality. The students reported that median water temperature was in the mid-sixties and water chemistry parameters are in the normal range.

“A Day in the Life” helps students develop an appreciation for and knowledge of Long Island’s river and estuary ecosystems and collect useful scientific data,” said program coordinator Melissa Griffiths Parrott. “It teaches students to become stewards of water quality and become connected to Suffolk County’s spectacular natural resources, their natural resources.”

“A Day in the Life of the Peconic Estuary’, now in its third year, is one of the most exciting events we conduct,” said Peconic Estuary Program Director Alison Branco. “It touches communities throughout our watershed and engages students and their families in the Peconic Estuary Program through interactive learning opportunities.”

Beth Young

Beth Young

Beth Young built her first boat out of driftwood tied together with phragmites behind her family’s apartment above the old Mill Creek Inn in Southold. Nowadays, she spends most of her time kayaking, learning about shellfish, writing newspaper stories, trying to sail a Sunfish, and watching the way the bay changes from day to day. You can send her a message at [email protected]

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