Thursday, September 22, 2016

Staff Blog: Winter at the Exploration Center & Aquarium

By Adam Kovarsky, Aquarium Manager and Education Specialist

As summer comes to an end, we vacuum the sand out of our cars and get out our sweaters. As we leave the beaches, Narragansett Bay drops in temperature to prepare for standard winter conditions, which are not too fun to swim in. And just how we start our migration inland during the winter months, the Striped Bass starts its annual migration south to the warm waters hugging the south eastern coast of North America.

The Striped Bass is the official Rhode Island state fish and the ideal catch for all Rhode Island recreational fishermen. This larger predator in the Bay is a top level consumer and helps keep the checks and balances on point in our extremely lively and productive bay. Soon, the wild Striped Bass population of Narragansett Bay will be re-gaining one of its lost members, Fogarty. Fogarty the fish is a 34” Striped Bass that was rescued by one of our marine science classes during a survey trawl; he was found with a hook still in his mouth. Fogarty has since made full recovery and is ready for release shortly. 

Before we release Fogarty, you can come and see this beautiful specimen at Save The Bay’s Exploration Center and Aquarium along with dozens of other Narragansett Bay creatures. Our winter hours are Friday, Saturday and Sundays 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.. We will also be open for most Rhode Island school holidays. Check our website for special events and openings, or give us a call at 401-324-6020.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Advocacy Blog: Rust Tide in the Bay

By Tom Kutcher, Narragansett BayKeeper

Anyone who has spent much time on the Bay in the last few weeks has probably noticed some patchy but abundant tea-colored water in the Bay. The culprit? “Rust tides,” according to scientists with the R.I. Department of Environmental Management (DEM). Rust tide is an algae bloom of microscopic dinoflagellates that use a red pigment to photosynthesize. The bloom is happening pretty much throughout the Bay and has been documented in nearby waters such as the Narrow River, our coastal ponds and estuaries in New York and Massachusetts.

DEM reports that the bloom is not toxic to humans, but may have negative effects on sensitive fish species. However, although I have been seeing numerous large, dark streaks and patches of rust tide throughout the Bay, I’ve also been witnessing many schools of pogies being chased by bluefish in the upper and mid Bay, which seems to be a good sign that they are not being incapacitated by this event.


Rust tide is naturally occurring, but some scientists are suggesting that this may be the largest rust-tide event we’ve seen in decades. DEM expects the bloom to dissipate as waters approach 60 degrees, which doesn’t usually happen until sometime in October. Until then, please report any signs of fish stress to me directly at 401-272-3540 ext 116, or to Dr. Chris Deacutis (christopher.deacutis@dem.ri.gov) at RI DEM Fisheries.  

Thursday, September 15, 2016

With Friends Like These: A New Friend in the Lincoln School


By Bridget Kubis Prescott, Director of Education

Save The Bay long ago recognized that if we are to fulfill our mission to protect and improve Narragansett Bay, we’d have to reach deep into a new community of supporters—the hearts and minds of young people, school children, who would one day become keepers of our beautiful Bay. Our education program has since evolved from isolated classroom presentations into rich integrated experiences with entire grades, schools and school districts. The success of these programs is rooted in strong partnerships that begin with relationships with individual teachers and grow over time. 

A New Friend in the Lincoln School 
While our partnership with Central Falls has become like an “old friend,” we also make new friends along the way, like this year’s partnership with the all-girls Lincoln School in Providence. At the urging of Lincoln School board member and former Save The Bay executive director Curt Spalding, the head of Lincoln School Suzanne Fogarty and I sat down last year to discuss possibilities and worked with science teacher Anna Painter to build a program that fit perfectly into Lincoln’s mission and structure. The Lincoln School was looking for a program that could “enhance their science-themed curriculum and at the same time be strategic and deliberate.” The Middle and Upper schools at Lincoln School already had strong partnerships in the community, and now, with Save The Bay, they have a similar experience for their Lower School. 

Lincoln students in kindergarten through second grade use our Bay Center and education vessels as extensions of their classroom to learn about marine critters, their habitats and adaptations, what Save The Bay is all about, and how they can make a difference to Bay health. “Through the educational experiences that Save The Bay education staff and Lincoln School staff develop together, the girls become associated, at an early age, with an organization that makes a difference. They have pride in their city and state and are empowered to make a difference in their world,” Fogarty said. 

Lincoln Lower School Director Maureen Devlin said, “The literal excitement that this program generates is incredible. This past week one of our first graders was up and dressed for their Save The Bay program at 5:30 a.m. The program encourages our girls from an early age to explore and solve problems and empowers them to make a difference in their community. It really complements what we do in the classroom and allows learning to come alive in authentic, real-world experiences.” 

Monday, September 12, 2016

Guest Blog: This is how you get to the Save The Bay Swim


By Michael Michaud

People Actually Swim in the Ocean?


Maybe, like me, you’re not from Rhode Island, or maybe you didn’t grow up near the beach, or maybe, also like me, it just never occurred to you that people might actually swim in the ocean.

Regardless, maybe one night you’re frolicking in the water at the town beach with your kids when a kayaker paddles by, trailing a swimmer behind him. Maybe you point to the swimmer and shout to the kayaker, “What’s he doing?”

And the kayaker says “Training for the Save the Bay swim.”

“What’s that?”

“Ocean swim. Newport to Jamestown. 1.7 miles.”

And maybe you stand there as they paddle off into deeper water thinking, 1.7 miles? For real?

Those People Swimming Out by the Buoys


And then maybe at some point later that summer you’re back at the town beach, look up from your book and notice a group of people swimming out by the buoys. You watch them for a minute and then you remember, the Save the Bay swim! They must by training for the Save the Bay swim! But then you’re also thinking, How the hell did they get out that far? Is that even safe? And then as you watch them go from buoy to buoy, momentarily disappearing in the surf and then reappearing, maybe you find yourself thinking, I wonder if I could…?

Next thing you know you’ve joined an open water swim group and you’ve become one of those people swimming out by the buoys. You’ve got your wetsuit, your swim cap, your goggles. You’re doing it. Three swims a week. Before work. After work. On weekends. Once you get over your initial fears (Um, sharks…?) you find you really love open water swimming — the look of the beach from so far offshore, the camaraderie of the swimmers in the water, the exhausted feeling you get as you pull your body towards the setting sun at the end of a long swim.


Year 1: You Kayak The Swim


Then one night, another swimmer asks if you’re doing the Save the Bay Swim and you say you’re not because you just aren’t sure you’re ready for it yet and so he asks if you’d be willing to kayak for him at this year’s swim. Yes! you say. Of course you’ll kayak! Great!

And on race day, a few weeks later, you find yourself sitting in your kayak in the shadow of the Naval War College, surrounded by swimmers and kayakers, waiting for the canon to go off and the race to start. When it fires, your swimmer takes off and for a few seconds you can’t see him, but then he stops and waves you over and you paddle in his direction and then the two of you head out across the bay and the sun is shining and the water is streaming past your boat and all you can hear is that little voice in your head repeating, Next year! You’re going to do this next year!


The Next Year, Your Swim


And then next year comes! You’ve trained all summer! Found your kayaker! Raised your $400! And now you’re in the water, waiting for the cannon to go off, ready to swim. You look across to Jamestown and then up at the Pell Bridge. You glance around at all the other swimmers and you think about how far you’ve come since that first night that you saw the swimmer and kayaker at the town beach, since your first buoy swim.

When the cannon fires you lower your head below the surface and begin to swim. You feel the cool water slide past, feel your body, energized, as you pull it forward. You break free from the weedy beach, find a rhythm, sight on the far shore, and move out into open water, your kayaker trailing behind.

That’s how you get to the swim. Or, that’s how I did. Your story will be different, but just as meaningful, and just as fun.

Mike would like to thank Fred Bartlett and the Narragansett Open Swimming Enthusiasts for allowing him to join their group and to believe that he, too, could swim the buoys.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

CoastKeeper Blog: Mermaid's Hair and Brillo Pads Don't Belong in our Waters

by Dave Prescott, South County Coastkeeper

Just the other day, while out on Little Narragansett Bay, I came across a disturbing, but all too familiar scene. During the summer months, when Bay and Pawcatuck River waters are at their warmest, large expansive mats of a green algae, known as Cladophora, litter the surface of the Bay. Yesterday was no exception. However, the expanse of macroalgae was larger than I have ever witnessed over the past decade.


Cladophora, also known as mermaid’s hair (and similar to a Brillo pad), thrives in high-nutrient environments. Little Narragansett Bay is plagued with an overabundance of this type of algae due to the nutrient loads coming down the Pawcatuck River and off the land. The bottom of the Bay, specifically from the mouth of the Pawcatuck to the section between Sandy Point and Barn Island, is littered with huge mats of this algae. In some areas, the Cladophora is inches thick. In other places, it is several feet thick. At certain times during the summer, this algae surfaces and litters the top of the Bay. In addition, directly below the algae, the sediment is highly organic due to the slow breakdown of the algae and smells like rotten eggs from the bacteria decomposing it.

Last summer, Save The Bay issued a Call to Action to the communities of Westerly and Stonington to help protect and save Little Narragansett Bay. As part of the Call to Action, we asked these communities, as well as individuals, to start taking steps to help protect our local waters. If nutrient levels in the river and Bay are not addressed and reduced, this algae will continue to bloom and then decompose, leading to decreased dissolved oxygen levels and threatening the survival of such marine life as fish and shellfish.

The sources of nutrients entering our waterways are wide and varied: septic systems, cesspools, sewage treatment plants, fertilizers from lawns and farms, pet waste, polluted runoff from the more urban sections of Westerly and Stonington. We need to start understanding that we are all contributors to the problem and that we all need to be part of the solution. We need to start taking action now to protect the delicate and extraordinary natural resources of Little Narragansett Bay.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Captivating Crustaceans - Save The Bay Podcast



September's theme at the Exploration Center and Aquarium is "Captivating Crustaceans".

Register for Feeding Frenzy - savebay.org/aqaurium

New Tropical Traveler at The Exploration Center and Aquarium - http://goo.gl/1qaQfZ

Monday, August 29, 2016

My Summer with Save The Bay

By Communications Intern Abbey Greene

As a summer intern in the Communications Department for the last four months, I filmed videos about sharks and octopuses, conducted podcast interviews, wrote press releases to the media about new themes each month at the aquarium and more. The entire experience was extremely educational, and every task taught me something new about the world of communication.

However, one day in particular really stuck with me. Early on in my internship, I worked with fourth graders from John Wickes School in Warwick. These kids took a field trip to Save The Bay headquarters in Providence, and I filmed their day, even interviewing a few of them. For some, it was their first time out on a boat, and their jaws dropped when the boat started to pick up speed. Many squealed and laughed around the deck from railing to railing, leaning over the edge of the boat and letting the sea spray hit their faces. Seeing their eyes light up and capturing their joy on camera was really amazing for me. They wanted to learn so much from Save The Bay staff, and every single child was engaged in the activities. The kids wanted to know everything they could about the Bay, from the water’s salinity to the Bay’s animal life.

After the students pulled up the trawl net, I watched them run to the touch tanks and shout with excitement as they pushed aside seaweed and found hermit crabs. The kids grabbed their friends and dragged them over to see the fish and other sea life. I realized these children do not take the Bay for granted like so many other people do. Every single living creature was treated with care, carefully handled by each child as they ‘oo’-ed and ‘ah’-ed over them. The students kept pointing to new finds, whether it was an animal or a shore bird flying over head. The fourth graders saw how cool a flounder was and how fascinating a spider crab can be. Living in this busy, technical world, we can easily forget how magical the environment really is. These kids have not forgotten yet. I was honored that those fourth graders reminded me of the environment’s magic.

I want to continue working in the field of communications and pursue a career as an environmental reporter. I want to remind people of the importance of the natural world and educate the public about it, just like Save The Bay educates people about Narragansett Bay. I could write articles, appear on television or work online. I will graduate in May, and although my first step in my career path is not completely clear, I am sure of one thing: Save The Bay taught me what is important to me— reminding people of the magic nature can bring to their lives, just as a group of fourth graders from John Wickes Elementary School reminded me.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

International Coastal Cleanup, Cleanup Leader Training, and the Clean Swell App

By July Lewis, Volunteer Coordinator

International Coastal Cleanup is on Saturday, September 17! That means we at Save The Bay are busy confirming locations, finalizing permission and trash disposal, and recruiting volunteers for this annual, global day of action. If you are not familiar with the event, it is pretty simple: Volunteers all over the world clean up trash on their shores and record what they find. The data is submitted to The Ocean Conservancy and published in an annual report on marine debris.  

Trash on the shore and in the sea is a growing problem, and one that everyone should care about. Trash is unsafe, unsanitary, and can harm wildlife. In particular, plastics are building up in the marine environment, breaking down into small particles, and even entering the food chain. The International Coastal Cleanup is a way to get trash off the shores and spread the word about this issue. And fortunately, it is very easy to get involved!

SIGN UP FOR A CLEANUP


As always, we have a list of cleanups to choose from on September 17, and anyone can sign up. If September 17 doesn’t work for you, we have cleanups schedule on alternative dates as well. This is a great activity for groups, so feel free to recruit others to come with you. No prep is needed – just bring yourself, some sturdy shoes and a reusable bottle of water to stay hydrated. We’ll provide the rest!

LEAD A CLEANUP

It’s easy! Your cleanup could be a big event, but it can also be a small group of friends and family. It’s up to you! All it takes is coordinating a date and location with me, picking up a Save The Bay cleanup kit, giving some easy instructions to your group, and doing the cleanup. Gather the trash for pickup (I will arrange permission and disposal with the town or park), return the kit, and you’re done! We will have a cleanup leader training on Tuesday, August 23, 5:30-7 p.m. at 100 Save The Bay Drive, Providence. You can sign up for the training or contact me for more information.

USE THE APP

The Ocean Conservancy has just created CleanSwell - a new app you can use to do mini-cleanups wherever you go! Take a bag with you the next time you go to the shore and spend a few minutes cleaning up and recording what you find. Just tap the icons for straws, cigarette butts, food wrappers, etc. to keep track as you pick up. The app will automatically record your location, the distance you walked, the time you spent cleaning up and the weight of your items. Hit submit and all the data goes to the Ocean Conservancy to be included in its database. You can even take a photo and post it to social media with your results! A COUPLE OF THINGS TO REMEMBER THOUGH - any cleanups of more than a few people, or where a large volume of trash is being picked up, must be arranged ahead of time with the park or the town. Don’t fill up the park’s trash barrel (if they have one) or leave bags on the curb – be prepared to take your trash home with you!



So please come out and join us on the International Coastal Cleanup, whether it’s joining a cleanup, leading a cleanup, or using the CleanSwell app. And please spread the word – every bit of trash we keep out of the Bay makes a difference!