Thursday, February 27, 2014

Service To the Future of the Ocean State


Isaac Lavoie
AmeriCorps Program Director
In the state of Rhode Island there are many ways to serve your community. From the lines of a soup kitchen, the halls of our schools, and the shorelines of Narragansett Bay, there are AmeriCorps members silently working away to make a difference.

We are blessed as a state in this way. AmeriCorps programs exist to help our already diverse nonprofit sector enhance its ability to serve those in need and continue to combat societal ills.

As you know, we here at Save The Bay invest deeply in the health and welfare of the Bay and its surrounding watershed. Education is one of the primary ways we do this; by educating tens of thousands of students per year, we are cultivating the next generation of environmentally literate citizens. You may not know that part of our success in education is due to our decade long collaboration with some of the state’s other leading environmental organizations.

The Ocean State Environmental Education Collaborative (OSEEC) is an AmeriCorps supported initiative taken by Save The Bay, Audubon Society of Rhode Island, Norman Bird Sanctuary, and Roger Williams Park Zoo. Of the 13 AmeriCorps programs currently nested in deserving nonprofits, this is the only corps that focuses its service on our environment.

OSEEC Americorps engages 
Central Falls third graders
Born out of a need to provide access to quality environmental education (EE) to our urban core cities, OSEEC’s mission has continued to evolve. Together, the OSEEC partners have a vision to provide all students in our state access to EE and giving every student the tools needed to make decisions in an informed and environmentally conscious way.

The time for this work has never been more pertinent, nor the need so large. Climate change continues to shape our present and future and the task of educating our youth falls squarely into our purview. We are blessed to have 16 AmeriCorps members, spread between our four organizations, who put their backgrounds to work for us in their service year. Combined, the OSEEC program was able to reach just over 36,000 Rhode Islanders last year. Of that group over 13,000 of those students came from our state’s underserved urban-core communities of Providence, Pawtucket, Woonsocket, Central Falls, West Warwick, and Newport. It is a feat no one organization could claim on its own.

OSEEC members cleaning up the
shore at Fields Point in Providence
Each member gives 1,700 hours of service from September to August. They introduce school children of all ages to age-appropriate environmental topics and contribute deeply to our education departments -- all while making below poverty stipends. For their commitment they gain in experience and gain a small Education Award, good for furthering their own academic pursuits.

It is during this wintry time of year that it is important to thank these members for their service. Their dedication receives some of its hardest tests in the wind and the cold. Whether on an education vessel hauling a net, out on a trail following tracks, exploring for owls on the rocks, or making their way to another Rhode Island classroom, our AmeriCorps members serve unflinchingly.

So the next time you see an OSEEC member clad in green, take a moment to thank them for their service. Let them know their efforts do not go unnoticed.

- Isaac

Friday, February 21, 2014

We applaud Gov. Chafee for establishment of climate change council

Jonathan Stone
Executive Director


Save The Bay applauds Governor Chafee for issuing an Executive Order establishing the Rhode Island Executive Climate Change Council.

Rhode Island is especially vulnerable to rising seas, increasingly intense storms, and summer heat waves.  Our natural resources – our forests and streams, wonderful state parks, pristine public beaches, amazing wildlife, and our beautiful Narragansett Bay – are threatened by the impacts of a rapidly changing climate.

Around the Bay we are observing deterioration in the health of salt marshes that serve as vital nurseries for fish and bird life.  Beach erosion along the south coast has triggered shortsighted efforts to armor shorelines, depriving the public of access to ocean beaches and accelerate damage to adjacent property.  Flooding is inundating septic systems and storm drains, threatening drinking water and swimming.  Summer heat waves trigger algae blooms that foul the Bay and harm recreational fisheries.

Meanwhile, decisions are being made on a daily basis by state and local government that can have a profound effect on our ability to adapt to climate impacts.  But all too often, these decisions are reactive, short-sighted, and piecemeal. 

State agencies play a central role in guiding public policy and overseeing critical investment decisions that have long-term consequences.  By establishing the Executive Climate Change Council, the Governor is taking an important step forward in integrating and coordinating actions by state agencies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and advance sound public policy that anticipates what lies ahead.

Often the most severe effects of our rapidly changing climate are felt at a local level.  Municipalities bear the brunt of coastal erosion, stream flooding, and storm impacts.  Leadership by state government is essential to ensure resilient and sustainable local communities.

We believe that the Governor’s Executive Order is the right path to improve coordination at the state and local level, and establish forward-looking policies that protect Rhode Island’s human, physical and natural resources.

- Jonathan 

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Bay Scallop Restoration Efforts in 2013

From The Field

Robbie Hudson
Restoration Ecologist
Save The Bay completed its seventh year of active Bay Scallop restoration in 2013. Last year's restoration efforts using a caged scallop spawning sanctuary were located in Ninigret Pond, with spat line monitoring (we look for baby scallops on lines that we set) in both Ninigret and Point Judith Ponds. Dive surveys (we record the adult population of bay scallops and their predators) were completed in these two pond systems as well as in Quonachontaug Pond. Save The Bay uses a caged scallop spawning sanctuary approach to restoring this species as the cages provide protection for the scallops from predators. In return, the protected scallops are able to spawn and contribute to the following year’s adult population.

The spat line monitoring and the dive surveys allows us to monitor the success of the project and provides much needed information on how this species reacts to restoration efforts, harvesting pressures, and environmental factors. After reviewing the data collected from these efforts it appears that the bay scallop population had decreased from 2012 to 2013 in the South County Salt Ponds. One of the potential factors that may have contributed to a decrease in the population is the increased rainfall in June. Scallops are sensitive to decreases in the water’s salinity (how salty the water is); they have a low tolerance to fresher water and are unable to tightly close their shells (valves) together. 

Bay scallops are a fragile and sensitive species; the average life cycle of a bay scallop is about two years. This makes them prone to harvesting pressures if not done properly. The harvest season for bay scallops currently begins on the first weekend in November and only adults scallops may be collected. These regulations are in place so that the bay scallops are able to reproduce and contribute to the sustainability of the species, and the ecological and economically benefits of having the scallops in our waters. 

Save The Bay’s 2013 Scallop Restoration efforts were funded primarily by NOAA Restoration Center and Restore America’s Estuaries. Previously, the Rhode Island Coastal and Estuary Habitat Restoration Fund, managed by RI Coastal Resources Management Council, has awarded funds to this project. Save The Bay restoration projects would not be possible without help from its many volunteers. 

Project support and cooperation were provided from NOAA RestorationCenter, RI Department of Environmental Management, the RI Coastal ResourcesManagement Council, Narragansett Harbor Management and Conservation Commissions, Charlestown Coastal Pond Management Commission, and YMCA Camp Fuller

We need your help in 2014

We're looking for volunteers to assist us with scallop work in 2014. Click here to let us know that you're interested!

- Robbie

Monday, February 3, 2014

"Early Oceanic Histories" at the John Carter Brown Library

Next week, Brown University presents "Early Oceanic Histories: A New Initiative in Environmental Studies" at the John Carter Brown Library. The three films to be screened over three days showcase fishing in New England and an environmental history. 

Check out the trailer to the first film, "Leviathan"