Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Bringing the Outside In

By Jennifer Kelly, Afterschool Program Manager

Jen has been here from the beginning. No, not the beginning of Save The Bay (that was 1970), but the beginning of our five-year partnership with Robertson Elementary School, in which Save The Bay provides marine science education to all K-6 students. The program is called Bay Partners. As the grant from the Defenders of Greenwich Bay nears its end, Jen reflects on the past five years.

At a family night to introduce Save The Bay and our presence in their classrooms, even before our first day of programming, parents were very excited about the new partnership and the experiences their children would enjoy. Then-principal Lynn Dambruch and I explained that Save The Bay’s education team would provide marine science education focused on Narragansett Bay as a local environmental resource. Students would participate in multiple, progressive programs with us that directly connect with K-12 science standards and what they are learning in their science classes. Each grade would receive up to three different classroom programs and one field experience per year. Field experiences might be at our Aquarium or Bay Center, a coastal site or onboard one of our education vessels.

“The vision for this program was to expose students to their local environment through multiple years of programming. Our hope was to give them a more lasting view of the Bay so they would go on to make good decisions and continue protecting it throughout their lives,” said Jack Early, president of Defenders of Greenwich Bay, which provided the five-year grant that has made Bay Partners possible.

Students in many grades have been introduced to live animals—some from our shorelines and others from the depths of the Bay—studying the features that help them survive in Narragansett Bay. Others learned about Bay animals a little differently—through our models, where they explored their external and internal anatomies.
The study of animals has provided an ideal segway into food webs, watersheds, habitats and climate change, since all of these are important to the story of the animals’ survival. And we try to keep it interesting. I felt very proud when Principal Dambruch told me, “Students said that meaningful, hands-on activities made learning about science fun.”

Field experiences have enhanced what the students learned in their classrooms. One student said her favorite was “going on the boat to look for seals—it was a fun adventure.” Third graders became marine scientists, combing the beach and seining the water for artifacts all while discovering it’s sometimes wet and dirty work. “This is so fun! I can change later at school,” one student said after finding herself a bit above her boots in water, and then continued on exploring for shells, crabs, fish and shrimp.
“Our hope was to give them a more lasting view of the Bay so they would go on to make good decisions and continue protecting it throughout their lives.”~ Jack Early, President of Defenders of Greenwich Bay
“The program has given great insight into what’s happening to their local environment. It has changed their lives,” said fifth-grade teacher Leo Gauthier. “Because of what they’re learning in lower grades, they arrive to fifth and sixth grade with a strong knowledge of the Bay and increased science vocabulary. The program has even helped generate better discussions in social studies.”

“Without question, our teachers felt the programs complemented their classroom lessons and aligned with the state’s science standards. On top of that, kids go home and share what they’ve learned about the Bay with their families. The PTO really values and embraces the program,” said Principal Dambruch.

More than 480 students at Robertson Elementary have received classroom programming and field experiences in our Bay Partners program. “It has been an outstanding hands-on experience for them. They are always talking about it. When we are studying current events, they often make connections and bring up examples of what they’ve learned with Save The Bay,” said fifth-grade teacher John Paolino.

One of the most rewarding things for me has been to witness the students’ love and respect for the Bay grow over the years. One student this year told me that he had a very good idea about what a watershed is—and this was two years after he learned about it. He said, “Pollution drains to the Bay. When you first started teaching here, I thought the Bay was not too polluted. Now I think it needs a lot of attention and I will keep helping.”

Every educator hopes to impact the life of a student. These students are Narragansett Bay’s future stewards. It makes me so proud to see how much they have learned and how much it has influenced their lives.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Rhode Island Nature Video Festival Call For Submissions

Save The Bay is proud to share with you the rules and submission regulations to the Rhode Island Nature Video Festival being organized by the Environment Council of Rhode Island. Submission deadline is December 10, 2015. Below are the rules and submission guidelines as submitted to us by NCRI, and any questions should be submitted to or 401-621-8048. Good luck! 

Rules for entry are as follows: 

The video must be filmed in Rhode Island by a person or a group of people currently residing in, or going to school, in Rhode Island. The video must be about some sort of nature in Rhode Island. It must be focused on a natural or naturalized set of plants, animals or natural features.  This means no dogs, cats, pet fish, pet birds or farm animals. Turtles, snakes and amphibians should be native species that are free ranging or bound for release like tadpoles in a kiddie pool. No illegally kept or exotics will be included in the festival. Incidental inclusion of domestic animals is okay. For example, you could show the horse you rode on a trail if the video is focused on the trail or other natural feature.  Farms and gardens will be treated the same way, incidental inclusion only, unless you are exploring science. One distinction that we intend to honor is that some videos are just straight from nature. Others can be edited to tell a story and a narrator can be used.       

We encourage videos of various lengths, including short clips and long stories. However, the maximum length is 15 minutes. Any video longer than 45 seconds must include credits and videos with copyright violations shall be rejected. Filmmakers are allowed to submit multiple entries, but quality is prefered over quantity.  

Videos shall be submitted by sending a link to the video to the festival committee email contact.  Sending the link implies that we have permission to use it in the festival. The committee putting on the event shall choose which videos to use in the festival.  We reserve the right to reject any video deemed inappropriate. Some videos may be cut due to time constraints. All submissions must come as a link and accompanied by the Name(s) of those who created the video with: address, phone, email, age category (12 and under, teen, student or adult) and video credits.

Those who submit a video that is included in the program will be entitled to free admission to the festival.

Submission deadline is December 10, 2015 and The Video Festival will be held on February 6, 2016 with tickets going on sale in December. Video submissions and questions should be sent to environmentcouncil@earthlink.netIf you prefer to have your questions answered by phone, you may call the Environment Council office at 401-621-8048.  

The Environment Council of Rhode Island looks forward to your submissions!

Friday, September 18, 2015

Celebrating one year of gas free driving during Drive Electric Week

By Rachel Calabro, Community Organizer and Advocate at Save The Bay

Last summer, I interviewed Save The Bay’s Facilities Manager about his decision to lease a Chevy Volt. The Volt is an electric drive vehicle with a gasoline engine for extended range. The all electric range is about 40 miles, after which a gasoline engine takes over. This is slightly different from a hybrid engine which switches back and forth from gasoline power to electric power during driving. After doing some research of my own, I decided last September to lease an all-electric Nissan Leaf, and go gasoline free. I like the simplicity of having one engine and virtually no maintenance other than tires and brakes.

Driving an all-electric car does take some planning ahead, and is best for city driving. The range varies widely depending on outside temperature and driving conditions. On good days, the range can top 90 miles with moderate driving speeds, but winter weather and use of the heat lowers the range under 80 miles. The car starts to warn you when running with under 20% of the battery remaining, so I generally take 20 miles off my effective range when planning my driving. With a battery instead of a gas tank, I feel like there is a direct feedback and connection to my own energy consumption and driving habits.

Rhode Island Supports Electric Vehicles
In 2013, Rhode Island partnered with National Grid to install 50 public charging stations through the ChargePoint Network. These stations are free to network members for the first four years while owners pay for the electricity. After four years, owners of the stations can decide to keep them free or begin using a fee based system. The stations are distributed throughout the state and are located at the state beaches, malls and restaurants such as Cilantro Grill and Chili’s, and at other locations such as Rhode Island College and Bryant University.

But what About the Electricity?
If you are interested in a direct comparison of energy consumption and costs for an electric car and a gasoline car, here are some of the things I have learned. One gallon of gasoline has the equivalent amount of energy as 34 kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity. Our second car, the Honda Fit, gets about 34 miles/gallon or about 1 mile per kWh. My Leaf diagnostics tell me that I average about 4.6 miles per kWh, or the equivalent of about 156 miles per gallon. The 2015 Nissan Leaf advertises an average miles per gallon equivalent of 114 miles, so either I am very efficient or my car is not very accurate.

The 2015 Nissan Leaf battery holds 24 kWh of energy. This means that a full charge at 16 cents per kWh costs about $3.84. I have been using about 200 kWh at home every month, for a cost of about $32. It also means that at an average of 4.6 miles per kWh, I should have a range of 110 miles, which is kind of pushing it. I have heard that the diagnostics are not very accurate, and that is something being worked on. 

To me, all those numbers mean that my electric car is almost five times more efficient than my gasoline car, regardless of the fuel type. Because of regenerative braking technology, the brake pads last up to three years longer. Fewer fluids and oils means less contribution to stormwater pollution. No exhaust means I am not contributing to low level ozone pollution, the major cause of air quality alert days in the heat of the summer. In addition, electric vehicles emit only 19.8% of the total heat emitted by conventional vehicles per mile, reducing the heat island effect in cities.

What About other Sources of Pollution?
Electric vehicles do create more pollution during the manufacturing process, and they do require electricity to be generated somewhere, using some type of energy source. The best scenario would be to plug in to a solar panel array or to purchase green energy through your electric company. Not all parts of the country are set up to distribute electricity from clean sources of fuel. The east and west coasts, however, happen to be areas where the electricity mix is steadily becoming more and more renewable.

According to the Sierra Club, in Massachusetts EVs have about 70% lower greenhouse gas emissions than conventional cars. If you are interested in seeing the energy mix going into New England’s electricity generation in real-time, check out this site from ISO New England (our energy grid operator).

The Future of Electric Vehicles
In October 2013, eight states which include Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, Maryland, Washington and California, signed a pledge to get 3.3 million EVs on the road by 2025. I am fairly confident that we will soon reach a tipping point and this goal will be easily surpassed. When the 2018 models start rolling out, we will see range go up over the 200 mile mark and electric cars will be mainstream. Electric options are available from most major car companies already.

The problem with being an early adopter, however, is that depreciation is relatively high, given that the technology is getting so much better with each new car model. This does provide some opportunities, however, if you are looking to get into the electric car game and save a bunch of money. I am very happy with my choice and am looking forward to seeing what happens. I am already fighting for space at the public charging stations that I use, so I know there is a growing crowd out there with me. 

This blog entry was taken from the Watershed Writings blog. To read the all Watershed Writings entries visit the blog

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Bay-Friendly Living: Litter on land finds its way to bay, ocean

By July Lewis, Volunteer and Intern Manager

Aquidneck Island is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in New England. Large beaches such as Easton’s Beach in Newport draw tourists from around the world, and local gems like Sandy Point Beach in Portsmouth allow families to relax close to home. The island also hosts wildlife sanctuaries such as Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge in Middletown and prime fishing sites like King Beach in Newport.

There’s a beach for everyone, and the last thing anyone wants to see when they visit their little slice of paradise is trash.

But thousands of pounds of trash wind up on the beaches every year, all from individuals making the seemingly inconsequential choice to drop an item on the ground rather than dispose of it properly. Much of this trash comes from people littering directly on the beach. But what most people don’t know is that it also comes from people littering miles away from shore. How does that happen? Storm drains.

Rain washes litter from the streets into storm drains, which empty into rivers and waterways leading to the ocean. If you’ve ever cleaned out the storm drain in front of your residence, you know how large items like bottles can get caught in the grate. Think of how many smaller items pass through — wrappers, straws, bottle caps and countless cigarette butts. Cigarette filters are not, contrary to popular belief, biodegradable, but made of a type of plastic that falls apart into tiny bits and becomes part of the environment.

All this trash going into the sea not only winds up on our beaches, it often winds up in the stomachs of such animals as sea turtles, birds and whales, which either mistake bits of trash for food or accidentally ingest them while feeding. A whale swallowing a mouthful of krill has no way of spitting out any cigarette butts or bottle caps that come along for the ride. These indigestible items can get lodged in an animal’s digestive tract, filling up their bellies or blocking their systems entirely and leading to death.

Fortunately, Aquidneck Island residents are taking action and standing up for clean beaches.

Students and volunteers are raising awareness of the connection between storm drains and waterways. They glue tags to the curbs above storm drains saying “DON’T DUMP — DRAINS TO BAY” and pass out pamphlets to educate their neighbors.

Shoreline cleanups are another popular way residents are taking action. Save The Bay holds regular cleanups on the island, but we are not alone. Clean Ocean Access has a robust, year-round cleanup program. Naval groups, the Portsmouth Conservation Commission and businesses such as Rhody Surf all hold their own cleanups. Newport’s Clean City Program has a citywide Earth Day cleanup.

Many groups, from schools to Scout troops to neighborhood associations, participate in the annual International Coastal Cleanup each September. During this event, volunteers pick up trash and debris and record it for an annual, global report on marine debris. Last September, on Aquidneck Island alone, 373 volunteers picked up 2,981 pounds of trash from 14 miles of shoreline. The No. 1 item: 5,724 cigarette butts. Other top items were 2,075 bottle caps and 1,840 food wrappers. Less prevalent, but more dangerous, were 319 yards of fishing line, a major entanglement hazard for wildlife. All are the result of careless disrespect for the environment and the community.

The volunteers who came out that day and to cleanups year-round set an example for how we can take care of our beaches. For information on this year’s International Coastal Cleanup, on Sept. 19, visit

Perhaps the most important way we each can make a difference in reducing beach pollution on Aquidneck Island is to simply let other people know that it’s not OK to litter. People care what their friends and family think of them, so you can gently let people know there are alternatives.

If you see friends littering, say something — even if it’s “just” a cigarette butt. Set an example by taking a trash bag with you to the beach and leaving it just a little cleaner than you found it. Remind friends that if they use storm drains as a trash can, they turn the bay into a trash can. Join a cleanup and invite your friends to participate — it’s amazing how enthusiastic people get about clean beaches once they have a chance to make a difference.

To find a beach cleanup near you, visit or www.clean

July Lewis is the volunteer and internship manager at Save The Bay, a nonprofit environmental organization that is providing a series of occasional columns for The Daily News about stormwater issues on Aquidneck Island.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Beach Captain's Blog #1 - Michael Sollitto and Briana Ferreira

by Briana Ferreira, Class of 2016, Warwick Veterans Memorial High School and Michael Sollitto, Teacher, Warwick Veterans Memorial High School

As an incoming senior at Warwick Veterans Memorial High School, it was time for me to start thinking about a topic for my senior project. Knowing the career path I want to take after high school – to become a marine veterinarian ­– a beach cleanup was the perfect choice.
Marine biology has always been an interest of mine. I've been surrounded by water my whole life. When you’re born and raised in the Ocean State, the beach was a common place to be. But it wasn't until a leadership event that I noticed how much trash is left on the beach. Being a part of the Leadership Academy at Warwick Vets, we do an annual beach clean up at the end of May. Seeing how many bags of trash we collected in the little time we were there was shocking. You don't realize how much trash there really is until you are the one picking it up. So I made the decision to become a beach captain and run my own beach clean up for my senior project.
Polluted oceans put marine life at risk. Did you know that more than 600 species of marine animals are impacted by ocean trash? Many become entangled or mistake pieces of trash as food, which leads to digestion problems and many times also death. We're polluting our oceans and putting our animals at risk. These horrors inspired me to get involved, and what better way to do that than to participate in the International Coastal cleanup? My senior project mentor Michael Sollitto and I will be leading a cleanup at Conimicut Point in Warwick on September 19 for the Rhode Island International Coastal Cleanup.
-Briana Ferreira, Student, Class of 2016, Warwick Veterans Memorial High School  

I have coordinated many beach clean-ups over the years with Save the Bay.  These beach clean-ups were community service projects for Leadership Academy at Warwick Veterans High School. Teaching the importance of community services and environmental responsibility are important lessons for my students. Working with Save the Bay has ALWAYS been a wonderful experience. The staff, and especially the volunteer coordinator, July Lewis, go above and beyond by providing resources and supplies to run these clean-ups.
Like Briana, I grew up in Warwick, and its beaches and coast have been a large part of my life. It truly upsets me when I see trash littered on these beaches. When Briana asked me to be her mentor for her senior project, I didn’t think twice. It has been a pleasure working with Briana as co-beach captains for the International Beach clean-up. It is refreshing to see a teenager with drive and passion. For this project, I am her assistant, she is running the show!  I am positive that her hard efforts will pay off and we will have a very successful event.     
-Michael Sollitto, Teacher, Warwick Veterans Memorial High Sch