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.
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
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
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!
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.
An Old Friend in Central Falls High School
Our nearly 15-year partnership with Central Falls High School paints the perfect picture of the evolution of our school-based education programs. In 2002, Central Falls High School AP biology teacher Joanne Greenleaf knew her students needed the kind of education experience that would generate excitement in learning, get them out of the classroom, and give them opportunities to learn with their hands rather than textbooks. She pounded the pavement to raise money on her own, through friends and family, and even a stranger at the grocery store, to bring her classes out on a marine science cruise aboard our education vessel M/V Alletta Morris.
This single experience was life changing for Greenleaf’s students, and it inspired the way we approached partnering and working with teachers. It was the seed that has evolved into one of our signature education programs—Narragansett Bay Field Studies. Greenleaf has since left Central Falls High School but the legacy of the program and partnership she began with us has continued in the work of other teachers and school administrators.
“The field studies program with Save The Bay gave us such strong evidence of the positive impacts of environmental education that it became the foundation we used to develop the STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) Academy at Central Falls High School,” said Joshua Laplante, past principal of Central Falls’ STEM Academy. “The Save The Bay partnership was prioritized not only at the school level, but also at the district level, because of the great influence it had on student development,” he said.
The Narragansett Bay Field Studies program has become a formally adopted and integrated part of the Central Falls School District curriculum, complete with an internship and summer camp for high school students. AP biology classes meet with Save The Bay educators at Lonsdale Marsh as many as 18 times each school year to evaluate four big indicators of ecosystem health. They collect water samples and test for dissolved oxygen, salinity, nitrogen and phosphorus levels and more. They put on waders and boots and head into the river with kicknets to see what crustaceans, worms and aquatic insects are present at different times of the year. They record the different types of vegetation, aquatic animals, birds and land mammals they see. And they assess human impacts by measuring sound pollution and trash found in the area.
“It’s one thing to teach environmental science with case studies, simulations and videos, but to have students knee-deep in water in their own community, testing it for nutrients and pollutants, and analyzing the data they collect makes the level of awareness and impact so much greater,” said science teacher Laura Stanish.
By Matt Vieira, Social Media and Marketing Manager
I wipe the sleep out of my eyes; it's 3 a.m. on August 13, 2016. Far too early for even Rhode Island's favorite morning companion, Dunkin, to be open. I pack the car and head down to Newport. Today is the best day of the year for a Save The Bayer. It's the day of the #Big40Swim!
As a non-swimmer this year, I had a multitude of land duties. My first task, when arriving on the Newport side of the swim, was to help with the unloading of kayaks. A task that went exceedingly smooth, if I do say so myself...ok, I won't take all the credit, we had some incredible volunteers doing the heavy lifting to make sure kayak unloading and inspection was a success. After all 200-something kayaks were unloaded and inspected, I spun my hat around and got into social media mode. I took to my iPhone to see what was happening on the #Big40Swim hashtag across Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. To my surprise, we had dozens of posts from anxious swimmers ready to get started! In my joyous mood, I generously gave out retweets and continued on to document the start of the Swim.
I grabbed my camera bag from my car, assembled my DSLR and headed out to grab candids from swimmers climbing into the water. The start of the swim, whether freezing my toes off in the water as a swimmer or in my capacity this year as a photo taker, has a joyus feeling in the air. Swimmers are so ready to tackle the Swim that many are seen in the waters of Narragansett Bay an hour before the start.
After the cannon sounds, and the first wave of swimmers takes off for their Jamestown destination, I quickly stop Save The Bay's Periscope feed, pack up my camera, hop in my car and drive over to the finish line in Jamestown. The drive over the bridge is bittersweet. Usually my journey to Jamestown is a little more... well, wet. Hundreds of swimmers charging across the vast East Passage from atop the Pell Bridge is a sight to behold, one I don't usually get to see. It gives me motivation to rejoin the swimmers next year.
Once I reach the finish, I only have minutes before the first swimmers start crossing the finish line. I park my car, jump out with my drone and DSLR and begin my sprint down to the water. Once in the water, I am able to do a little more live streaming as well as congratulate swimmers as they pass me. What an accomplishment for these dedicated athletes!
I have been participating in Swims, either as a swimmer or as a staffer and sometimes a little of both, since 2012. That makes the #Big40Swim my fifth since joining the Save The Bay team. For those not familiar, the Swim consists of 40+ Staff, 500 swimmers, 200 kayakers and around 200 volunteers. With that many moving parts spread across the Bay, at two land locations, and in an auxiliary parking lot, to see it all come together first-hand is amazing. Everyone has a job, and everyone performs their job beyond expectations to create a day that is a celebration of the Narragansett Bay! Everyone from the kayak inspectors to the swimmers getting out of the water in Jamestown are buzzing with excitement the day of the Swim. Everyone rallies around a clean and healthy Bay, but it wasn't always that way.
Yes, the Swim is Save The Bay's largest fundraiser, but at the end of that day, it's much more than that. It's a showcase for a healthy bay. It shows how far the Bay has come since the inception of the Save The Bay Swim 40 years ago. In the early years, swimmers came out of the water covered in oil and tar balls. Now they report seeing fish swimming right below them! Swimmers and kayakers don't just celebrate finishing the 1.7-nautical-mile journey, they celebrate a clean Bay. And over these 40 years, their dedication and determination have made a huge difference.
For photos from the #Big40Swim visit our Facebook or Flickr page.
A new tropical traveler has found its way to our aquarium! Brycen Vallancourt, Save The Bay camper and Exploration Center visitor, caught a small webbed burrfish while exploring the waters near Ocean Drive in Newport, Rhode Island on Wednesday, August 3rd. Brycen is no stranger to tropical strays. In fact, last summer he caught a short bigeye at Third Beach which has been living in the aquarium ever since. Our new fish is about the size of a quarter, and has been a great addition to our exhibits at the Exploration Center. Tropical strays such as these usually travel up to the Narragansett Bay through the warmer waters of the Gulf Stream current, and sometimes get stuck in the Bay as the water temperature cools down during the winter months. We try to catch as many of these tropical fish as we can so they are not left struggling to survive the harsh conditions of the winter Bay.
Sightings of tropical fish such as these are just another sign that the waters in the area are warming up due to climate change. With increased levels of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere, a “heat trapping blanket” surrounds the Earth and keeps sunlight and warmer air at the surface of the planet. This, in turn, creates warmer waters and leads to more tropical stray sightings further north. Our new "Bay of the Future" exhibit has become home to many of the strays we have here in the aquarium.
Come check out the Webbed Burrfish at our Exploration Center and Aquarium. He shares a tank with a band-tailed pufferfish, another tropical stray we have not seen for about 5 years!
Brycen participated in Save The Bay's after school program with Pell Elementary School this past year and will be attending BayCamp in Newport at Ft. Adams.
If you've ever driven by a pond that's covered with thousands of little triangular leaves so thick you think you could walk across them, you've seen the Water Chestnut - an invasive species that's wreaking havoc for our native plants and fish.
This summer, Save The Bay has been working with local residents in Rehoboth, Massachusetts to remove invasive water chestnut from Shad Factory Pond. Water Chestnut is an annual plant that is rooted in the pond bottom and has floating leaves and small white flowers. Large black nuts form under the surface and have very sharp barbs that can stick to animals and can float downstream. The nuts stay viable in the sediment for up to 12 years, and each nut can produce 10-15 plants, so you can see how hard it is to eliminate this plant once it gets established in a waterbody.
Thick mats of floating water chestnut leaves can take over in ponds and slow moving rivers by shading out other plants and reducing oxygen in the water. It spreads rapidly and displaces native species. The most common method for removal is to hand-pull the plants in mid-summer before the nuts fall. This hand-pulling is hard work, but over several years can effectively limit the spread of the plant. When the problem gets too big for volunteers, mechanical harvesters are often used to pull plants on a large scale.
Water Chestnut is of particular concern on Shad Factory Pond because the Palmer River is an important fish run for herring and shad. Save The Bay is beginning a study this summer in partnership with the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries to study spawning habitat in the pond. We are looking at dissolved oxygen, water clarity, pH, nutrients and spawning substrate to see if there is enough suitable habitat for fish. In addition to the water chestnut, other invasive plants including milfoil and fanwort along with native pond lilies and other submerged plants are limiting the available oxygen and harming spawning substrate.
Central Pond in East Providence, part of the Ten Mile River, also has a large infestation of water chestnut. This is of concern because fish passage was recently restored to this system as well. Harmful algae blooms have also been an issue on this pond, and invasive species can make the problem worse. As we try to re-introduce fish to river systems around the Bay, we also need to be concerned with what they will find when they arrive.
When Save The Bay learned of ProvPort's plans to expand its operations by filling 31 acres of the Providence River, our team sprung into action quickly and decisively. We sent out a press release alerting the media - and Rhode Islanders - about the eleventh-hour move in the State House to set the plan in motion with a $20M bond referendum. The bond referendum asked voters to pay for Phase I of that ProvPort's expansion plan: the purchase of land along the Providence River. Within a week’s time of our alert, ProvPort clearly and unequivocally declared it was abandoning Phases 2 and 3 of their plan, which called for filling 31 acres of the River.
I’ve been working for Save The Bay and defending Narragansett Bay for more than 20 years. Our quick response and victory on this “jack-in-the-box” proposal reminded me of why Save The Bay exists and of the never-ending urgency of our work to protect and improve the Bay. Our role in the reclamation of Narragansett Bay has been, and always will be, to be the citizen’s voice for the Bay. Or, as our former executive director Trudy Coxe once said, the “raspberry seed under the pallet.”
Every day, the Save The Bay team hears about “how much cleaner the Bay is than before.” And it's true, the reclamation of the Bay is a great success story, one that the people of Rhode Island and Massachusetts are rightfully proud of. However, success can also lead to complacency, and that is my major worry these days. For nearly 50 years, we’ve built the political will to fix glaring pollution problems – the raw sewage overflows and industrial pollution that used to foul the Bay on a daily basis. While the water is cleaner and clearer than it has been in decades, we are facing two major threats that are, in some ways, more challenging than our past battles: 1) pollution from the stormwater that hits our streets and runs directly our waters, and 2) climate change impacts.
Stormwater pollution is complex. We all own it. Wet weather still causes local beach closures throughout the Bay. Climate change is even more complex, and we are struggling every day to deal with its impacts. Our salt marshes are drowning under the weight of sea level rise. Our team has moved from salt marsh restoration to helping salt marshes adapt to rapidly changing conditions. The wastewater treatment plants that are essential to the Bay’s health are vulnerable to flooding, storm surge, sea level rise – look no further than the City of Warwick’s plant that was ten feet under water during the 2010 floods. Our shorelines are moving and eroding, challenging us us to protect public access to the shore. Warming waters are altering the ecology of the Bay.
This is tough stuff. These current and future threats make our mission more urgent than ever. I love the passion of the staff, board and volunteers of Save The Bay. We’ve been the voice for Narragansett Bay for nearly 50 years. And now these more complex threats demand that we all step up our game to protect our beloved Bay for the next 50 years.
Be a Virtual Swimmer:Maybe you want to swim, but you can’t get to Rhode Island in August. Or you don’t think you could make it all the way across the Bay. Or maybe you just don’t swim at all. Become a Save The Bay Virtual Swimmer, and either swim where you are (see Rick Fleeter profile, pg 10) or earn your Save The Bay Swim medal from the comforts of your couch.
Sponsor the Swim:Put your corporate name in front of more than 2,000 spectators, vendors and supporters, swimmers and kayakers as a generous sponsor of the Save The Bay Swim. Save The Bay is the largest and most influential environmental group in Rhode Island, and the Swim serves as critical support to our efforts to protect and improve Narragansett Bay.
Support a Swimmer:The Swim is Save The Bay’s largest fundraising event, providing nearly $350,000 toward our mission’s critical work in advocacy, education and habitat restoration. You can make a donation to support a specific swimmer, a team or the swim in general.
Volunteer:The Swim couldn’t happen without the hundreds of volunteers who help with parking, kayak inspection, kayak unloading, swimmer numbering, handing out towels, food, and T-shirts, time sheets, party tent, barrier monitoring, safety squad, and much more! savebay.org/swim
By Matthew Vieira, Social Media and Marketing Manager
This month, Intern Abbey and I meet up with July Lewis and Adam Kovarsky to chat about the International Coastal Cleanup and the August theme at the Exploration Center and Aquarium. Want to listen to our Podcast during your commute? This Podcast is also available on SoundCloud and iTunes.