Thursday, November 30, 2017

When you think you can't make an impact... think again.

by Angela Surrusco, communications intern
Angela Surrusco, cleanup leader, holds the Save The Bay sign
Angela Surrusco, communications intern,
co-leads the South Kingstown Beach cleanup
on International Coastal Cleanup Day
You may be stuck thinking that as just one person, you don’t have the ability to make a true difference. After attending my first International Coastal Cleanup event, I quickly learned that every person present makes an impact on the global effort for trash-free seas. Through my internship with Save The Bay, I served as a cleanup leader at South Kingstown Town Beach, one of many locations throughout the world where volunteers were collecting trash from shorelines and recording the data for Ocean Conservancy. I was thrilled to be a part of the International Coastal Cleanup in Rhode Island, joining millions of volunteers all over the world taking action to protect the oceans from harmful trash.

Despite the large-scale nature of this project, you can still feel a strong sense of community with all of the participants sharing a common goal. Having grown up in southern Connecticut and moved to the Ocean State for college, I have happily spent my entire life near the coast. Some of my earliest, and favorite, memories took place by the beach, ever since I was a two-year old playing in the sand with my brothers. As I grew, so did my appreciation for the water. From sunbathing by the waves until the sun set below the trees, to kayaking with my friends as a teenager, being on the coast has shaped my life and given me so much joy. Because of this passion, I became interested in the environment and began to wonder if I could do anything to improve it. These small states I call home are a part of something greater, and my love of the water and desire to protect it is something I can share with anyone around the globe.

Volunteers record and weigh the trash
they collect. 
Given that this cleanup event occurs internationally, one individual person may feel somewhat insignificant in the big picture. However, imagine what would happen if we did not have the 2,000+ volunteers in our state coming together to help out with this critical cause. In 2017, these volunteers collected over 16,000 pounds of trash from the beaches in Rhode Island alone. When reviewing all of the data for how much trash has been collected, you will see, as I did, that every person involved contributes in some way to these numbers.

As I stood by our Save The Bay table, handing out data sheets and trash bags, I made a note of the people I encountered. Young children, adults, college students, professors, entire families- we had a wide variety of volunteers. This collection of people made the point that everybody, regardless of age, profession, etc., cares about beach cleanups and the health of the Bay. If you enjoy your days laying out on the state’s beaches, boating, fishing, vacationing with friends and family, eating seafood dinners, know that the effort of our volunteer community is the main reason you are able to do so.

You can participate in a beach cleanup with Save The Bay anytime from Spring through Fall. A goal of the event, besides the obvious, is to inspire volunteers to develop positive lifelong habits. It worked for me. After just one cleanup, I found myself picking up pieces of trash the next time I visited a beach, which naturally was the next day, and taking an extra minute to make sure I did not leave anything behind. With this incredible experience, I witnessed crowds of people come together for just a few hours to help make progress on our mission to protect and improve the Narragansett Bay.

Monday, November 27, 2017

How healthy is your local urban ecosystem?

A student from Central Falls High School wades in
the Blackstone River in search of living organisms. 
By Jenn Kelly, After School Program Manager

How healthy is your local urban ecosystem?

That is the question four local high school environmental science classes are trying to answer.

Students from Central Falls High School, 360 High School in Providence, and Woonsocket High School are participating with Save The Bay's “Narragansett Bay Field Studies” program. Throughout the school year, they head out into nature to study their local environment and conduct routine tests with us, examining water quality and human impacts and identifying vegetation. By the end of the school year, they'll have collected data continuously and will present an assessment of their findings on the health of their local environment.

A student from 360 High School tests the
pH of water in Narragansett Bay. 
The Narragansett Bay Field Studies program also includes a full-day marine science cruise aboard our education vessel with a stop at Prudence Island to investigate a salt marsh. There, students pull on boots and waders to explore the marsh at Jenny’s Creek, looking for fiddler crabs, ribbed mussels and mummichogs.

Working in partnership with each of the high schools’ environmental science teachers, each class will also be working on a civic action project of their choice. 360 High School has been researching microplastic pollution while Central Falls High School is researching recycling. Tune back in during spring 2018 for our results!

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Critter Tale - Smooth Dogfish Shark

Phoebe Finn, communications intern

Hello! I’m a Smooth dogfish shark, and I am new here at Save The Bay’s Exploration Center and Aquarium! I’m visiting the Exploration Center from Narragansett Bay, where I grew up and will spend the rest of my life. That is, after a short stay here. I’m only a couple of years old and probably won’t fit in this four-foot deep tank by the time I’m a full grown adult, but that’s okay, because one of my friends from the Bay will be happy to take my spot for me once I head back into open waters.

I was super-excited to hang out with some new friends, but the Chain dogfish in my tank are nocturnal and sleep all day long! So I swim around near the surface and watch them get woken up by the curious horseshoe crab. And I spend a lot of time trying to check out the little humans who seem so delighted to see me here.

These little humans try to touch me, and sometimes I let them, but my tank is deep enough to avoid their fingers if I’m feeling a little shy that day. They think I will swim right into their hands, but little do they know that I can feel their heartbeat through the water, similar to a wave. New humans kind of scare me, so I usually wait for them to hang around my tank for a while before I come up to say hello. Most people act afraid of me, but I am much more afraid of them.

Most dogfish love to play around in shallow waters anywhere from Massachusetts to Florida, but the Bay is my favorite place. I love to swim with other young sharks, horseshoe crabs and fish in the cold water. I am a bottom dweller in the Bay, which means I eat crustaceans and small bivalves off the ocean floor and rarely get seen by humans.

I will become a mom once I reach maturity in a couple of years, which is pretty exciting. I will lay up to 20 delicate egg pouches, called Mermaid Purses, which take close to eleven months to hatch into little shark pups! The Bay will be a safe and healthy place for me to raise my pups.

It’s cool that all of the marine animals at the Exploration Center have a safe place to live and the ability to teach humans about themselves and the environment. I am happy to be hanging out here for a couple of weeks before I get back into Narragansett Bay, where I will eventually grow into a mature shark and have shark pups of my own to protect!

Monday, November 13, 2017

Strength in Numbers Since 1970 - Tides

By Jackie Carlson, membership and individual giving manager

Save The Bay is a member-based, non-profit organization. For nearly 50 years, we have relied on the generosity of our members to carry out our mission “to protect and improve Narragansett Bay.” Membership dues and donations go directly to work supporting important programs and services in all areas of the organization, from the Baykeeper, Coastkeeper and Riverkeeper positions as “Watchdogs of the Bay,” to educators teaching the next generation of Bay stewards, to the restoration team helping to restore and improve the coastal habitats of Narragansett Bay and its watershed. Members also keep our aquariums running, our critters alive and healthy, our boats on the water connecting community members to our Bay, and our team of dedicated staff in the business of advocating for our natural resources.

In nearly 50 years, Save The Bay has grown from the small group of members who got us started, to the thousands of loyal families, and generations of families, who keep us going. What’s more, our members come from not only the Narragansett Bay region, but from around the country and even the globe.

The Exploration Center & Aquarium is a favorite place 
for our family members to spend an afternoon. 
We couldn’t do what we do without our members. And that’s why we are happy to offer member-only benefits, from discounts on Save The Bay merchandise, to member-pricing on Seal Tours and BayCamps, to discounts with local businesses and partners who appreciate our members and their commitment to the Bay as much as we do. Thanks to one of our partners, Corvias Solutions, Save The Bay Family Members also enjoy free admission to the Exploration Center & Aquarium in Newport, where visitors can learn all about the critters found in Narragansett Bay and get an up-close experience with many of these marine animals. Since July 2016, 4,225 family members have taken advantage of this benefit at our aquarium.

You don’t have to be an individual or a family to be a member. Business Memberships are an essential piece of our membership base, because small and large company members educate their customers about the important work Save The Bay is doing and expand our membership base by reaching new audiences on our behalf. Our Business Members help us continue to make the Narragansett Bay region a great place to live and work.

As we reflect on the first nearly 50 years of Save The Bay and look to the future, we can confidently say that our members are essential to our success. From our first members, many of whom still support us today, to our new members who have just joined—we are thankful for each and every one, and we look forward to continuing to work with you to protect and improve Narragansett Bay.

Honoring Our Members
It takes a community to save a Bay, and our partners at Corvias help us to pay it forward by sponsoring Member Days at our Exploration Center & Aquarium in Newport. One of our most popular member benefits is made possible by their generous support. This year more than 25,000 people visited the Exploration Center & Aquarium, and nearly 5,000 of those were members who received free admission thanks to Corvias. “Without the members of Save The Bay, a clean and healthy Narragansett Bay wouldn’t be possible,” said Corvias founder John Picerne. “A strong membership is vital to Save The Bay’s mission, which is why we choose to sponsor admission for members to the Exploration Center & Aquarium,” he added.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Harbor Seals in City by the Sea

By Ryan Ledoux, communications intern

Newport, Rhode Island has always been one of my favorite places to visit. From its unique architecture, beautiful beaches to countless seafood restaurants, it’s the type of place you find yourself going back to time and time again. It’s no surprise that countless people visit this city from all over the world to enjoy it just as I have. But aside from the groups of tourists that make a stop in the City by the Sea, another mammal makes itself comfortable here in these waters every winter.

The harbor seal.

Hearing that hundreds of these animals are swimming right here in Narragansett Bay came somewhat as a surprise to me. I mean, I’ve always known the abundance of marine life that makes this area its home for much of the year, but I’ve been living here for most of my life and never laid my eyes on these animals before. I would have thought they’d be found in deeper waters, somewhere far away from the likes of humans. Instead, I was told they were hanging out right underneath Pell Bridge, and not just a few of them, but a whole group of them.

At this point, my curiosity grew and I wanted to see them for myself. Luckily for me, Save The Bay offers seal cruises right off of Bowen’s Landing. They provide an up-close look at these marine mammals in their natural habitat. Awesome tour guides explain the migratory patterns of these animals and how they have made a tremendous comeback in the last 40-plus years, thanks to conservation efforts.

You can see many of the seals swimming for fish and others just lounging out on a large rock formation seemingly taking a quick rest before they dive back in. If you want an up-close look, Save The Bay provides attendees with some West Marine binoculars to zoom in on the seals and the surrounding landscape. Watching these mammals swimming comfortably in these waters was a sight to behold. Some of the seals were even curious enough to come check us out on the boat as we skimmed past.

This tour was definitely one of the more unique experiences I’ve had in Newport and one that made me feel good about the efforts being made to protect these waters and ensure a healthy environment for us all to share.

You can register for a seal watch and nature cruise at

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Dam Removals This Fall will Help Fish and Restore Rivers

By Rachel Calabro, Narragansett Riverkeeper

Several dam removals are happening this fall across the Narragansett Bay region. The Bradford dam removal and natural fishway project is a continuation of a process to restore historic fish passage to the Pawcatuck River. This project comes on the heels of the removal of the White Rock dam last year, and previous projects at Shannock, Horseshoe Falls and Kenyon Mill. All together these projects are helping fish to access the state’s largest natural body of fresh water, Worden’s Pond.

Save The Bay has assisted with several dam removal projects in the Taunton River watershed, including on the Mill River in Taunton where two dams have already been removed. The third and final dam on this section of river will be coming out this fall. This dam at the former Reed and Barton silver factory is the key to finally getting fish access to Lake Sabbatia and the Canoe River. Other dams being removed this fall are the Cotton Gin Dam on the Satucket River in East Bridgewater, and the Barstowe’s Pond dam on the Cotley River in East Taunton.

Back here in Rhode Island, Save The Bay has been working on a project in North Kingstown to remove the Shady Lea Mill dam. This dam is upstream from one of the state’s largest fish runs at the Gilbert Stuart Museum. This dam removal will restore a sediment filled impoundment to a natural stream, allowing fish and other wildlife to access this new habitat. The project started last week with the removal of a section of the dam, allowing the impoundment to drain. Crews will be back in July to fully remove the dam after a channel has formed in the impoundment and sediment is stable.

Part of the funding for these dam removal projects has come through the Hurricane Sandy relief fund within the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Other funding for the Shady Lea dam removal came through NOAA and the Rhode Island Coastal Habitat Trust Fund.