Eighth-graders in AnnMarie Mills’ life science class at the middle school recently put on their waders and participated in a the annual “A Day in the Life of a River” field trip. With the help of natural resource experts and several other middle school teachers, the students engaged in hands-on citizen science exploration at Carlls River in Babylon.
The students were captivated by the natural wonders of the forest with the guidance of renowned Seatuck Environmental Association naturalist and conservationist John Turner, who transformed a leisurely stroll through the woods into an interactive learning experience. Students identified birds, native plants and insects on their journey as well as experiencing firsthand the harmful effects of plastic pollution on Long Island’s freshwater ecosystems.
“Every step these young naturalists took that day brought them closer to becoming future conservationists themselves,” said Mills.
“A Day in the Life,” coordinated by the Brookhaven National Laboratory, the Central Pine
Barrens Commission, the New York State Department of Environmental
Conservation, the Seatuck Environmental Association and the Suffolk
County Water Authority, focuses on students exploring and collecting firsthand information to learn how their river fits into the larger ecosystem. At Carlls River, the students examined the physical and chemical aspects of each aquatic ecosystem, such as salinity, the amount of sediments, nitrates, phosphates, and oxygen levels in the water, as well as conducting biodiversity inventories of the flora and fauna in and around the rivers and estuary from the headwaters to the mouth of the river. Their work will help to determine the health of the aquatic ecosystem and the river’s biodiversity.
This year the students enjoyed using a variety of nets purchased by the district – including a seining net, dip nets and a cast net – to capture freshwater critters.
“The students were thrilled to put the nets to good use,” said Mills. “The day was filled with discoveries including crayfish, bluegills, a largemouth bass and pumpkinseed fish.”
“A Day in the Life helps students develop an appreciation for and knowledge of Long Island’s river and estuary ecosystems and collect useful scientific data,” said program coordinator Melissa Griffiths Parrott. “It teaches students to become stewards of water quality and connected to Suffolk County’s spectacular natural resources.”