youth development

environmental science

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Using scientific instruments, following detailed protocols, and working alongside environmental professionals, students and apprentices collect water quality data, monitor birds and fish, reintroduce native plant and animal species, and perform restoration work that is helping to bring the Bronx River back to life after years of neglect.

featured student and job skills projects

bacteria monitoring

Key players in a project that started in summer, 2014, apprentices are monitoring Enterroccocus bacteria levels (Enterroccocus is a bacteria uniquely found in human sewage).  They collected samples from two different sites once a week for eight consecutive weeks, then analyzed them in their own lab outfitted with special equipment.  Results showed that the presence of pathogen indicators is astronomically high after rain events, but decreases dramatically after dry periods.  Through this project it was also discovered that an outflow pipe on the border of Westchester County is dumping raw sewage into the Bronx River.

wetland management

Rocking the Boat youth shoulder responsibility for maintaining three different wetlands in the estuary section of the Bronx River. In one instance, in work modelled after a successful project in Newtown Creek in Brooklyn, participants designed, built, and are monitoring planter boxes that resemble tiny tidal wetlands of substrate and native grasses.  The boxes have been hung from the concrete bulkheads and built up shorelines of the Bronx River, and are naturally cleaning the water where no habitat can otherwise grow.  Seasonally at the Waterwash ABC site, teenage apprentices lead groups of adult volunteers in clearing out relentless invasive species so that native grasses and other vegetation (planted years ago by past classes of apprentices) can continue to grow and serve their critical water filtering function.  The third site where apprentices take on regular monitoring and maintenance is the Soundview salt marsh—restored in 2014 by the City and State of New York, Army Corps of Engineers, and neighborhood groups.  Their work is ensuring regained biological diversity, ecological productivity, and the capacity of natural processes to enhance environmental quality.

microplastics

Microplastics are particularized and degraded bits of plastic material increasingly found in waterbodies of all kinds.  Commonly defined as pieces 2mm or smaller (about the size of one of the letters on this page), they were either manufactured small, like microbeads found in exfoliating scrubs and even toothpaste, or more commonly, are broken and shredded pieces of larger items such as plastic and Styrofoam packaging and food containers, plastic bags, and plastic threads and microfibers.  Most enter the water system as macro garbage through stormwater runoff and combined sewer overflow, where over time they disintegrate into smaller pieces. 

However, microplastics are not like other garbage in terms of the threats they pose.  Being plastic, they don’t biodegrade or breakdown chemically, instead surviving almost indefinitely.  They can also leech toxins into the water or absorb and retain toxins, including drugs and medicines that enter the water from human waste.  Being tiny, they can mix into sand, sediment, river and ocean beds, or float anywhere the current flows.  Microplastics also pose a direct threat to the marine life that eats them, with toxins passing up the food chain, even potentially to humans.

While indications are that a significant level of microplastic is present in the Bronx River, no formal study has ever been conducted; Rocking the Boat has begun a pilot project to do it first.  Apprentices have been testing the water specifically for microplastics, establishing and monitoring a baseline.  Their data, plus an analysis of the types and sources of the plastic debris, will inform efforts to raise awareness in the community around plastic use and disposal and promote alternative choices that are clearly needed.

Rocking the Boat is always teaching me something new. This experience has made me feel capable, and given me a sense of responsibility to my work and to myself.

Rigoberto Garcia, former On-Water student and Environmental Job Skills apprentice

partners

Rocking the Boat is grateful to the following partners who allow environmental science to be such a powerful experience for our students and the larger Hunts Point community:

Billion Oyster Project
Bridgeport Regional Aquaculture Science and Technology Education Center (BRASTEC)
Bronx River Alliance
Clark University
Hudson River Foundation
Hudson River Sloop Clearwater

Long Island Sound Study
Waterfront Alliance
New York Botanical Garden
New York City Audubon
New York City Soil and Water Conservation District
NY/NJ Baykeeper

Rebuild by Design
Riverkeeper
Rozalia Project
Storm Water Infrastructure Matters
University of Connecticut Stamford
Wildlife Conservation Society



kids don’t just build boats, boats build kids

rocking the boat
812 edgewater road
bronx, ny 10474

info@rockingtheboat.org
phone: 718.466.5799
fax: 718.466.2892

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