Restoring and Revitalizing Freshwater Mussels

Freshwater mussels are among the oldest living and second most diverse organisms on Earth with over 1,000 recognized species. Here in the eastern part of the U.S., we have more species of freshwater mussels than anywhere in the world. Unfortunately, freshwater mussels are one of the most rapidly declining animal groups in North America. Out of the 300 species and subspecies found on the continent, 70 (23%) have been federally listed as “Threatened” or “Endangered” under the Endangered Species Act. And, in the last century, over 30 species have become permanently extinct. So, why are populations declining so fast?

Freshwater mussels are filter feeders and process large volumes of the water they live in to obtain food. This means of survival also makes them highly susceptible to industrial and agricultural water pollution.  Because they are constantly filtering water, the contaminants and pathogens that are present are absorbed into the mussel’s tissues. As such, mussels are good indicators of water quality and can greatly contribute to improving water quality by filtering algae, bacteria and organic matter from the water column.

Not only do freshwater mussels rely on water quality, they are dependent on fish and other aquatic organisms for reproductive success. In order for a freshwater mussel to complete the reproduction process, it must “infect” a host fish with its larvae. The method depends on the specie of mussel. Some species lure fish using highly modified and evolved appendages that mimic prey. When a fish goes into investigate the lures, the female mussel releases fertilized eggs that attach to the fish, becoming temporarily parasitic. Once the host fish is infected, it can transfer the mussel larvae upstream and into new areas of the river.

Both habitat loss from dam construction and the introduction of pesticides into the water supply has contributed to the decline of freshwater mussels. With approximately 300 mussel species in the U.S. alone, a critical component of restoring and revitalizing mussel populations is truly understanding their biology, which begins with the ability to properly differentiate each species and properly identify and catalog them. Princeton Hydro’s Senior Scientist Evan Kwityn, CLP and Aquatic Ecologist Jesse Smith recently completed the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service‘s Fresh Water Mussel Identification Training at the National Conservation Training Center in West Virginia.

Through hands-on laboratory training, Evan and Jesse developed their freshwater mussel identification skills and their knowledge of freshwater mussel species biology. Course participants were tasked with mastering approximately 100 of the most common freshwater mussel species in the United States. They also learned about proper freshwater mussel collection labeling, the internal and external anatomy and meristics of a freshwater mussel, and distributional maps as an aid to freshwater mussel identification.

In a recently published press release, Tierra Curry, a senior scientist with the Center for Biological Diversity was quoted as saying, “The health of freshwater mussels directly reflects river health, so protecting the places where these mussels live will help all of us who rely on clean water. This is especially important now, when we see growing threats to clean water from climate change, agriculture and other sources.”

Princeton Hydro is committed to protecting water quality, restoring habitats, and managing natural resources. Read about some of our recent projects and contact us to discuss how we can help you.

To learn more about freshwater mussels, check out this video from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service:

UPDATE: The Columbia Dam Is Coming Down

It’s happening! The Columbia Dam on the Paulins Kill in Northern New Jersey is finally coming down thanks to a successful collaboration between The Nature Conservancy, American Rivers, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, NJDEP Division of Fish and Wildlife Service, and Princeton Hydro. The first cut on the main dam wall was made just two weeks ago, and the water has started flowing downstream as the concrete is slowly being removed by the contractors RiverLogic Solutions and SumCo Eco-Contracting.

“In New Jersey, successful dam removal projects are often the result of partnerships between nonprofit organizations, federal and state agencies, consultants, and others working together toward the common goal of river restoration,” exclaimed Dr. Laura Craig, Director of River Restoration, American Rivers. “The first day of dam demolition is always a joyous occasion for project partners, but I was especially happy to see the river flowing through the breached Columbia Dam for the first time after working so intensely on this project for the last few years.”

Princeton Hydro has been involved with the engineering and restoration design from the beginning, so we’re very excited to report on this major update.  Our team of engineers and ecologists studied the feasibility of removal as requested by American Rivers in partnership with the New Jersey chapter of The Nature Conservancy.  We investigated, designed, and prepared the necessary permits for the removal of this dam. And, now we’ve been subsequently been hired to provide construction administration services during the removal process, which means we get to see the dam come down firsthand, piece by piece!

“It is truly amazing and exciting to finally see the main and remnant dams come down, as I have been involved in this restoration effort since the feasibility stage,” said Kelly Klein, Senior Project Manager, Princeton Hydro. “I am so honored to be part of this dynamic team and to collaborate with our project partners during every stage of this dam removal.”

Geoff Goll, Princeton Hydro and Beth Styler Barry, The Nature Conservancy on site August 3, 2018. Photo credit: Laura Craig, American Rivers

“On Friday, August 3rd 2018, we began demolition of the 300 foot-long, 18 foot-high Columbia Dam. The Paulins Kill will run freely to meet the Delaware River for the first time in 109 years,” said New Jersey Nature Conservancy’s Beth Styler Barry. “The benefits of reconnecting these two freshwater ecosystems will be immediate and impact creatures that live in and near the stream, as well as people who come out to paddle, fish or enjoy the wildlife. Dam Removal projects are exciting, ecologically important and also a challenge, this project is a good example of partners coming together to get a great restoration project done.”

Because this is a big deal, we want to keep *YOU* updated on what’s happening from the field. Moving forward, we’ll post weekly blogs with scenes from the site.  Here’s a snapshot of what’s been happening over the last last two weeks:

August 1, 2018. Photo credit: Casey Schrading, Princeton Hydro

In order to make the first saw cut into the dam, Princeton Hydro and RiverLogic Solutions first identified the locations of the drill holes. These drill holes are used to feed the diamond wire through the dam for saw cutting.

August 1, 2018. Photo credit: Casey Schrading, Princeton Hydro

The crew placed the saw cutter machine on the staging area on top of the apron and prepared for the cut.

August 3, 2018. Photo credit: Princeton Hydro

In order to create a notch in the dam, the crew supplemented the saw cutting with hammering.

August 3, 2018. Photo Credit: The Nature Conservancy, Columbia Dam Volunteer Drone Team

August 3, 2018. Photo credit: Erik Sildorff, Delaware Riverkeeper Network

August 7, 2018. Photo credit: Casey Schrading, Princeton Hydro

Since the high water level was now higher than the bottom of the breach, water is able to flow in and over the notched section.

August 14, 2018. Photo credit: RiverLogic Solutions

Because of high flows of water from recent storm events, the dam breach is being widened to allow for larger flows of water to move downstream during high flow events. 

Additionally, a few weeks ago we reported on the lowering of the water levels and removal of the remnant dam downstream (below).

PHOTOS: Columbia Dam Removal

Since then, the remnant dam has been completed removed and the area has been stabilized.

July 23, 2018. Photo credit: Casey Schrading, Princeton Hydro

Now, the water can freely flow through this section of the Paulins Kill.

And, in case you missed it, we celebrated the commencement of the Columbia Dam removal with NJDEP’s Commissioner Catherine McCabe and our project partners. Full story below:

Celebrating the Columbia Dam Removal

Princeton Hydro has designed, permitted, and overseen the reconstruction, repair, and removal of a dozens of small and large dams in the Northeast. To learn more about our fish passage and dam removal engineering services, visitbit.ly/DamBarrier.

Five Ways to Participate in Lakes Appreciation Month

#LakesAppreciation Month is a great time of year to enjoy your community lakes and help protect them. 

Lakes Appreciation Month was started by North American Lake Management Society (NALMS) to help bring attention to the countless benefits that lakes provide, to raise awareness of the many challenges facing our waterways, and encourage people to get involved in protecting these precious resources.  Unfortunately, the natural beauties that provide clean drinking water and wildlife habitat are at risk. Chemical pollutants, hydrocarbons, stormwater runoff, invasive aquatic species, and climate change are just a few of the the serious threats facing freshwater habitats.  So what can you do to to help?

We’ve put together five tips to help you celebrate Lakes Appreciation Month and get involved in protecting your favorite lakes:

1. Join the “Secchi Dip-In” contest: The “Secchi Dip-In” is an annual citizen science event where lake-goers and associations across North America use a simple Secchi disk to monitor the transparency or turbidity of their local waterway.  This year, Princeton Hydro is offering “Secchi Dip-In” participants a chance to win a $100 Amazon gift card and a one-year membership to NALMSEntry details here.

2. Organize a cleanup event: You can easily organize a lake clean-up in your community! Volunteer cleanups are a great way to get neighbors together around a good cause, raise awareness about the importance of protecting water quality, and make a positive impact on your community waterways. Organizing a volunteer event is a lot easier than you may think. Check out these tips for how to get started.

3. Get involved with your local lake: You can help support your favorite lake by joining a lake or watershed association. As an organized, collective group, lake associations work toward identifying and implementing strategies to protect water quality and ecological integrity. Lake associations monitor the condition of the lake, develop lake management plans, provide education about how to protect the lake, work with the government entities to improve fish habitat, and much more.

4. Monitor and report algae blooms: With the BloomWatch App, you can help the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency understand where and when potential harmful algae blooms (HABs) occur. HABs have the potential to produce toxins that can have serious negative impacts on the health of humans, pets, and our ecosystems. Learn more and download the app.

5. Get outside and enjoy: Whether you enjoy swimming, relaxing on the shoreline, canoeing, or fishing, there are countless ways you can get outside and enjoy your community lakes. Encourage others to appreciate their local waterbodies by taking photos of your lake adventures and sharing them on social media using the hashtag: #LakesAppreciation.

 

Go here to learn more about NALMS and get more ideas on how to celebrate your local lakes. If you’re interested in learning more about Princeton Hydro’s broad range of award-winning lake and pond management services, please contact us. 

Conservation Spotlight: Dunes at Shoal Harbor Shoreline Protection

Hurricane Sandy was the largest storm to ever originate in the Atlantic ocean. It badly damaged several countries in the Caribbean, caused over $50 billion in damages along the Eastern Seaboard, and left dozens dead. While hurricanes are a natural part of our climate system, research shows that intense hurricane activity has been on the rise in the North Atlantic since the 1970s. This trend is likely to be exacerbated by sea level rise and growing populations along coastlines. Natural coastal habitats — like wetlands and dunes — have proven to shield people from storms and sea-level rise, and have protected coastal communities from hundreds of millions of dollars in damage.

The Dunes at Shoal Harbor, a residential community in Monmouth County, New Jersey, is situated adjacent to both the Raritan Bay and the New York City Ferry channel. The site, previously utilized for industrial purposes, consisted of a partially demolished docking/berthing facility. A significantly undersized 6” diameter, 8-foot long stone revetment was also constructed on the property.

During Hurricane Sandy, the revetment failed and the community was subjected to direct wave attack and flooding. Homes were damaged, beach access was impaired, and the existing site-wide stormwater management basin and outfall was completely destroyed.

Princeton Hydro performed a wave attack analysis commensurate with a category three hurricane event, and used that data to complete a site design for shoreline protection. Consistent with the analysis, the site design includes the installation of a 15-foot rock revetment (one foot above the 100-year floodplain elevation) constructed with four-foot diameter boulders. The project also consists of replacing a failed elevated timber walkway with a concrete slab-on-grade walkway, restoring portions of the existing bulkhead, clearing invasive plants, and the complete restoration of the failed stormwater basin and outlet.

A rendering of the “Dunes at Shoal Harbor” shoreline protection design by Princeton Hydro.

The plan incorporates natural barriers to reduce the impacts of storm surges and protect the coastal community, including planting stabilizing coastal vegetation to prevent erosion and installing fencing along the dune to facilitate natural dune growth.

These measures will discourage future erosion of the shoreline, protect the residential community from future wave attacks and flooding, and create a stable habitat for native and migratory species.  The project is currently in the permitting phase, and will move to construction when all permits are obtained from local, state, and federal agencies.

This project is an great example of Princeton Hydro’s ability to coordinate multi-disciplinary projects in-house. Our Water Resources Engineering, Geosciences Engineering, and Natural Resources teams have collaborated efficiently to analyze, design, and permit this shoreline protection project. For more information on our engineering services, go here.

How’s the Fishing? Tips for Managing Your Lake’s Fishery

The fishery of a lake is an intrinsic, incredibly dynamic element of a lake system, and managing a lake’s fishery can be a very complex endeavor. There is actually a lot more to it than simply stocking game fish. Although there is no “one way” in fisheries management, there are key guidelines that can be followed to maximize the recreational potential of your lake’s fishery and increase the success of your fishery management and stocking efforts. Over the past two decades, Princeton Hydro has been working with lake, pond, and reservoir managers to help them to align water quality, fishery, and ecological goals.

Princeton Hydro’s Founder, Dr. Steve Souza, recently gave a presentation on fisheries management at the Spring Meeting of the New Jersey Coalition of Lake Associations (NJCOLA). We’ve compiled a few essential elements from his presentation and have made the complete presentation available for free download.

Let’s dive in!

Benefits of a Healthy Fishery

Recreational fishing is an outdoor activity that can be enjoyed by people of all ages. When children are introduced to fishing, it helps cultivate a connection to the environment, thereby promoting outdoor activity and environmental stewardship among today’s youth.

Anglers have always served as important advocates for the conservation of natural resources. The sale of fishing licenses financially supports wildlife habitat conservation and enhancement as well as the protection and improvement of water quality. This increases the ecological services and functions of lakes and adds to their societal and recreational benefits.

A healthy fishery can have significant positive impacts on water quality. In a balanced, healthy fishery the ratio of forage and game fish affects the entire food web, helping to maintain the proper balance of zooplankton and phytoplankton. The “top down” ecological control associated with a balanced fishery minimizes algae blooms, sustains good water clarity and stable water quality. However, when the fishery is out of balance, the water quality and overall ecological health of the lake often suffers.

Before You Stock, Know Your Lake and Start with a Baseline

Before you do any fish stocking, it’s best to conduct a fishery survey. A fishery survey provides the vital data needed to design a stocking and management plan.

A balanced lake fishery is dependent on good water quality, ample habitat, and the correct ratio of predator and prey fish species. A properly designed and implemented fishery survey generates the data needed to quantify the overall composition of the existing fish community (predator vs. prey), the make-up of the forage (food) base, and the density and robustness of the lake’s top piscivores (prized game fish).

The resulting data helps identify if your fishery is balanced, which fish to stock, and how many of each species to introduce. It will also provide the benchmarks needed to solidify your management goals and, later on, help determine if the goals are being met. To stay on track, we recommend that a comprehensive fishery survey be conducted once every three years. Be sure to use the correct types and combination of “active” and “passive” sampling gear and thoroughly sample both the open water and nearshore areas of the lake.

The survey should include the collection and analysis of water quality data, and the mapping of available habitat. Water column water quality “profiles” provide vital information pertaining to the lake’s thermal and dissolved oxygen properties; key factors for a healthy, vibrant fishery. Here are some basic water quality guidelines:

  • Dissolved oxygen: ≥ 4 mg/L with 6-7 mg/L being ideal
  • For warm water fishery: Uniform temperatures at all depth (minimal or no thermal stratification)
  • For cold water fishery: Deep water temperature of 15 C, and dissolved oxygen ≥ 5 mg/L
  • pH: 6 to 8
  • Clarity: ≥ 3 feet (1 meter) Secchi disc transparency
  • Total Phosphorus: < 0.05 mg/L
  • Chlorophyll a: < 20 µg/L

Water quality sampling should also include an assessment of the lake’s zooplankton and phytoplankton communities, the base of your lake’s food web.

Floating Wetland Island

During the survey, take the time to quantify and map the distribution of existing forage, spawning, and refuge habitat. Lack of adequate habitat can significantly impede the fishery’s sustainability. This begins with the bathymetric mapping of the lake, which is basically an underwater survey of the bottom of the lake. This mapping shows where and how much shallow water versus open water habitat exists.  It can also help identify the location and distribution of important habitat types, such as shoals, rock piles, sandy open areas and natural structures (tree falls and snags). The data also helps determine where to create and introduce habitat, which can be in the form of brush piles, floating wetland islands, and other types of features that increase the spawning, recruitment, and foraging success of the fishery.

Stocking Your Lake

Once the fishery survey is completed, habitat is mapped and water quality analyzed, stocking can begin. In order to determine the specific stocking levels and rates that are right for your waterbody, here are some factors to consider:

  • Ensure your stocking efforts create or augment the correct ratio of predator (game) and prey (forage) fish.

  • Stock cautiously, focusing on a simple composition of predator and prey species. For most warm water lakes, largemouth bass should serve as the top predator and fathead minnow should be the primary prey.

  • Avoid problem fish, such as golden shiner, alewife and brown/black bullhead. Although these fish are often promoted as suitable forage species, they can be easily get overstocked and cause major disruptions of the fishery and to the degradation of water quality.

Go here for a more in-depth look at how to properly stock your fishery.

In Summary

A healthy sustainable fishery isn’t only a function of the types and amounts of fish stocked in a lake; it is directly a function of water quality, the availability and quality of spawning, foraging and refuge habitat, the ratio of forage to predator fish, and the overall composition and balance of the food web.

Begin with a fishery survey; the resulting data enables a correctly planned and implemented stocking program. Conduct routine surveys to assess the status of the fishery and the success of the program. Also, annual water quality testing provides the information needed to make wise pro-active fishery management decisions. It will also provide insights into the lake’s environmental conditions to ensure they are supportive of a healthy, productive and sustainable recreational fishery.

Learn More

If you’re interested in learning more about Princeton Hydro’s fisheries management or lake management services, please contact us.

Click here to download a full copy of Dr. Souza’s presentation, titled “How’s the Fishing? Maximizing the Recreational Potential of Your Lake’s Fishery,” which he recently presented at the NJCOLA Spring Meeting. The presentation provides an in-depth set of guidelines for fishery management, covering topics like data collection methods, habitat creation and enhancement, maximizing habitat quality, and details on various stocking species to consider for your lake.

NJCOLA unites lake communities throughout New Jersey through education and by formulating legislation favorable to the protection and enhancement of the State’s lake resources. NJCOLA meetings, held on a regular basis in the spring and fall, educate members on various topics and issues affecting lake communities ranging from legal to environmental.

The Spring NJCOLA meeting was well attended with over 60 participants representing lakes throughout New Jersey, including a number of lakes that are managed by Princeton Hydro – Lake Mohawk, Lake Hopatcong, White Meadow Lake, Lake Swanannona, Kehmah Lake, Culver Lake and Swartswood Lake.

To learn more about Princeton Hydro’s Pond and Lake services, including water quality sampling, bathymetric surveying, floating wetland islands, and fisheries, visit: http://bit.ly/pondlake 

 

CONTEST ALERT: Celebrate #LakesAppreciation Month and Win $100

How healthy is your lake? July is Lakes Appreciation Month and we’re celebrating with a contest! To raise awareness about water quality, we’re encouraging people who enjoy lakes to participate in a “Secchi Dip-In” for a chance to win a $100 Amazon gift card and a one-year membership to the North American Lake Management Association (NALMS).

What is the “Secchi Dip-In”?

The “Secchi Dip-In” is an annual citizen science event created by NALMS in 1994. It was developed in order to involve lake-goers and associations across North America in using a simple Secchi disk to monitor the transparency or turbidity of their local waterway.

This data collected is evaluated on a regional scale by NALMS and helps lake managers further understand the water quality of lakes in their region. Since 1994, more than 10,000 trained volunteers have generated 42,000 transparency records, giving a glimpse of lake water transparency at sites across North America and the world, according to NALMS.

How do I collect a Secchi sample?
  1. What is a Secchi disk and what data is collected with it?
    The typical Secchi disk used in lakes is an 8-inch disk with alternating black and white quadrants. It’s lowered into the water until the observer can no longer see it. The depth of disappearance, called the Secchi depth, is a measure of the transparency of the water. The disk is named in honor of Father Pietro Angelo Secchi, astronomer and scientific advisor to the Pope, who tested this new instrument in the Mediterranean Sea on April 20, 1865.
  2. Where can I get a Secchi disk?
    Secchi disks are a low-cost investment and a great tool to have for measuring water quality. You can purchase a Secchi disk on Amazon or other online marketplaces for $20-$30. Alternatively, you can always ask a friend or your local lake manager to borrow one. Some people even make their own!
  3. How do I take a measurement? How many times do I do it?
    A measurement is taken by lowering the disk on the sunny side of the boat. To eliminate sun glare, an underwater viewer (viewscope) can also be used if so desired. Allow sufficient time (preferably 2 minutes) when looking at the disk near its vanishing point for the eyes to adapt completely to the prevailing luminance level. Record the depth at which the disk disappears. Slowly raise the disk and record the depth of reappearance. The “Secchi depth” is the average depth of disappearance and reappearance. For further accuracy, several people can each record several Secchi depths. Then, all of the depths can be averaged into one single reading. Please note: the water depth should be at least 50% greater than the Secchi depth so that the disk is viewed against the water background, not bottom-reflected light.
  4. What’s the best time of day to collect a sample?  
    The best time of day to collect a sample is when the sun is at its highest point in the sky, generally around midday. Most volunteers generally collect data between the hours of 10:00 AM and 2:00 PM.
  5. What do the results mean?
    The Secchi disk measures transparency, which serves as an indicator of changing water quality. Transparency decreases as the amount of particles in the water— such as algae and sediment—increases.

Check out this “How to Secchi Dip” video created by Princeton Hydro Senior Limnologist Michael Hartshorne:

How to Enter the Contest:

One lucky winner will be randomly selected on August 1, 2018.  The selected winner will receive a $100 gift card to Amazon and a one-year membership to NALMS. We’ll reach out to you via social media to collect your email and address for prize distribution. If the winner does not respond within 5 working days with the appropriate information, we will select another winner at random. Good luck, everyone!

Conditions:

By submitting an entry (Photograph) via Facebook or Twitter to Princeton Hydro’s 2018 #LakesAppreciation Month Contest, you agree to the following: You represent and warrant that:

  • You are the sole and exclusive author and owner of the Photograph submitted and all rights therein; and
  • You have the full and exclusive right, power, and authority to submit the Photograph; and
  • You irrevocably grant Princeton Hydro a non-exclusive, worldwide, royalty-free, perpetual license to use the Photograph in any manner related to the Contest, including all associated use, reproduction, distribution, sublicense, derivative works, and commercial and non-commercial exploitation rights in any and all media now known or hereafter invented, including, but not limited to public relations purposes, posting on social media accounts, and/or for company marketing materials; and
  • No rights in the Photograph have been previously granted to any person, firm, corporation or other entity, or otherwise encumbered such that the prior grant would limit or interfere with the rights granted to Princeton Hydro herein; and
  • No part of your Photograph defames or invades the privacy or publicity rights of any person, living or decreased, or otherwise infringes upon any third party’s copyright, trademark or other personal or property rights.

A Scientist’s Journey to the Antarctic: A Princeton Hydro Blog Series

This two-part blog series takes us on an adventure to the southernmost continent and explores how changes to Antarctica’s ecosystem have worldwide impacts.

Welcome to Part Two: The Continent of Science

Antarctica, the most remote and inaccessible continent in the world, is also, on average, the coldest, windiest and driest continent. Quick Fact: Antarctica is actually a desert! Additionally, with an average elevation of about 7,200 feet above sea level, it is also the world’s highest continent.

There are no native people in Antarctica, but scientists from all over the world visit the continent to conduct research. During the summer, approximately 4,000 scientists visit “the continent of science” to carry out research in a wide range of physical and biological sciences – from the vastness of space to the minutest scale of microorganisms. The research conducted here has helped to highlight global problems, including climate change.

Tourists also visit Antarctica during the summer to enjoy the spectacular scenery and abundant wildlife. In Part One of our two-part blog series, we take you on an Antarctic journey through Sophie Breitbart’s experience aboard the National Geographic Explorer ship. Sophie saw a variety of wildlife during her 10-day educational excursion, including Crabeater and Leopard seals, gentoo and Chinstrap Penguins, Humpback and Killer whales, migrating Red Knots, and more.

Polar tours like the National Geographic Lindblad Expedition help to raise climate change awareness and create lifelong wildlife ambassadors, and the profits from responsibly managed tourism help to fund critical scientific expeditions to the Antarctic.

Just last year, a research mission conducted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration discovered that sea ice cover in the Antarctic is near record lows – 18.2%, or 520,000 square miles, below the 1981-2010 average. That is the second lowest sea ice report since record-keeping began in 1979, with the first being recorded in 2016. Smaller ice shelves in the Antarctic Peninsula are currently retreating, breaking up into vast fields of icebergs, likely due to rising temperature and surface melting.

Snow and ice make up more than 95% of Antarctica’s surface terrain. The continental ice sheet contains approximately seven million cubic miles of ice, representing about 90% of the world’s total ice. The average thickness is about 1.5 miles. To understand its extent, if Antarctica’s ice were to melt today, global sea levels could rise 150 – 200 feet. It’s massive.

Climate change impacts are already being documented in Antarctica. The Antarctic Peninsula’s glaciers have been warming faster than the rest of the continent. As the snow and ice decrease, the land cover increases and absorbs more heat, which in turn increases the rate of warming. In 2017, a study published in Current Biology found that over last 50 years, temperatures have been rising, and therefore have caused a steady growth of moss on the continent.  So, scientists are now predicting that, “terrestrial ecosystems will alter rapidly under future warming, leading to major changes in the biology and landscape of this iconic region—an Antarctic greening to parallel well-established observations in the Arctic.”  And, another study by researcher Bill Fraser has reported that Adélie Penguin populations have decreased from 32,000 breeding pairs to 11,000 in 30 years because of the changes in temperature.

Changes to the global sea ice cover reported by NOAA not only carry major implications for the continent of Antarctica, but for the entire world. 97% of actively publishing climate scientists agree that earth’s climate is warming, and the evidence that the Arctic’s ice caps are melting at an accelerated rate due to climate change is blaring. And, more than 62% of Americans say they are at least “somewhat worried” about global warming. Yet, not many people are taking daily actions to slow global climate change.

We must make every effort we can to limit our own carbon footprint and mitigate climate change. It has been said that there are most likely no greater ambassadors for Antarctica than the tourists who have been there and return home to share information about the need for its protection.

When Sophie returned from her trip, she said “I became an environmental scientist because I have a passion to conserve biodiversity. Being immersed in this wild place and experiencing firsthand the magnificent yet fragile Antarctic landscape acts as a reminder of why it’s so important to do this work. Those memories inspire me to keep at it.”

To learn more about Antarctica and what scientists with World Wildlife Fund are doing to protect it, go here. If you have any questions for Sophie about her journey, please email us or comment below.

 

Sophie Breitbart worked for Princeton Hydro from March 2016 until May 2018, first as an intern and then as a staff scientist. She is now pursuing her PhD in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Toronto, where she will study how urban development affects the ecology and evolution of interactions between the plant common milkweed, its herbivores, and pollinators.

 

A Scientist’s Journey to the Antarctic: A Princeton Hydro Blog Series

A trip to Antarctica has long been at the top of the bucket list for Sophie Breitbart, former Staff Scientist at Princeton Hydro, and her father. Ultimately inspired by the extraordinary spirit of adventure in “South: The Endurance Expedition,” the story of British explorer Ernest Shackleton‘s 1914 attempt to reach the South Pole, the two decided that it was time to make the journey to the white continent. What they experienced was far more than a travel dream fulfilled.

This two-part blog series takes us on an adventure to the southernmost continent and explores how changes to Antarctica’s ecosystem have worldwide impacts.

Part One: Antarctic Adventure

The National Geographic Lindblad Expedition trip began with a flight to Buenos Aires, Argentina, where Sophie and her father met up with the other travelers and an expedition crew that consisted of an exploration leader, eight veteran naturalists, a National Geographic photographer, a Lindblad-National Geographic certified photo instructor, an undersea specialist, a Global Perspectives guest speaker, and a video chronicler.

Ushuaia, Argentina

In Buenos Aires, the group, totaling approximately 140 people, boarded a private charter flight to Ushuaia, Argentina, the world’s southernmost city. After taking in views of the Martial Mountains and the Beagle Channel, which is commonly referred to as The End of the World, the group climbed aboard the National Geographic Explorer ship and set sail for a 10-day Antarctic adventure.

The National Geographic Explorer is a 367-foot expedition ship that accommodates 148 guests in 81 cabins. The Explorer is uniquely equipped with an ice-strengthened hull, advanced navigation equipment, a variety of exploration tools, and vast expanses of windows that provided the ultimate vantage point for spotting dolphins and sea birds as the ship left the Beagle Channel.

Before reaching the Antarctic, the ship would have to pass through the infamous Drake Passage, the body of water between Cape Horn in South America and the South Shetland Islands in Antarctica, where the Atlantic, Pacific, and Southern seas converge. Because the currents in the Passage meet no resistance from any nearby landmass, they can be some of the choppiest waters in the world. Luckily for Sophie and the other Explorer travelers, the Drake Passage was cooperative for the most part and the journey through it was relatively smooth. (Editor’s Note: The journey back was another story.)

On day five of the journey, the ship arrived in the Antarctic Peninsula.

“The ice was so shocking and jaw-dropping,” said Sophie reflecting on her first impression of Antarctica. “I had never seen anything like it before. There were so many different shades of blues and whites and countless textures. It was truly incredible to see.”

With close to 24 hours of daylight, the exploration opportunities were endless. Sophie and her father participated in kayaking tours, expeditions on an 8-person zodiac boat, around the clock wildlife watching, and even a few hikes on the Antarctic Peninsula. There they saw indigenous rocks and artifacts, remnants of British research stations from the 1950s, and lots of wildlife, including nesting South Polar Skua Birds, penguins swimming and jumping out of the water, and a playful group of Leopard Seals.

Humpback and Killer whales skirted the ship as well. A Killer Whale research team aboard the Explorer took blow samples, which would be genetically sequenced, and shared  with passengers their aerial imagery findings, which they captured in order to record the whales’ dimensions, family structures, and health. Sophie and her father enjoyed a variety of whale sightings. During one of their kayaking expeditions, a large Humpback Whale surfaced just 10 feet away from them, then swam right underneath the kayaks and resurfaced, showing lots of playfulness and curiosity.

Check out this incredible video showing a fascinating strategy that killer whales use to hunt seals:

While Sophie struggled to choose a favorite moment from the trip, she quickly recalled the memory of kayaking along the coast of the Antarctic Peninsula among a field of stunning icebergs. “They each possess a unique mixture of color, density, shape, and size… like pieces of artwork, truly breathtaking in their composition and enormity.” Another easy highlight: “One day, the captain lodged our ship into an ice floe and we had a cookout complete with BBQ and lawn chairs. Definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

Sophie described this journey as the “most amazing scientific field trip” she’s ever been on. It left her feeling inspired to continue her work as an environmental scientist and acted as a reminder about why it’s so important to continue to be involved with projects that conserve biodiversity and protect water resources.

Check out Part Two of this Princeton Hydro blog series.

 

Sophie Breitbart worked for Princeton Hydro from March 2016 until May 2018, first as an intern and then as a staff scientist. She is now pursuing her PhD in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Toronto, where she will study how urban development affects the ecology and evolution of interactions between the plant common milkweed, its herbivores, and pollinators.

“Floating Classroom” Launches into Lake Hopatcong

The Lake Hopatcong Foundation (LHF) recently launched its newest initiative – a floating classroom. The custom-built 40-foot education vessel, named ‘Study Hull’, gives students an interactive, hands-on education experience to explore Lake Hopatcong, learn about freshwater ecology, and learn how to protect the watershed.

During its maiden voyage field trip, which was held on May 21, fourth-graders from Nixon Elementary and Kennedy Elementary schools utilized the boat’s laboratory instruments to study water hydrology, temperatures, plankton, and dissolved oxygen levels. They performed a series of tests and experiments designed to help them learn about the general health of the lake. They used Secchi Disks to determine the depth to which light is able to penetrate the water’s surface. They also learned about runoff and nonpoint source pollutants, how to protect the lake’s water quality, and how to be good stewards of the water.

Princeton Hydro helped the LHF design a teaching curriculum on water quality.  Dr. Jack Szczepanski, Senior Aquatics Scientist, and Christopher L. Mikolajczyk, CLM, Senior Project Scientist, trained the staff and volunteers on the curriculum and demonstrated various water quality monitoring techniques that can be conducted with the students.

“We’re really proud to be a part of this exciting initiative,” said Mikolajczyk. “It’s really important to get kids interested in science at an early age and teach them about their surrounding environment – where their drinking water comes from, how it gets polluted, the impacts pollution has on the lake’s ecosystem, and what steps can be made to protect the lake’s water quality. We’re hoping the floating classroom field trip program will make a lasting, valuable impression with these kids.”

In the first year of operation it is expected that the Study Hull will host 1,000 fourth grade students. The long-term goal is to develop lesson plans for students in every grade from kindergarten through high school. Starting in July, the LHF is also offering the public tours of the floating classroom on Mondays at Hopatcong State Park.

The purchase of the floating classroom was made possible by financial support from USATODAY Network’s “A Community Thrives” program, which awarded the LHF with a $50,000 grant. The program recognizes three categories: arts and culture, education, and wellness. In each category, the first place winner received a $100,000 grant and the second and third place winners received $50,000 grants. The James P. Verhalen Family Foundation and the Szigethy Family also provided significant donations to help bring the floating classroom to life.

 

The LHF and Princeton Hydro are longtime partners. Starting back in 1983, Princeton Hydro’s Dr. Stephen Souza conducted the USEPA funded Diagnostic Feasibility study of the lake and then authored the Lake Hopatcong Restoration Plan. That document continues to be the backbone of why and how to restore the lake, manage the watershed, reduce pollutant loading, and address invasive aquatic plants and nuisance algae blooms.

Lake Hopatcong has one of the longest, continuous, long-term ecological databases in New Jersey; almost 30 years of consistently collected water quality data. The data is crucial in assessing the overall ecological health of the lake and proactively guiding its management, identifying and addressing emerging threats, documenting project success (a mandatory element of funding initiatives) and confirming compliance with New Jersey State Water Quality standards.

Princeton Hydro’s most recent work for Lake Hopatcong includes the implementation of green infrastructure stormwater management measures, installation of floating wetland islands to improve water quality, and invasive aquatic plant species management programs, community educational training, and surveys.

For more information about the Lake Hopatcong Foundation or the floating classroom, click here. For more information about Princeton Hydro’s lake management services, go here.

New Book Aims to Protect and Restore Fish Migrations

Rivers are a critical natural resource and an essential element for the health and survival of billions of people and countless species. Flourishing populations of migratory fish are an important indicator of a healthy, coastally connected river and a robust aquatic ecosystem as a whole. Migratory fish help to maintain a balanced food web, support productive river systems, and provide income for people around the world.

Yet many migratory fish species are severely threatened primarily due to man-made obstacles like dams and weirs, which disrupt the natural flow of rivers and prevent fish migration. When fish can’t reach their habitat, they can’t reproduce and maintain their populations.

Photo Credit: “From Sea to Source 2.0”

A new book, titled From Sea to Source 2.0, explores the challenges that lie behind restoration of fish migration in rivers around the world and provides a practical guide to promoting the protection and restoration of fish migration. The book is a unique collaboration of over 100 international fisheries professionals and supported by river managers, governments, research institutes and NGOs including World Wildlife Fund and The Nature Conservancy. Geared toward practitioners, but also a wonderful resource for the general public, the book is comprised of inspiring stories from nearly every continent on the planet. Click here to download it for free.

“Ultimately our ambition is to contribute in a positive way to making a better world and a positive difference for migratory fish, nature and humans on local and global levels by inspiring new initiatives for and with people all around the world,” as stated on www.fromseatosource.com. “Whether the challenge is simply to increase access to spawning habitats through connectivity improvements for salmon, or to maintain the livelihoods for hundreds of millions of people dependent upon fish and fisheries in the great rivers of Asia, Africa and South America, we hoped our book would help to achieve these goals.”

Princeton Hydro’s Dam Removal Expert Laura Wildman, P.E. and Fluvial Geomorphologist Paul Woodworth are proud contributors to the book, helping to write the dam removal chapter, creating a dam removal flow chart for the book, and providing multiple photos utilized in the book. Princeton Hydro is also listed as a contributing sponsor.

“We’re so proud to be part of this incredible project with so many partners globally,” said Wildman. “We envision that this book will provide a valuable resource and inspiration for those in countries and regions where the importance of restoring riverine connectivity is newly gaining momentum. We hope it will help emphasize the importance of finding balanced and environmentally informed solutions when proposing additional utilization of public trust resources such as rivers.”

Approximately 40% of all fish species in the world reside in freshwater ecosystems, contributing economic and ecological benefits and value. It’s critical that we support efforts that aim to protect migratory fish species, reconnect rivers, sustain fish passage, and preserve free-flowing rivers through removing unnecessary dams, reconnecting floodplains, managing our water use, and managing hydropower for sustainable rivers.

Education and awareness building are key first steps in protecting rivers. From Sea to Source 2.0 seeks to inform, educate and inspire those who want to know more about how to meet the challenges of restoring fish migration in rivers around the world.  The book is regarded as a crucial resource in the ongoing fight to protect and preserve the enormous value of our waterways.

Get your free copy here.

Princeton Hydro has designed, permitted, and overseen the reconstruction, repair, and removal of a dozens of small and large dams in the Northeast. To learn more about our fish passage and dam removal engineering services, visit: bit.ly/DamBarrier.