Our 2020 Earth Day Photo Contest Winner!

In honor of Earth Day, Princeton Hydro held its annual Photo Contest with the theme “Human Impact” for its employees. We’d like to thank everyone who submitted photos this year. Overall, we received 27 gorgeous submissions from our staff.

All photos were rated on the following criteria by three volunteer judges: Danielle Odom, Lucy Aquilino, and Amanda Brooks (see bios below).

  • Technical Quality (30%)
  • Originality (30%)
  • Artistic Merit (40%)
THE WINNER OF THE PRINCETON HYDRO 2020 EARTH DAY PHOTO CONTEST IS…

“Welcome Home” – Although its a local and small impact, I intentionally leave dead wood in sunny places on my property. This ensures that I always have an Eastern Fence Lizard like this big female to greet me when I come home. Southern New Jersey. By Clay Emerson.

Scroll to the bottom to see a gallery of runner-up photos.

ABOUT THE JUDGES:
DANIELLE ODOM

Danielle is a Staff Scientist II at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University. Her career is dedicated to watershed monitoring research and her responsibilities include both field and laboratory work. She has specialized in studying biological indicators as a parameter to track stream health via macroinvertebrate taxonomy; in particular identifying members of the non-biting midge family Chironomidae. Once an experiential outdoor educator, she taught nature photography to middle school students as a pathway to understanding different perspectives and the impact of humans on the environment, a la Ansel Adams.

Lucy Aquilino

Lucy is a retired Parole officer and amateur photographer. A mom of 2, she loves taking nature photos and going on adventures with her kids.

Amanda Brooks

Amanda is a nature enthusiast who loves taking long walks in the woods with her camera and notepad. With her degree in Environmental Studies and English and her background in the arts, she is always looking for creative ways to capture the beauty of nature to inspire its protection. She currently resides in Burlington, Vermont and works as a tree-monger at Gardener’s Supply Company. You can check out more of her work on her Facebook page. 

Check out the photos from last year’s Earth Day photo contest here:

Our 2019 Earth Day Photo Contest Winner!

Volunteer Spotlight: Monitoring Baby Bird Boxes & Counting Shorebirds

We’re excited to put the spotlight on Princeton Hydro Environmental Scientist Emily Bjorhus and her admirable volunteer work.

As an Environmental Scientist, Emily Bjorhus works on a wide range of projects from flood risk management to wetland mitigation to stream restoration. She specializes in wetland and stream ecology and environmental permitting and compliance. Outside of the office, Emily is an active volunteer with Natural Lands and the Delaware Shorebird Project, working to protect natural resources, promote biodiversity, and protect important species. Emily also volunteers at Franklin Delano Roosevelt High School in Brooklyn, NY teaching Environmental Science students about wetlands. We’ve put together a snapshot of Emily’s volunteer activities:

Natural Lands – Force of Nature Volunteer

Natural Lands is a nonprofit organization that saves open space, cares for nature, and connects people to the outdoors in eastern Pennsylvania and southern New Jersey. Founded in the early 1950s, today nearly five million people live within five miles of lands under Natural Lands’ permanent protection.

As a Force of Nature volunteer with Natural Lands, Emily has been monitoring ~20 nest boxes located in meadow and forest edge habitat at Gwynedd Preserve since 2018. From April through mid-August, Emily and another volunteer visit the sites every 5-7 days to monitor the nest boxes for the types of species using the boxes, nest condition, nest materials, number of eggs laid, number of eggs that hatch, and number of chicks that fledge. Chickadees, wrens, blue birds, and tree swallows are the primary species that nest in the boxes Emily monitors.

When asked what she loves most about this volunteer work, Emily said, “I love watching how the birds build their nest week after week, seeing the eggs multiply and tracking the chicks’ growth. I even enjoy dodging dive-bombing tree swallows.”

Delaware Shorebird Project – Data Collection Volunteer

Delaware Shorebird Project is led by DNREC’s Division of Fish & Wildlife in partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Delaware Museum of Natural History, British Trust for Ornithology and Wash Wader Ringing Group, with the help of experienced and dedicated volunteers like Emily.

The project monitors the health and status of migratory shorebird populations to collect data that can be applied to the conservation of these birds. The research has resulted in better understanding of the ecology of shorebirds migrating through Delaware Bay, management of the horseshoe crab harvest to sustain the shorebirds’ population, and protection of key shorebird habitat.

Emily participated in a 3-day shorebird monitoring initiative, which included counting the number of shorebirds on the beach, re-sighting birds previously marked with leg flags, participating in bird catches, and weighing and measuring birds from the catches. The data collected helps monitor trends in shorebird abundance, migratory routes, condition and other important biological data.

“It’s such a pleasure working with the amazing people that come from all over the world to run and participate in this ambitious study,” said Emily. “The data collected from this program will hopefully aid researchers and policy makers to develop strategies to better protect shorebird habitat in the future.”

Franklin Delano Roosevelt High School Environmental Studies – Guest Speaker

Ms. Hannah Goldstein and her Environmental Science students at Franklin Delano Roosevelt High School in Brooklyn, NY welcome Emily as a volunteer guest speaker to teach all about wetlands. The instruction also includes a hands-on session where students collect soil samples to determine if hydric soils are present and identify surrounding trees using a dichotomous key.

“Science is such an important subject matter for kids to be learning for a variety of reasons. Environmental science education in particular encourages thought patterns, which get kids engaged in real-world environmental protection activities,” said Emily. “I really enjoy working with Ms. Goldstein and her students. I hope my presentation inspires the students to learn more about wetlands and become ambassadors of wetland conservation.”

 

Emily earned her M.S. in Sustainable Engineering at Villanova University and holds a B.S. in Environmental Science from University of Colorado at Boulder. As an Environmental Scientist for Princeton Hydro, she coordinates, leads and assists with state environmental permitting programs and NEPA compliance and documentation, including preparation of Federal and state permit applications, Endangered Species Act 7 consultations, and Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) environmental review processes. In addition, she conducts a variety of environmental field investigations such as wetland and waterbody delineations.

We’re so proud to have Emily on our team and truly value the work she does inside and outside the office.

Tips to Celebrate Earth Day 2020 While Social Distancing

Earth Day gatherings around the world have been cancelled due to COVID-19, but we can still do our part to honor this important occasion. We’ve put together a list of fun ideas and helpful tips to celebrate Earth Day 2020 safely and responsibly:


Get Outside, Safely

Illustration by New York State Department of Environmental Conservation

Getting outdoors is a great way to celebrate Earth Day, and it can boost your mental and physical health. While remaining mindful about maintaining safe social distancing practices, we can still get outside to take advantage of the spring weather and enjoy the outdoor adventures in our own backyards.

Earth Month Scavenger Hunt from Eco Promotional Products

For more tips on social distancing while visiting parks and natural areas, check out this helpful info from NJ Department of Environmental Protection.


Clean-up Your Neighborhood

Photo: Santiago Mejia, The Chronicle

Although large volunteer clean-up events are postponed due to social distancing guidelines, we can still do our part to pick-up trash and protect our local waterways. Here are a few ideas:

  • When you go outside for an afternoon walk, bring gloves and a garbage bag so you can pick up any trash you see along the way.

  • Check the storm drains in your neighborhood and remove and discard any debris that you find. Get started by reading these DIY tips!


Get Crafting & Birdwatching

Here are some simple DIY crafting ideas to help you pass the time and improve your backyard birdwatching.

  • Orange Feeder: Oranges are a tasty, energizing snack loved by several bird species, especially the Baltimore Oriole. Follow a few simple steps for building an orange feeder, and then sit back and enjoy your backyard bird watching experience!

  • Hummingbird Nectar: Bring more hummingbirds to your backyard this season in a few easy steps! By filling your feeder with this DIY delight, you can watch these beautiful little birds feed and flitter all day.

  • Heart-Shaped Feeder: Show your local songbirds some love with this DIY heart-shaped bird feeder. It makes a charming decoration for your backyard trees.

If you’re interested in taking your birdwatching adventures beyond your backyard, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation offers a variety of information and online resources to help you do so.


Get your Yard Spring-Ready

Residential homes and neighborhoods can benefit from the implementation of green infrastructure in more ways than many people realize. Planting native flower beds reduces runoff and attracts important pollinators.

  • Reduce Invasives, Plant Natives: Tulips will soon be emerging from the ground, buds blossoming on trees and, unfortunately, invasive plant species will too begin their annual growing cycle. Invasive species create major impacts on ecosystems near and far, but we can all do our part to reduce the spread. To learn more about aquatic invasive species and how to address them, check out our blog.

  • Prepare your Pond for Spring: If you have a pond on your property, check out these six steps for taking your pond out of hibernation mode, sprucing it up for Spring, and ensuring it remains healthy all year long.


Be Water-Wise

Now that we’re all spending more time at home, this is a great opportunity to incorporate better water-conservation practices into our daily lives.

  • Reduce water waste by checking for leaks that have been caused by winter freeze. Check garden hose spigots and sprinklers, and replace valves, washers and other components as necessary.

  • Install a rain barrel and use the captured rainfall to irrigate flower beds. This is another fun and inexpensive way to reduce runoff and save water. You can order a rain barrel online or search online for DIY rain barrel ideas. Remember to cover your barrels to keep mosquitoes at bay.

  • Go here for more water conservation tips.


Let’s Talk Toilets

According to the USEPA, toilets account for more water use than any other water-consuming product in your home. Toilets are estimated to be responsible for upwards of 30% of household water consumption. Additionally, flushing anything besides toilet paper has major negative impacts on the environment.

  • Eliminate toilet leaks: 79% of water lost in the home is through toilet leaks. Often silent, these leaks can waste up to 300 gallons of water per day. Check for leaks using food coloring. Replace the refill valve or flush valve when necessary.

  • Flush Responsibly: NY State Department of Environmental Conservation recently issued an email requesting more responsible flushing habits. As a reminder, disinfectant wipes, diapers, baby wipes, personal hygiene products, and any paper products other than toilet paper should never be flushed! These materials create significant damage to sewer systems, water treatment plants, and septic systems. Learn more.


Go Digital

Earth Day 2020, which also happens to be the 50th anniversary, will now be the first-ever Digital Earth Day. Here are a few ways to celebrate from the safety of your home:

  • Participate in a global Citizen Science effort! Download the Earth Challenge 2020 smart phone app to submit observations of the environment around your home. The data you submit will be validated, and the resulting database—of over one billion data points—will be displayed on a public map for researchers to use.

  • Participate in the Rutger’s Cooperative Extension “Earth Day at Home” free webinar series! Every Monday at 6:30pm EST, starting April 20 through June 29, the live and interactive 1-hour sessions will focus on steps everyone can take to protect the environment. Topics include environmentally friendly lawn care, backyard composting, reducing plastic and food waste, and so much more.

  • Sign-up to be a part of the largest environment mobilization in history: EarthDay.org’s EARTHRISE initiative, which includes social media campaigns, online teach-ins, performances, and more. Find a digital Earth Day Event!

Inspire others to celebrate Earth Day 2020 responsibly by documenting your activities and sharing on social media with hashtags: #EarthDay, #EarthDay2020, #EARTHRISE, and #RecreateLocal. To read about Princeton Hydro’s past Earth Day celebrations, go here.

Understanding and Addressing Invasive Species

Photo from: New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, water chestnut bed at Beacon

Spring is officially here! Tulips will soon be emerging from the ground, buds blossoming on trees and, unfortunately, invasive plant species will begin their annual growing cycle. No type of habitat or region of the globe is immune to the threat of invasive species (“invasives”). Invasives create major impacts on ecosystems throughout the world, and freshwater ecosystems and estuaries are especially vulnerable because the establishment of such species in these habitats is difficult to contain and reverse.

This blog provides an introduction to invasive aquatic species, including information that will help you prevent the spread of invasives in the waterways of your community.

Defining Invasive Species

Invasive species can be defined as non-native occurring in an ecosystem that is outside its actual natural or native distributional range. Although the colonization of an ecosystem by non-native species can occur naturally, it is more often a function of human intervention, both deliberate and accidental. For aquatic ecosystems some species have become established as a result of the aquarium trade, fish culture practices and/or transport of plants and animals in the bilge and ballast water of trans-oceanic shipping vessels.

One of the primary reasons invasives are able to thrive, spread rapidly, and outcompete native species is that the environmental checks and predators that control these species in their natural settings are lacking in the ecosystems and habitat in which they become introduced. The subsequent damages they cause occur on many ecological levels including competition for food or habitat (feeding, refuge and/or spawning), direct predation and consumption of native species, introduction of disease or parasites, and other forms of disruption that lead to the replacement of the native species with the invasive species. As a result, invasives very often cause serious harm to the environment, the economy, and even human health. A prominent example is the Emerald Ash Borer, a non-native, invasive beetle that is responsible for the widespread death of ash trees.

As noted above, there are a large number of aquatic invasive species. Some of the more commonly occurring non-native aquatic plant species that impact East Coast lakes, ponds and reservoirs include:

Understanding How Invasives Spread

Either intentionally or unintentionally, people have helped spread invasives around the globe. This is not a recent phenomenon but rather something that has been occurring for centuries. “Intentional introductions,” the deliberate transfer of nuisance species into a new environment, can involve a person pouring their home aquarium into a lake or deliberate actions intended to improve the conditions for various human activities, for example, in agriculture, or to achieve aesthetics not naturally available.

Photo by: Tom Britt/CC Flickr, zebra Mussels adhered to a boat propeller“Unintentional introductions” involve the accidental transfer of invasives, which can happen in many ways, including aquatic species attached to the hull of boats or contained in bilge and ballast water. A high-profile example is the introduction of zebra mussels to North America. Native to Central Asia and parts of Europe, zebra mussels accidentally arrived in the Great Lakes and Hudson River via cargo ships traveling between the regions. The occurrence, density, and distribution of Zebra mussels occurred at an alarming rate, with the species spreading to 20 states in the United States and to Ontario and Quebec in Canada. Due to their reproductive fecundity and filter-feeding ability, they are considered the most devastating aquatic invasive species to invade North American fresh waters. They alter and diminish the plankton communities of the lakes that they colonize leading to a number of cascading trophic impacts that have especially negative consequences on fisheries. Zebra mussel infestations have also been linked to increased cyanobacteria (bluegreen algae) blooms and the occurrence of harmful algae blooms (HABs) that impact drinking water quality, recreational use, and the health of humans, pets, and livestock.

Additionally, higher than average temperatures and changes in rain and snow patterns caused by climate change further enable some invasive plant species to move into new areas. This is exemplified by the increased northly spread of hydrilla (Hydrilla verticillate), a tropical invasive plant species that has migrated since its introduction in Florida in the 1950s to lakes, rivers, and reservoirs throughout the U.S.

Regardless of how any of these invasive species first became established, the thousands of terrestrial and aquatic invasive species introduced into the U.S. have caused major ecological, recreational and economic impacts.

Measuring the Impacts of Invasives

After habitat loss, invasive, non-native species are the second largest threat to biodiversity. According to The Nature Conservancy, “Invasive species have contributed directly to the decline of 42% of the threatened and endangered species in the United States. The annual cost to the nation’s economy is estimated at $120 billion a year, with over 100 million acres (an area roughly the size of California) suffering from invasive plant infestations. Invasive species are a global problem — with the annual cost of impacts and control efforts equaling 5% of the world’s economy.”

Of the $120 billion, about $100 million per year is spent on aquatic invasive plant control to address such deleterious issues as:

  • Human health (West Nile Virus, Zika Virus)
  • Water quality impacts (Canada geese)
  • Potable water supplies (Zebra mussel)
  • Commercial fisheries (Snake head, lamprey, Eurasian ruffe, round goby)
  • Recreational activities (Eurasian watermilfoil, water chestnut, hydrilla)
  • Biodiversity (Purple loosestrife, common reed, Japanese knotweed)

Invasive species can change the food web in an ecosystem by destroying or replacing native food sources. As the National Wildlife Federation explains, “The invasive species may provide little to no food value for native wildlife. Invasive species can also alter the abundance or diversity of species that are important habitat for native wildlife. Additionally, some invasive species are capable of changing the conditions in an ecosystem, such as changing soil chemistry…”

Addressing Invasives

Our native biodiversity is an irreplaceable and valuable treasure. Through a combination of prevention, early detection, eradication, restoration, research and outreach, we can help protect our native heritage from damage by invasive species.

What Can We Do?

  • Reduce the spread
  • Routinely monitor
  • Document and report
  • Spread the word

Reducing the Spread:
The best way to fight invasive species is to prevent them from occurring in the first place. There are a variety of simple things each of us can do to help stop the introduction and spread of invasives.

  • Plant native plants on your property and remove any invasive plants. Before you plant anything, verify with your local nursery and check out this online resource for help in identifying invasive plants.
  • Thoroughly wash your gear and watercraft before and after your trip. Invasives come in many forms – plants, fungi and animals – and even those of microscopic size can cause major damage.
  • Don’t release aquarium fish and plants, live bait or other exotic animals into the wild. If you plan to own an exotic pet, do your research to make sure you can commit to looking after it. Look into alternatives to live bait.

Monitoring:
The Lake Hopatcong Foundation Water Chestnut prevention brochureInvasive plant monitoring is one of the most valuable site­-level activities people can support. Contact your local watershed organizations to inquire about watershed monitoring volunteer opportunities. For example, the Lake Hopatcong “Water Scouts” program was established to seek out and remove any instances of the invasive water chestnut species.

If you are a lake or watershed manager, the best way to begin an invasive plant monitoring project is with an expert invasive plant survey to determine which invasives are most likely to be problematic in your watershed and identify the watershed’s most vulnerable areas. Contact us to learn more.

 

Documenting and Reporting:
It’s important to learn to identify invasive species in your area and report any sightings to your county extension agent or local land manager. For example, in New Jersey there is the Invasive Species Strike Team that tracks the spread of terrestrial and aquatic invasives and works with local communities in the management of these species. Additionally, consider developing a stewardship plan for your community to help preserve its natural resources. Princeton Hydro’s team of natural resource scientists can help you get the ball rolling by preparing stewardship plans focused on controlling invasive species and protecting the long-term health of open spaces, forests habitats, wetlands, and water-quality in your community.

Spreading the word:
Many people still don’t understand the serious implications of invasive species. Education is a crucial step in stopping the spread of invasives, which is why it’s so important to talk with your neighbors, friends and family about the hazards and ecological/economic impacts of invasive species.

Also consider talking with your community lake or watershed manager about hosting an educational workshop where experts can share their knowledge about invasives specific to your area and how best to address them. Princeton Hydro’s Director of Aquatic Programs Dr. Fred Lubnow recently gave a presentation to the Lake Hopatcong Foundation titled, “Invasive Species in Watershed Management.” View it here.

 

We encourage you to share this article and spread your invasive species knowledge so that together we can help stop the introduction and spread of invasive species.

NJ Takes Serious Steps to Prevent Harmful Algal Blooms

Photo by: Lake Hopatcong Commission

Last year, there were more than 70 suspected and 39 confirmed Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) in New Jersey, which is significantly higher than the previous two years. New Jersey wasn’t the only state impacted by HABs. The increase caused severe impacts on lakes throughout the country, resulting in beach closures, restricting access to lake usage, and prompting wide-ranging health advisories.

In November, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy and officials from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) announced a three-pronged, $13 million initiative to reduce and prevent future HABs in the state. As part of the initiative, NJDEP hosted its first regional HABs Summit with the goal of prevention by improving communication throughout lake communities and sharing information ahead of the warmer months when HABs begin to appear.

The summit, which was held on January 28, 2020 at NJDEP’s Pequest Trout Hatchery and Natural Resource Education Center in Warren County included a Q&A panel discussion, information resource tables for one-on-one discussions, and presentations from a variety of NJDEP representatives and environmental experts. Princeton Hydro’s  Director of Aquatics and regional HABs expert Dr. Fred Lubnow’s presentation focused on how to properly and effectively manage HABs.

According to Dr. Lubnow, “Managing loads of phosphorous in watersheds is even more important as the East Coast becomes increasingly warmer and wetter thanks to climate change. Climate change will likely need to be dealt with on a national and international scale. But local communities, groups, and individuals can have a real impact in reducing phosphorous levels in local waters.”

In a recent press release from Governor Murphy’s office, the NJDEP Chief of Staff Shawn LaTourette said, “We will reduce HABs by working closely with our local partners on prevention and treatment techniques, while relying on the best available science to clearly communicate risk to the public. Our new HABs initiative will enhance the Department’s ability to evaluate statewide strategies and increase the capacity of lake communities to reduce future blooms.”

New Jersey’s new HABs initiative is comprised of three main components:

Providing Funding:

More than $13 million in funding will be available to local communities to assist in preventing HABs, including:

  • $2.5 million will be available as matching funds for lakes and HABs management grants, including treatment and prevention demonstration projects.

  • Up to $1 million in Watershed Grant funding will be made available for planning and projects that reduce the nonpoint source pollution, including nutrients, that contribute to HABs in surface waters of the State.

  • $10 million in principal forgiveness grants will be offered through the Clean Water State Revolving Fund for half of the cost, capped at $2 million, of sewer and stormwater upgrades to reduce the flow of nutrients to affected waterbodies.

Increasing Expertise & Implementing Prevention Tactics:

Per the Governor’s press release, “the second element of the initiative is to build upon the state’s scientific expertise and enhance its capacity to respond to HAB events. This includes establishing a team of experts from across various sectors to evaluate the state’s strategies to prevent HABs and pursuing additional monitoring, testing and data management capacity.”

Connecting with Communities:

The third component is focused on increasing NJDEP’s ability to communicate with affected communities. The regional HABs Summit held on January 28 was one of two Summits that will occur in early 2020 (the date of the next Summit has not yet been announced). NJDEP has also developed new web tools to provide HABs education, offer a forum to discuss and report potential HAB sightings, and better communicate HAB incidents.

To learn more about New Jersey’s new HABs Initiative, click here. To learn more about HABs, check out our recent blog:

Identifying, Understanding and Addressing Harmful Algae Blooms

Flipping the Script on American Environmental Thought: FREE Presentation Download

 

The Watershed Institute held its 3rd Annual New Jersey Watershed Conference, an educational event that aims to advance knowledge and communications on issues related to water quality and quantity across the state. The event included a variety of presentations from local experts on watershed management, stormwater, and problems and solutions related to the health of New Jersey’s watersheds.

During the conference, Princeton Hydro’s Marketing Coordinator Kelsey Mattison, a St. Lawrence University graduate with a degree in English and environmental studies, lead a workshop that explored binaries in environmental thought and how to break through those limiting thought processes in order to advance a more productive and shared understanding of our natural world.

The presentation, titled “Flipping the Script on American Environmental Thought,” discussed how black-and-white thought processes (a.k.a. binaries) cause us to view issues as one or the other, leaving little to no room for the possibility of blending the two.

Historically, American thought has viewed environmental issues through a binary lens: either we favor human society, or we favor the environment, and this juxtaposition has rarely allowed for integration between the two perspectives.

Take, for example, the two concepts of preservation and conservation toted by John Muir and Gifford Pinchot, respectively. Muir’s concept of preservation argued that humans should set land aside to leave untouched to preserve its natural beauty, while Pinchot’s concept of conservation advocated for a responsible use of the land’s resources. Both are forms of environmental advocacy, but neither leave much room to combine the two ideas, ultimately creating a black and white binary surrounding human responsibility to the planet. This makes it difficult to then make any compromise on issues related to managing or utilizing our natural resources.

The workshop also explored answers to the important question of: “How do we flip the script to be more inclusive?” Participants discussed ideas around utilizing Values-Based Communication in order to connect with people from different groups/with different values. A few of the communication strategies Kelsey presented, include:

  • Finding Common Ground:

    When groups are telling such different narratives, it can be hard to see that their goals might actually be completely in line. By first identifying what each group’s priorities are, we can better understand their needs in order to help fulfill them. This allows people with seemingly conflicting beliefs to work towards a common goal.

  • Seeing More than Two Sides:

    Generally, people default to thinking there are only two sides to an issue, but no conflict is ever truly just one thing or the other. Even if there are overtly two options, the issue is always more complex. When resolving conflict, it’s almost always possible to find at least one thing the two sides have in common.

Overall, Kelsey’s workshop emphasized the importance of open-mindedness and inclusion in our approach to environmental action in order to bring people together and foster real change. If you’re interested in learning more, click here for a free download of Kelsey’s full presentation.

The New Jersey Watershed Conference, of which Princeton Hydro was a sponsor and exhibitor, also included presentations on topics ranging from urban flooding to microplastics in our waterways to green infrastructure. Dr. Fred Lubnow, Princeton Hydro’s Director of Aquatic Programs, presented on the “Causes and Impacts of Harmful Algal Blooms.” To view the complete agenda, go here.

Princeton Hydro is a proud supporter of The Watershed Institute, a nonprofit organization comprised of policy advocates, scientists, land and water stewards, naturalists, and educators. Focused on the Central New Jersey area, the Watershed Institute speaks out for water and environment, protects and restores sensitive habitats, tests waterways for pollution, and inspires others to care for the natural world. For more information, or to become a member, go here.

Laura Wildman Awarded for “Bringing the Presumpscot River Back to Life”

Photo provided by the Friends of the Presumpscot River

The Friends of the Presumpscot River (The Friends) Board of Trustees awarded Laura Wildman, P.E., Princeton Hydro’s New England Regional Office Director and Water Resources and Fisheries Engineer, with its “Chief Polin Award.” The award recognizes Laura for her accomplishments and efforts in bringing life back to the Presumpscot River and rivers across the nation. The award was presented at The Friends’ Three Sisters Harvest Dinner & Annual Celebration.

The Chief Polin Award recognizes those who are making significant efforts to restore fish passage, improve water quality and bring back the natural character of the Presumpscot river.During her acceptance speech, Laura thanked The Friends for its continued dedication to restoring fish passage and revitalizing the river. “I am so proud to be part of the ‘river warriors’ team,” Laura said. “Our collective efforts to protect and restore the river have resulted in invaluable benefits to fish, aquatic organisms, wildlife, and the surrounding communities.”

The award is named after local Abanaki tribe leader Chief Polin, who led the first documented dam protest in New England during the mid-1700s, advocating for fish passage, which had been compromised by the first dams built along the river. The award recognizes those who are making significant efforts to restore fish passage, improve water quality, and bring back the natural character of the Presumpscot River. Sean Mahoney from the Conservation Law Foundation also received the Chief Polin Award during the Annual Celebration.

Map provided by The Friends of the Presumpscot RiverLocated in Cumberland County, Maine, the Presumpscot is a 25.8-mile-long river and the largest freshwater input into Casco Bay. The river has long been recognized for its vast quantity of fish. According to The Friends, when Europeans first arrived, they reported that “the entire surface of the river, for a foot deep, was all fish.”

In the 1730s, however, the construction of dams halted the passage of fish up the river. As more dams sprung up in the following centuries, the ecological vitality of the river steadily declined.

For more than 250 years, people have advocated for the unobstructed passage of fish up the Presumpscot River. Over the last 50 years, the river has undergone profound transformation due to the enactment of the Clean Water Act, the removal of a few dams, and the installation of fish passages on existing dams. Fish passage at Cumberland Mills Dam, which was completed in 2013, restored critical habitat to sea run fish such as shad, American eel, and river herring, and allowed them to move upstream again.

Saccarappa Falls dam removal in actionIn July, work began to restore a large reach of the river through Westbrook, Maine. The project involves the removal of two dam spillways from the upper Saccarappa Falls and the construction of a fishway around the lower falls. The project, which was three years in the making, was finally approved to move forward once the City of Westbrook, Sappi Fine Paper, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Maine Department of Marine Resources, and the nonprofits, Friends of the Presumpscot River and Conservation Law Foundation, were able to reach a ground breaking settlement. The Saccarappa Falls project is a major step in restoring the river and was a focal point of the Three Sisters Harvest Dinner, celebrating decades of effort on the parts of the Friends of the Presumpscot along with their numerous project partners, including Princeton Hydro.

About the Friends of the Presumpscot River: A nonprofit organization founded in 1992, supported primarily by membership dues and small donations. Its mission is to protect and improve the water quality, indigenous fisheries, recreational opportunities and natural character of the Presumpscot River.
Learn more: presumpscotriver.org

About Princeton Hydro: Princeton Hydro has designed, permitted, and overseen the removal of dozens of small and large dams along the East Coast. To learn more about our fish passage and dam removal engineering services, visit: bit.ly/DamBarrier.

DIY: Protecting Water Quality in Your Community

There are lots of things we can do to preserve our precious water resources. Reducing stormwater pollution in our neighborhoods is something everyone can take part in. Storm drain cleaning is a great place to start!

DIY Storm Drain Cleaning

Urbanization has fundamentally altered the way that water moves through the landscape. Stormwater that doesn’t soak into the ground runs along streets and parking lots and picks up pollutants. Much of the pollution in our nation’s waterways comes from everyday materials like fertilizers, pesticides, motor oil, and household chemicals. Rainwater washes these substances from streets, yards and driveways into storm drains.

It’s a common misconception that storm drains lead to wastewater treatment plants. In actuality, storm drains rarely lead to treatment plants and instead stormwater systems carry untreated water directly to the nearest waterway. This polluted runoff can have negative impacts on water quality, overstimulate algal growth (both toxic and non-toxic), harm aquatic species and wildlife, and cause trash and debris to enter our lakes, streams, rivers and oceans.

https://www.middlesexcentre.on.ca/Public/Stormwater

We can all do our part to improve and preserve water resources in our community and beyond!

Keeping neighborhood storm drains cleaned is one simple step. Removing debris that collects in nearby stormwater catch basins, storm drains and along curbs promotes cleaner runoff, reduces the potential for flooding, and decreases the amount of pollution and trash entering our waterways.

Follow these simple steps for DIY storm drain cleaning:

  1. Photo: Santiago Mejia, The ChronicleRake/sweep and discard debris that has collected on top of the storm grate and in curbside rain gutters. Please note: If you notice a major blockage or issue with a storm drain, contact your local municipality immediately.
  2. Use a scrub brush or toilet bowl scrubber to remove debris that may be stuck to the storm grate.
  3. Adopt a storm drain(s) and maintain a regular cleaning schedule: Make a note on your calendar each quarter to clean and clear debris from storm drains nearby your home or workplace. And, make a habit of checking your storm drains after rainstorms when clogging is most common.
  4. Host a community clean-up day that includes trash pick-up, storm drain cleaning, and disseminating information on the impacts of stormwater runoff and what we can do to help.
  5. Consider contacting your local watershed association or municipality about getting drain markers installed on storm drains throughout the community. The markers act as a continued public reminder that anything dumped into a storm drain eventually ends up in our precious waterways downstream.

Remember: Small actions lead to big achievements in protecting water quality. 

Enjoy Your Labor Day Nature Adventures Responsibly

Seven Tips for Environmentally-Friendly Outdoor Fun

Labor Day is right around the corner! Many people will soon be packing up the car with fishing gear and heading to their favorite lake for a fun-filled weekend.

As biologists, ecologists, environmentalists, and outdoor enthusiasts, all of us at Princeton Hydro fully enjoy getting outside and having fun in nature. We also take our responsibility to care for and respect our natural surroundings very seriously. We play hard and work hard to protect our natural resources for generations to come.

These seven tips will help you enjoy your Labor Day fishing, boating, and outdoor adventures with minimal environmental impact:

  • Before you go, know your local fishing regulations. These laws protect fish and other aquatic species to ensure that the joys of fishing can be shared by everyone well into the future.

  • Reduce the spread of invasive species by thoroughly washing your gear and watercraft before and after your trip. Invasives come in many forms – plants, fungi, and animals – and even those of microscopic size can cause major damage.

  • Stay on designated paths to avoid disrupting sensitive and protected areas, like wetlands, shorelines, stream banks, and meadows. Disturbing and damaging these sensitive areas can jeopardize the health of the many important species living there.

  • Exercise catch and release best practices. Always keep the health of the fish at the forefront of your activities by using the right gear and employing proper techniques. Get that info by clicking here.

  • Use artificial lures or bait that is native to the area you’re fishing in. Live bait that is non-native can introduce invasive species to water sources and cause serious damage to the surrounding environment.

  • Plan ahead and map your trip. Contact the office of land management to learn about permit requirements, area closures and other restrictions. Use this interactive map to find great fishing spots in your area, the fish species you can expect to find at each spot, nearby gear shops, and more!

Armed with these seven tips, you can now enjoy your weekend while feeling rest assured that you’re doing your part to protect the outdoor spaces and wild places we all love to recreate in! Go here to learn about some of the work Princeton Hydro does to restore and protect our natural resources.

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“Respect nature and it will provide you with abundance.”

–compassionkindness.com

Four Ways Climate Change Can Affect Your Lake

The Local Effects of Climate Change Observed Through our Community Lakes

Climate change is an enormous concept that can be hard to wrap your head around. It comes in the form of melting ice caps, stronger storms, and more extreme seasonal temperatures (IPCC, 2018). If you’re an avid angler, photographer, swimmer, boater, or nature enthusiast, it’s likely that because of climate change you’ll bear witness to astonishing shifts in nature throughout the greater portion of your lifetime. This is especially true with respect to lakes.

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Lakes are living laboratories through which we can observe the local effects of climate change in our own communities. Lake ecosystems are defined by a combination of various abiotic and biotic factors. Changes in hydrology, water chemistry, biology, or physical properties of a lake can have cascading consequences that may rapidly alter the overall properties of a lake and surrounding ecosystem. Most of the time the results are negative and the impacts severe.

“Managing loads of phosphorous in watersheds is even more important as the East Coast becomes increasingly warmer and wetter thanks to climate change,” said Dr. Fred Lubnow, Director of Aquatics in a recent NJ.com interview. “Climate change will likely need to be dealt with on a national and international scale. But local communities, groups, and individuals can have a real impact in reducing phosphorous levels in local waters.”

Recognizing and monitoring the changes that are taking place locally brings the problems of climate change closer to home, which can help raise awareness and inspire environmentally-minded action.

We put together a list of four inter-related, climate change induced environmental impacts that can affect lakes and lake communities:

1. Higher Temperatures = Shifts in Flora and Fauna Populations

The survival of many lake organisms is dependent on the existence of set temperature ranges and ample oxygen levels. The amount of dissolved oxygen (DO) present in a lake is a result of oxygen diffusion from the atmosphere and its production by algae and aquatic plants via photosynthesis. An inverse relationship exists between water temperature and DO concentrations. Due to the physical properties of water, warmer water holds less DO than cooler water.

This is not good news for many flora and fauna, such as fish that can only survive and reproduce in waters of specific temperatures and DO levels. Lower oxygen levels can reduce their ability to feed, spawn and survive. Populations of cold water fish, such as brown trout and salmon, will be jeopardized by climate change (Kernan, 2015).

358-001-carp-from-churchvilleAlso, consider the effects of changing DO levels on fish that can tolerate these challenging conditions. They will thrive where others struggle, taking advantage of their superior fitness by expanding their area of colonization, increasing population size, and/or becoming a more dominant species in the ecosystem. A big fish in a little pond, you might say. Carp is a common example of a thermo-tolerant fish that can quickly colonize and dominate a lake’s fishery, in the process causing tremendous ecological impact (Kernan, 2010).

2. Less Water Availability = Increased Salinity

Just as fish and other aquatic organisms require specific ranges of temperature and dissolved oxygen to exist, they must also live in waters of specific salinity. Droughts are occurring worldwide in greater frequency and intensity. The lack of rain reduces inflow and higher temperatures promote increased evaporation. Diminishing inflow and dropping lake levels are affecting some lakes by concentrating dissolved minerals and increasing their salinity.

Studies of zooplankton, crustaceans and benthic insects have provided evidence of the consequences of elevated salinity levels on organismal health, reproduction and mortality (Hall and Burns, 2002; Herbst, 2013; Schallenberg et al., 2003). While salinity is not directly related to the fitness or survival rate of all aquatic organisms, an increase in salinity does tend to be stressful for many.

3. Nutrient Concentrations = Increased Frequency of Harmful Algal Blooms

Phosphorus is a major nutrient in determining lake health. Too little phosphorus can restrict biological growth, whereas an excess can promote unbounded proliferation of algae and aquatic plants.

before_strawbridgelake2If lake or pond water becomes anoxic at the sediment-water interface (meaning the water has very low or completely zero DO), phosphorus will be released from the sediment. Also some invasive plant species can actually “pump” phosphorus from the sediments and release this excess into the water column (termed luxurious uptake). This internally released and recycled sedimentary phosphorus can greatly influence lake productivity and increase the frequency, magnitude and duration of algae blooms. Rising water temperatures, declining DO and the proliferation of invasive plants are all outcomes of climate change and can lead to increases in a lake’s phosphorus concentrations and the subsequent growth and development of algae and aquatic plants.

Rising water temperatures significantly facilitate and support the development of cyanobacteria (bluegreen algae) blooms. These blooms are also fueled by increasing internal and external phosphorus loading. At very high densities, cyanobacteria may attain harmful algae bloom (HAB) proportions. Elevated concentrations of cyanotoxins may then be produced, and these compounds seriously impact the health of humans, pets and livestock.

rain-garden-imagePhosphorus loading in our local waterways also comes from nonpoint sources, especially stormwater runoff. Climate change is recognized to increase the frequency and magnitude of storm events. Larger storms intensify the mobilization and transport of pollutants from the watershed’s surrounding lakes, thus leading to an increase in nonpoint source loading. Additionally, larger storms cause erosion and instability of streams, again adding to the influx of more phosphorus to our lakes. Shifts in our regular behaviors with regards to fertilizer usage, gardening practices and community clean-ups, as well as the implementation of green infrastructure stormwater management measures can help decrease storm-related phosphorus loading and lessen the occurrence of HABs.

4. Cumulative Effects = Invasive Species

A lake ecosystem stressed by agents such as disturbance or eutrophication can be even more susceptible to invasive species colonization, a concept coined “invasibility” (Kernan, 2015).

For example, imagine that cold water fish species A has experienced a 50% population decrease as a result of warming water temperatures over ten years. Consequently, the fish’s main prey, species B, has also undergone rapid changes in its population structure. Inversely, it has boomed without its major predator to keep it in check. Following this pattern, the next species level down – species B’s prey, species C – has decreased in population due to intense predation by species B, and so on. Although the ecosystem can potentially achieve equilibrium, it remains in a very unstable and ecologically stressful state for a prolonged period of time. This leads to major changes in the biotic assemblage of the lake and trickle-down changes that affect its recreational use, water quality and aesthetics.

• • •

Although your favorite lake may not experience all or some of these challenges, it is crucial to be aware of the many ways that climate change impacts the Earth. We can’t foresee exactly how much will change, but we can prepare ourselves to adapt to and aid our planet. How to start? Get directly involved in the management of your lake and pond. Decrease nutrient loading and conserve water. Act locally, but think globally. Get out and spread enthusiasm for appreciating and protecting lake ecosystems. Also, check out these tips for improving your lake’s water quality.


References

  1. IPCC. “Summary for Policymakers. “Global Warming of 1.5°C. An IPCC Special Report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways, in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty.” World Meteorological Organization, Geneva, Switzerland, 32 pp. 2018.
  2. Hall, Catherine J., and Carolyn W. Burns. “Mortality and Growth Responses of Daphnia Carinata to Increases in Temperature and Salinity.” Freshwater Biology 47.3 (2002): 451-58. Wiley. Web. 17 Oct. 2016.
  3. Herbst, David B. “Defining Salinity Limits on the Survival and Growth of Benthic Insects for the Conservation Management of Saline Walker Lake, Nevada, USA.” Journal of Insect Conservation 17.5 (2013): 877-83. 23 Apr. 2013. Web. 17 Oct. 2016.
  4. Kernan, M. “Climate Change and the Impact of Invasive Species on Aquatic Ecosystems.” Aquatic Ecosystem Health & Management (2015): 321-33. Taylor & Francis Online. Web. 17 Oct. 2016.
  5. Kernan, M. R., R. W. Battarbee, and Brian Moss. “Interaction of Climate Change and Eutrophication.” Climate Change Impacts on Freshwater Ecosystems. 1st ed. Chichester, West Sussex, UK: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010. 119-51. ResearchGate. Web. 17 Oct. 2016.
  6. Schallenberg, Marc, Catherine J. Hall, and Carolyn W. Burns. “Consequences of Climate-induced Salinity Increases on Zooplankton Abundance and Diversity in Coastal Lakes”Marine Ecology Progress Series 251 (2003): 181-89. Inter-Research Science Center. Inter-Research. Web.