Sixth Annual Long Island Natural History Conference

2018


 

 

 

 


 

SIXTH ANNUAL LONG ISLAND NATURAL HISTORY CONFERENCE POSTERS


1. Loss of Salt Marsh Surface Vegetation on Long Island since 1926

Presenter:  James P. Browne (Conservation and Waterways, Town of Hempstead, Point Lookout, NY; ecojimb@gmail.com)

Abstract: Losses of salt marsh in eastern North America, including Long Island, persist even with wetland protection laws. The proportion of marsh area covered by marsh vegetation is important, but not often studied over long periods. Hempstead Bay still includes approximately 2,700 hectares of salt marsh islands that were grid ditched prior to the early 20th century. Trends in unvegetated marsh surface (ponds and pannes) were measured from over eleven sets of aerial photographs, starting with1926. The trends in the persistence and growth of individual unvegetated patches were also estimated. Sections of the marsh associated with waterways having higher nutrient loading were more likely to remain vegetated, while marshes surrounded by water with falling nutrient levels had more pond/panne coverages grew and exceeded pre-1956 percentages. Rising sea-levels and limited sediment supply may be causal. Some marshes from other parts of Long Island are also included, but with shorter trends.


2. Isolating Hydrocarbonoclastic Microorganisms from Newtown Creek

Presenter: Valeria Cevallos, (CUNY Queens College, NY; valeria.cevallos12@qmail.cuny.edu),

Co-author: Joby Jacob, PhD, (LaGuardia Community College, City University of New York jjacob@lagcc.cuny.edu)

Abstract: Petroleum hydrocarbons are a class of environmental pollutants that have accumulated in the environment due to a variety of anthropogenic activities. We isolated and characterized a bacterium from Newtown Creek Nature Walk. This species is capable of breaking down the petroleum hydrocarbons Octacosane, Octadecane, and Eicosame. The tests identified a gram-negative bacterium, which we identified by DNA sequence of 16S rRNA sequencing as Pseudomonas putida.


3. The Effect of Titanium Dioxide on Artemia salina Survival and Swimming Ability

Presenter: Cuong Dao (St. Joseph’s College, NY; cdao@student.sjcny.edu)

Co-author: Kestrel O. Perez, Ph.D (St. Joseph’s College, NY; kperez3@sjcny.edu)

Abstract: Nanoparticles have been widely and increasingly used in foods, medicines, and cosmetics because of their larger surface area to volume ratio, and other inherent properties, compared with larger particles. In cosmetics, nanoparticles such as titanium dioxide (TiO2) make it easier to achieve white color pigmentation, and serve as resistance against UV rays, due to their high refractive index and white pigment. Early development of sunscreen utilized TiO2 properties to absorb UVA, while those with zinc oxide (ZnO) absorb UVB. Nanosized TiO2 retain UV absorbing abilities while being translucent.  Despite the many benefits of nanoparticles commercially, the effects of nanoparticles on aquatic crustaceans is not well understood. Artemia salina (Brine Shrimp) were hatched from cysts and reared for 5 days either in control water (no TiO2) or in titanium dioxide suspended in sea water (0.06g TiO2 /L). Population abundance was measured daily for 5 days to determine if nanoparticle TiO2 affects mortality rate. At the end of 3 days, 10 seconds of routine swimming was recorded at 30 frames/sec to evaluate the effect of nanoparticles on Artemia salina movement. Preliminary results of this experiment will be presented.
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4. Interns’ Perspective on Salt Marsh Restoration on Long Island

Presenter: Nimal de Lanerolle (Suffolk County Community College, Selden, NY; delan36@mail.sunysuffolk.edu)

Co-authors: Amy Dries, (Suffolk County Community College, Selden, NY; driesa@sunysuffolk.edu), Sabrina Condit (Suffolk County Community College, Selden, NY; sabrina.condit24@gmail.com), Nicholas Cormier (Suffolk County Community College; cormn41@mail.sunysuffolk.edu), Aylin Guvenc  (Suffolk County Community College, Selden, NY; guvea25@mail.sunysuffolk.edu), Gabriella Marino (Suffolk County Community College, Selden, NY; gabriellarosemarino@gmail.com),  and Marianne McNamara PhD (Suffolk County Community College, Selden, NY; mcnamam@sunysuffolk.edu)

Abstract: Salt marshes play an important role as the interface between the marine and the terrestrial environment. Salt marshes also affect public health as they are a larval habitat for mosquitoes that are vectors for disease. Previously, ditching and pesticides have been used as a control mechanism, but ditching requires maintenance and mosquitoes develop resistance to pesticides in the long term.  Following Hurricane Sandy, which radically altered the geography of salt marshes on the South Shore of Long Island, an alternative approach improving access to larvae by predatory fish was initiated.  The geomorphology of the marshes, biomass conditions, anthropological influences, tidal influences are some of the fundamentals incorporated into this approach. Funded under a multi-year National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Hurricane Sandy resiliency grant for wetland restoration, select marshes on the south shore of Long Island were sampled weekly, beginning in summer 2017. Mosquito larvae, nekton, vegetation, biomass and sediment were collected and water quality parameters (dissolved oxygen, temperature, and salinity) were measured by undergraduate interns through a partnership with Suffolk County Community College. Hot spots of mosquito larvae were frequently found near locations of the invasive Phragmites australis (Common Reed), where reduced water flow and low salinities were also identified. Restoration of the experimental marshes will commence in winter 2017/18 based on the above findings, with post-restoration data to be collected during summer 2018.


5. A Geospatial Analysis of Quantuck Bay, New York: Making Decisions for Remediation

Presenter: Lucy R. DiBenedetto (Stony Brook University, NY; lucy.dibenedetto@stonybrook.edu)

Abstract:  Quantuck Bay is a relatively small body of saltwater on Long Island’s East End, connected to the Atlantic Ocean through Moriches Bay in the west and Shinnecock Bay in the east.  Over the past ten years, there has been a noticeable darker color in the water column paired alongside a decline in water quality; as a resident of the area, this has been a concern of mine for many years.  Quantuck Bay is prone to annual red algae and brown algae blooms.  Restoration projects have been started to help improve the water quality through the Shinnecock Bay Restoration Program (ShiRP).  This poster aims to show the effects of four major components of the area and their resulting effects on water quality: zoning codes, tidal wetland structures, benthic structures, and remediated sites.  Data from ShiRP has been recorded and analyzed from April 2012 through October 2017, with their seasons running from late April to late October, focusing on temperatures, salinity, and dissolved oxygen content.


6. Environmentally Friendly Fungicides

Presenter: Kristen Dookie (Lawrence High School, Cedarhurst, NY; kristend117701@gmail.com)

Abstract: Fungicides can exert both beneficial and detrimental effects on nature. The use of complex chemical fungicides on plants can be costly and also negatively impact the environment. When fungicides are sprayed, a substantial amount does not effectively go onto the plants and instead becomes runoff. These chemicals find their way into the local water systems and affect the organisms living in the water and the balance of nature in the surrounding areas. In addition, some fungicides that benefit one plant can have harmful effects on another, resulting in financial loss within a farm.
This project sought to find an “environmentally friendly” fungicide, testing simple water-soluble compounds. The test subject was the Rosa Floribunda (Floribunda Garden Rose) which had. Diplocarpon rosae (Black Spot), Phragmidium mucronatum (Leaf Rust), brown spots, and leaf blotches on the leaves. These diseases that commonly appear on garden roses spread quickly by traveling in water droplets that fall on the system. Once a fungus spreads to most of the leaves, it is too late for fungicides to save the plant. Thus, the goal was not only to find the most effective fungicide to clear these diseases from the rose bush leaves but also to eradicate them before they spread. The effectiveness of the water-soluble test compound was indicated by microscopic examination for leaf clarity with reduced fungus and spots on the leaves, showing a beneficial effect was produced on both the cells of the plant and the removal of the disease from the leaves. It was found that CHзCOOH (vinegar), Mg(NOз)₂ (magnesium nitrate), and C14H21NO11 (hyaluronic acid) were the most effective in clearing the diseases from the leaves. These results suggest that complex chemical fungicides can be replaced by cost-effective simple remedies that are not only good for nature but for the finances of the future agricultural society.


7. The Effects of Plastic and Metal Predator Excluders on Diamondback Terrapin (Malaclemys terrapin) Nest Temperatures, Hatching Success, and Hatchling Sex Ratios

Presenter: Adriana Eugene (Biology, Hofstra University, NY, aeugene1@pride.hofstra.edu)

Co-authors: Alexandra Kanonik (American Littoral Society, 18 Hartshorne Drive, Suite #1, ​Highlands, New Jersey, akkanonik@gmail.com), Shahriar Rahman (Creative Conservation Alliance, House 925, Road 13A, Avenue 3, Mirpur DOHS, Dhaka 1207, Bangladesh) and Russell L. Burke (Biology, Hofstra University, NY; russell.l.burke@hofstra.edu)

Abstract:  Turtles are among the most threatened vertebrate groups, and conservation efforts to protect turtle populations commonly include the use of predator excluders to protect nest from predation. The use of predator excluders has been shown to dramatically reduce nest predation by human-subsidized predators such as North American raccoons (Procyon lotor). However, there is a wide diversity of predator excluder designs (shape and material) yet the potential effects of predator excluder designs on turtle incubation conditions and secondary effects are little explored. Ideal predator excluders should have minimal effect on the incubation temperature of the nest to reduce alterations on hatchling success and sex ratios. Most turtle species have temperature dependent sex determination (TSD), and if predator excluders alter nest temperatures significantly, especially during the temperature sensitive period, they may influence hatchling sex ratios. Alterations in hatchling sex ratios could severally harm turtle populations due to a small number of females being available for reproduction. Thus, it is desirable to determine which predator excluder design has the least effect on the incubation conditions to minimize effects on hatching success, hatchling sex ratios and hatchling survivorship. We tested the potential effects of two commonly used predator excluder designs (square metal and cylindrical plastic) on incubation temperatures of Diamondback Terrapin (Malaclemys terrapin) nests in Jamaica Bay, New York. We measured nest temperatures throughout the incubation period but focused on the temperature sensitive period, when sex is determined. We found that neither predator excluder model affected the temperature at which the nests incubated, hatching success or hatchling survival. Therefore, these predator excluders appear to be appropriate management tools for turtle conservation and should be designed in an appropriate manor to reduce the effects of nest predators.


8. Consumption and Assimilation Patterns of the Eastern Box Turtle, a Diet Generalist

Presenter: Miranda Figueras (Biology, Hofstra University, NY; miranda.p.figueras@hofstra.edu)

Co-Authors: Russell Burke (Biology, Hofstra University, NY; russell.l.burke@hofstra.edu), Kent Hatch (LIU Post, NY, Kent.Hatch@liu.edu) and Timothy Green (Brookhaven National Laboratory, NY; tgreen@bnl.gov)

Abstract:  Eastern Box Turtles (Terrapene carolina, EBT) are generalist omnivores and important seed and fungal spore dispersers throughout the eastern United States. Studies have shown that EBT feed opportunistically on seasonally available fruit, plants, invertebrates, and occasionally carrion.  We radio-located EBT in the Pine Barrens of Long Island, New York and collected fecal and blood samples. We identified prey items to the highest possible taxonomic level, and quantified seeds in the fecal samples. Plasma was analyzed for C and N isotopes ratios (δ C and δ N).  We found highly seasonal patterns in fruit seed abundances in fecal samples correlating with availability. Vaccinium fruit were in 50% (June), 50% (July), and 20% (August) of samples, showing consumption of Vaccinium before they ripened and after they fell to the ground. Unidentifiable plant material was in 90-100% of samples in all periods. Coleopterans were in 70% (June), 85% (July), 80% (August), and 80% (October) of samples. Snails were in 10% of samples from June, August, and October, and 28% of July samples. Mushrooms were in 10% of June samples, 45% (July), 10% (August), and none in October. The R package SIBER was used to plot ellipses representing isotopic niche breadth to compare seasons. Surprisingly, stable isotope analysis indicated no significant differences in the δ C and δ N from EBT plasma sampled throughout their active season despite seasonal consumption patterns. Low plant digestibility reducing nutrient assimilation, diet items with similar δ C and δ N contributions, and a short study period may have affected EBT nutrient assimilation patterns.


9. Geospatial Analysis of Pitch Pine (Pinus rigida) Distribution Infected with Southern Pine Bark Beetle (Dendroctonus frontalis), Sans Souci County Park, New York

Presenter: Nita George (Sayville High School, NY; ngeorge@st.sayvilleschools.org)

Abstract: Southern pine bark beetles (SPBB) (Dendroctonus frontalis) live inside the bark of pine trees and infest and infect the tree. Parasitoid wasps are wasps that lay their larvae in places where SPPB live and the larvae eat the small hosts. The wasps detect SPPB pheromones emitted from the trees as chemical cues. The goals of this research are to identify the distribution of trees infected with SPBB within Sans Souci County Park using geospatial technology and associate the distribution of wasp casings to infected trees within the park.  Infestation stage will be associated with breast height diameter (BHD) and height of trees. Barcoding techniques and DNA Subway’s Blue Line were used to identify the species of wasp casing and larvae to determine whether it is parasitic to SPPB. DNA were extracted and purified using Qiagen® DNeasy Blood & Tissue and Qiagen QIAquick™ kits. Standard dendrology methods were used to collect data for BHD and tree height.  GPS were collected on iphone7. ArcGIS Version 10.5.1 was used for spatial analytics and visualization. A one-way ANOVA (alpha = 0.05) suggest that SPBB are showing a preference to infect trees on the white trail with moderate height and BHD which may be related to growing stage and thickness of bark. Geospatial visualization of infestation within the park support the ANOVA’s and can aid Land Managers assess the risks and act as a tool to prepare management strategies to prevent SPBB expansion within the park.


10. Preliminary Survey of Glacial Deposits Exposed at Hallock State Park Preserve, Mattituck, NY

Presenter:  Anthony LaBarca (Syosset High School, Syosset, NY; ajl0501.a@gmail.com)

Co-author:  J Bret Bennington (Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY; j.b.bennington@hofstra.edu)

Abstract:  Hallock State Park is a 225-acre state park and preserve located in Mattituck, NY.  It opened to the public in June of 2017, and is the first new Long Island state park in at least 10 years.  It features a beachfront in addition to hiking trails and a high point called Jacobs Hill. Glacial deposits of the Roanoke Point moraine are exposed in the park, which were formerly mined for sand and aggregate.  Mining operations left erosional remnants of the moraine forming hoodoos, which are tall spires of sediment left standing on the ground. Glacial sediments were sampled from outcrops within the park and grain size analyses performed using standard sieves for the course fraction and laser particle size analysis for the fine fraction. Lead (Pb) levels were also measured in samples using x-ray fluorescence. Based on the sedimentological analysis, three distinct units appear to be exposed in the park. Two units have the overall characteristics of glacial till, but differ in the relative proportions of gravel / sand, silt, and clay. The remaining unit is a silt-dominated outwash deposit. Hoodoos show two stacked till units with the upper till exhibiting subtle flow features and large clasts of bedded clay and peat. Radiocarbon dating of the peat would help constrain the age of deposition of the moraine. Pb levels measured in all sediments are between 3 ppm and 20 ppm, consistent with a pre-historical, Pleistocene age.


11. Analysis of July Through November Climate Indexes Influencing Tropical Storms Near Long Island

Presenter: Emma Levin (Paul D. Schreiber High School, Port Washington; emma.lilly10@yahoo.com)

Co-author: Hiroyuki Murakami (Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, Princeton, NJ; Hiroyuki.Murakami@noaa.gov)

Abstract: As a result of 19 tropical storms (TS) occurring between 1966 and 1992 that brought at least three inches of precipitation to New York State and 38 TS occurring between 1992 and 2017 that brought at least three inches of precipitation to New York State, summer climate conditions during those years were analyzed. Average July through November indexes (JASON) from 1966 to 2017 for Vertical Motion at 500 hPa (OMG), Relative Humidity at 600 hPa (RH), Relative Vorticity at 850 hPa (VOR), Vertical Wind Shear (VWS), Sea Surface Temperature (SST), and Relative Sea Surface Temperature compared to the tropics region (RSST) were analyzed specifically in between the geographic coordinates of 70o-80o West and 37o-42o North to assess the influence of anthropogenic climate change on summer storms near Long Island, New York. This analysis reveals that there is a strong correlation between time and JASON SST index (r > 0.7), indicating that there is a near-linear increase in SST each summer season near Long Island. There is a moderately positive correlation between time and JASON RSST index, revealing that warming in the oceans near Long Island has been continuously increasing at a rate greater than the rest of the tropics region. VOR and OMG additionally have moderate correlations (r ≈ 0.4 and r ≈ -0.4 respectively). Since 1966, RH and VWS have remained stagnant (r < 0.4) demonstrating that these indexes cannot be associated with the increase in TS. It is noted that SST and RSST exhibited the most noticeable changes since 1966 and can potentially be the most conclusive indexes about the TS frequency and influence on Long Island.


12. Trace Metal Concentration in Soil at Crossroads Farm in Malverne, New York

Presenters: Andrew Lewis (Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY; alewis18@pride.hofstra.edu), Aaron Hampton (Hofstra University, NY; ahampton1@pride.hofstra.edu), and Deana Hsu (Hofstra University, NY; dhsu1@pride.hofstra.edu)

Co-authors: Mark Jason (Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY; mjason1@pride.hofstra.edu), Miranda Maliszka (Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY; MirandaMarieM17@gmail.com), and Emma Farmer (Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY; emma.c.farmer@hofstra.edu)

Abstract: Soil pollution is one of the primary ways in which humans have had a negative impact on the environment. Recent studies have shown that excess levels of trace metals in soil are harmful to both human health and the environment. While trace metals are naturally occurring in soil, excessive levels of trace metals such as lead (Pb), copper (Cu), and titanium (Ti) can be harmful.  Such trace metal pollution is often a result of anthropogenic activity including industrial activity, use of agricultural chemicals, and improper waste disposal. This study tested the levels of trace metals in different soil samples from Crossroads Farm in Malverne, New York. Sixteen soil samples were collected from Field 2 of the farm at varying distances from the road adjacent to the farm, Ocean Avenue. In addition to Field 2, four soil samples were collected from the soil adjacent to the greenhouse. Finally, four soil samples were collected from the compost piles on the opposite side of the farm. Every sample was tested for its trace metal concentration using a pXRF (Portable X-ray Fluorescence) machine. The recorded trace metal concentrations observed using the pXRF were then compared to the standards set by organizations such as the EPA and NYSDEC. The results for Field 2 supported the hypothesis that as distance from Ocean Avenue increased average trace metal concentration in the soil samples decreased. The highest concentrations for Field 2, lead (281.99 mg/kg), copper (138.2 mg/kg), and titanium (3545.88 mg/kg), were still below the concentration that requires a restriction on land use as established by the EPA and NYSDEC. Although more sparsely sampled, the results for the greenhouse also supported that higher trace metal concentrations were found closer to the greenhouse. Overall, the soil at Crossroads Farm did not exceed the trace metal concentration standards set by the EPA and NYSDEC.


 

13. Defining Long Island’s Watersheds: Addressing Population for Managing Coastal Eutrophication

Presenter:  Mark Lusty (Stony Brook University, NY;mark.lusty@stonybrook.edu)

Abstract:  Groundwater discharge is a major contributor to eutrophication in Long Island’s many small estuaries.  Nutrients from wastewater leeches from septic systems into groundwater, where it is transported to the coast and flows into the estuaries [1].  The purpose of this project is to define Long Island’s watersheds, and compare their areas to the population distribution on the island to help municipalities address problem zones and plan for future growth.  Municipal boundaries were obtained from the NYS GIS clearinghouse and were used for comparison and clipping of other layers.  Population data and zip code areas were obtained from ESRI, and data extracted from the 2010 U.S. Census.  Population density was highest near New York City, and decreased eastward, with moderate densities extending into the central island.  Population growth rate did not appear to have a pattern, with isolated areas of high growth.  Watersheds were estimated using LiDAR elevation data obtained from the Cornell University (CUGIR), and were processed using the ArcMap Hydrology tools to obtain flow accumulation.  Watersheds were delineated and digitized by hand using Flow Accumulation and the elevation raster as guides, creating 56 aggregated watersheds.  The watersheds ranged from small near-shore flows, to large far-reaching river systems. Viewing watersheds at this scale provides an overview, but poor resolution for management purposes.  Additionally, a single watershed may flow through many towns.  This suggests that towns needing to work in tandem over a shared resource.


 

14. Tracking Water Quality Associated with Brown Tide (Aureococcus anophagefferens) Blooms in Great South Bay (New York) during Summer 2015

Presenter:  Brook Morrell (Stony Brook University, NY; brook.morrell@stonybrook.edu)

Abstract:  Brown tide (Aureococcus anophagefferens) first appeared in Long Island waters in 1985, devastating the local bay scallop fishery and has since bloomed yearly within South Shore estuaries, posing threats to the various bivalve species in the region. While the specific mechanism associated with known toxic isolates remains to be determined, brown tide blooms in excess of 105 cells/mL have the potential to harm filter feeding marine organisms, such as shellfish, while bloom concentrations of 106 cells/mL can result in mortalities of organisms within affected areas (Gastrich & Wazniak, 2010). Brown tide blooms threaten shellfish indirectly through shading from increased light attenuation in the water column, which results in the loss of nursery habitat for their larval and juvenile stages, with significant implications on recruitment and population structure. Direct effects on filter feeders, including bivalves, may result from ingestion of compounds associated with extracellular polysaccharide secretions, severely inhibiting feeding and clearance rates (Bricelj & Lonsdale, 1997). Due to the regular recurrence and detrimental effects of brown tide blooms, monitoring of water quality conditions can play a crucial role in assessing the potential impacts of a bloom. Organic nutrient concentrations, with emphasis on nitrate, are a contributor to brown tide bloom formation and are associated with groundwater seepage into bays and estuaries (Gobler & Sañudo-Wilhelmy, 2011). Long Island’s south shore features extensive marsh ditching, which may affect seepage and runoff into Great South Bay (GSB). During the summer of 2015, Great South Bay experienced an intensive, prolonged brown tide bloom, during which cruise tracks were performed periodically to monitor water quality conditions, and assess problematic sites.


15. Sedimentological Characterization of a Core from the Douglas Manor Marsh Using Laser Diffractometry

Presenter:  Lauren Munn (Elmont Memorial High School, Elmont, NY; laurenmunn2.0.1.9@gmail.com)

Co-author:  J Bret Bennington (Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY; j.b.bennington@hofstra.edu)

Abstract:  Douglas Manor Marsh in north Queens, NY is a coastal wetland invaded by Phragmites australis (Common Reed). The Douglas Manor Environmental Association (DMEA) wants to restore the marsh to pre-invasion conditions to improve habitat for native flora and fauna.  This research has two main objectives: to determine past environmental conditions in the marsh by looking for distinct changes in sediment particle size over time and to evaluate methods of particle size determination.  A previously obtained sediment core was separated into 1 cm sections and evaluated using the traditional dry sieving method and laser particle analysis with the Malvern Mastersizer 3000.  Lead (Pb) levels in the fine fraction of core samples were measured using benchtop XRF (x-ray fluorescence spectroscopy) and provide a rough chronology of deposition. The results from the Mastersizer were similar to the traditional dry sieved particle size distributions suggesting viability of the more efficient laser diffractometry method.  Sediments at the bottom of the core are glacial sands and gravels overlain by fine-grained, organic-rich wetland muds.  An increasing component of sand in the makeup of the wetland muds is observed in the upper third of the core, dating to approximately the mid-1800s. The origin of the sandy material could be from runoff associated with anthropogenic modification of the adjacent uplands or from storm or tidal deposition of marine sands associated with sea level rise and increasing marine influence. The analysis will be utilized by the DMEA to inform decision-making for restoration of this region. 


16. Shinnecock Bay Restoration Program (ShiRP):Using GIS to Inform Restoration Efforts

Presenter: Erin O’Connor (Stony Brook University, NY; connor2.718@gmail.com)

Abstract: Tourism is a huge industry in New York, generating over $100 billion dollars in 2015, and the Hampton Bays, such as Shinnecock and Quantuck Bay, are major tourist attractions on Long Island. However, the attention these marine areas receive has impacted the health of the local environment. It is thought that anthropogenic sources of nitrogen, such as septic tank leaching and fertilizing lawns, have caused algal blooms, which decrease the amount of oxygen dissolved in water. The decrease in oxygen and water quality in general has had a negative impact on ecologically and economically important species in Shinnecock and Quantuck Bay, many of which are endangered or threatened.


17. Using eDNA to Detect Fish Species of Long Island Rivers

Presenter: Erin O’Connor (Stony Brook University, NY; oconnor2.718@gmail.com)

Co-authors: Scott Bronson (Office of Educational Programs, Brookhaven National Laboratory, Upton, NY 11973; sbronson@bnl.gov) and Aleida Perez (Office of Educational Programs, Brookhaven National Laboratory, Upton, NY 11973; pereza@bnl.gov)

Abstract: Traditional methods of species monitoring in freshwater ecosystems such as seining and electrofishing are expensive and invasive. A new species detection method of collecting environmental DNA, or eDNA, which is DNA free floating in water from cells, mucus, blood, tissues, and feces released by species into their environment, is cost-effective and less invasive. By filtering river water, performing a DNA extraction protocol on the filters, and performing PCR, we found that DNA can in fact be extracted from Long Island river water. The next step in this project is to sequence this DNA using Illumina sequencing. If we are able to identify fish species from water collected from rivers, the eDNA method can serve as a new species monitoring method.


18. Restoring Wild Oyster Reefs: Optimization of Population Sustainability Through Mathematical Modeling

Presenter:  Vinny Pagano (Long Beach Senior High School, NY; wilddrummer@optonline.net)

Abstract:  Restoration efforts of wild oysters are often unsuccessful, in that they do not produce a robust population of oysters that are able to successfully reproduce. Furthermore, the dynamics of wild oyster fertilization is not well understood. As stochastic as the mating process may seem, a correlation has been made between the resulting oyster populations’ fertilization rates, the age of the sperm, and the sperm concentration (Weissberg, Justin). These are some of the factors which can affect the success rate. To contextually model the oyster sustainability, in probabilistic terms, is to analyze its respective features and their corresponding levels of influence. It is imperative that scientists and biologists recognize not only the factors involved with the reintroduction/revival of wild oyster populations but also the most effective, optimization methods. Therefore, improvements were focused on mathematically defining a procedure which simulated a concentration distribution of a single sperm and egg where there existed conditions necessary for breeding to take place. This could be used as a foundation for developing a flexible model for wild fertilization based on placement, initial seawater conditions, and size of the starting population. The results of this research could be implemented into a user-friendly program which would accept multiple variables as inputs and output the probability of fertilization given arbitrary values. By accounting for environmental deviations, this generalization would increase its compatibility with the public and actualize the project’s intended purpose: enhance the planning of oyster reef restoration projects. Significant progress was made towards constructing a mathematical model. 


19. Comparison of Three Techniques for Estimating Population Size of Raccoons on Ruler’s Bar Hassock, New York

Presenter: Jeanette Rodriguez (Biology, Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY; jrodriguez5@pride.hofstra.edu)

Co-authors: Russell Burke (Biology, Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY; russell.l.burke@hofstra.edu), and Maureen Krause (Biology, Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY; maureen.k.krause@hofstra.edu)

Abstract: Estimating population size is an essential part of many management and conservation decisions. The goal of this study is to compare the effectiveness and cost/sampling effort trade-offs of three techniques: traditional mark-recapture, DNA-based capture-recapture, and wildlife camera traps. Each method has its advantages and disadvantages in regards to invasiveness, cost, type of data obtained, and labor/time required. The model organism for this test, Procyon lotor (Raccoon), is common on the island of Ruler’s Bar Hassock (RBH), in Jamaica Bay, NY. Each technique was conducted over four sessions from 2015-2016 with 20-25 of each trap type placed at different locations across RBH. Traditional mark-recapture involved medium-sized box traps baited with cat food. Captured raccoons were sedated with Telazol and microchipped for future identification. Preliminary results using programs MARK and DENSITY show that the population size and density during this period was 11.2 raccoons and 0.47 individuals/ha, respectively. DNA-based capture-recapture involved collection of hair samples from baited “cubbies”, 5-gallon buckets anchored on their sides with barbed wire strands suspended inside in an inverted ‘V’. DNA was extracted from samples and amplified using standard PCR techniques and raccoon-specific primers. The results of microsatellite fragment analysis will provide a genetic fingerprint allowing individual identification and population size estimation using MARK. Unbaited wildlife camera traps were attached to vertical objects facing open ground. Results from camera traps will be used to estimate population size following a model proposed by Rowcliffe et al. (2008), which scales trapping rate linearly with animal density, based on biological variables and camera parameters. The benefit of this model is that it does not require individuals to have uniquely recognizable markings. This study will provide researchers interested in estimating population size a basic framework for selecting a technique that balances cost, labor, and time with short and long term goals.


 20. Ribbed mussels: Remediators of Urban Waterways in Need of Living Space

Presenter: Clarrissa M. Santos (CUNY LaGuardia Community College, NY; csantos2300@gmail.com)

Co-authors: Katherine Torres (CUNY LaGuardia Community College, NY; katherine.torres3@live.lagcc.cuny.edu) and Sarah E. Durand (CUNY LaGuardia Community College, NY; sdurand@lagcc,cuny.edu)

Abstract:  Geukensia demissa (Ribbed Mussel) are bivalves that inhabit the brackish waters of New York’s estuary. A branch of the estuary, Newtown Creek, extends between north Brooklyn and western Queens and was the source of mussels and water samples for a study of G. demissa filtration. Water samples and mussels were collected within 150 meters of a major combined sewage overflow (CSO) outfall in order to test whether Ribbed Mussels could significantly reduce levels of Escherichia coli, a fecal bacterium present in CSO discharges. Significant (P < 0.01) reduction of bacterial levels over control water samples suggested that with sufficient population size, the Ribbed Mussel could have a positive effect on water quality beyond what has been previously identified for this species. We have piloted several approaches to increase mussel living space along the shoreline of Newtown Creek. 


21. Ephemeral Pool Maintenance for Piping Plover Recovery in Urban Landscapes.

Presenter: Tara Schneider-Moran (Conservation and Waterways, Town of Hempstead, Point Lookout, NY; tschneider@tohmail.org)

Co-authors: James P. Browne (Conservation and Waterways, Town of Hempstead, Point Lookout, NY; ecojimb@gmail.com), Robert Longiaru (Conservation and Waterways, Town of Hempstead, Point Lookout, NY; r.longiaru@gmail.com), Shannon Jenkins (Conservation and Waterways, Town of Hempstead, Point Lookout, NY and Brooklyn College, CUNY; jenkins.shannon89@gmail.com), Chris Smith (Conservation and Waterways, Town of Hempstead, Point Lookout, NY and Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY; crsmith1313@gmail.com), and Crystal A. Crown (Conservation and Waterways, Town of Hempstead, Point Lookout, NY; crystal.a.crown@gmail.com)

Abstract:  Fostering endangered species’ populations in urban environments is a challenging task for conservation biologists, requiring solutions that balance the needs of both the species’ and human populations vying for the same space. Matters are further complicated when key species’ habitat is located on heavily patronized recreational locations, as is often the case with beach-nesting bird species such as Charadrius melodus (Piping Plover). Since in the 1990s, the Town of Hempstead Department of Conservation and Waterways (TOH C&W) has explored management practices to enable local recovery of the Piping Plover on the heavily used barrier beaches abutting Jones Inlet (Long Island, NY), while minimizing restrictions on public beach usage. These beaches are of additional interest because of engineering projects and land-use changes that have both reshaped the beaches and the surrounding communities, resulting in changes to vital habitat. This poster outlines the maintenance of habitat for Piping Plover nesting and chick development undertaken by TOH C&W. Practices employed include artificial maintenance of early successional stage conditions, including maintenance of sparse beach grass (chick cover), and the encouragement of marine microbial mats. The photosynthesis and productivity in these mats in ephemeral pools-- often consisting of an anaerobic sulfur-based community-- appear to support invertebrate populations that provide food for developing chicks. Data collected on the location and fate of ephemeral pools, beach maintenance practices, nest locations, and chick behavior and mortality from representative years since the 1990s are presented here, in addition to results of preliminary statistical analyses. Overall, our results suggest that wide, shallow ephemeral pools can be successfully maintained to encourage plover chick development and survival in parts of the beach less-heavily used by the public. These results can be employed to aid management of this endangered species locally and on other urban beaches.


22. Geospatial Analysis of the Distribution of Sea Turtles and Sharks off the Coast of Long Island, New York

Presenter: Sohum Sheth (Sayville High School, NY; ssheth@st.sayvilleschools.org)

Abstract: Understanding the distribution of sharks and sea turtles can lead to better protection of their species, of which many are endangered. Sea turtles live in the warm waters of our planet's oceans, with Long Island being a prominent feeding zone for New York’s four species of sea turtle. The waters off Long Island also house several species of shark, which migrate based on the location of their food, which includes fish, turtle, whale, dolphin, and other shark. Data for the incidental sightings of sea turtles and sharks was provided courtesy of the Coastal Research and Educational Society of Long Island. Additional shark data were retrieved from ocearch.com. ArcMap Version 10.5.1 was used to geospatially analyze the datasets using the Spatial Analyst Extension and the Spatial Statistics Toolbox to assess clustering, statistically validate clustering, and identify predictive models for variables that spatially explain the habitat preference of sharks observed off the Long Island coastline. Variables evaluated include depth, sea surface temperature, adult and calve whales, dolphins, fish prey density, and sea turtles. A geographic hotspot for shark occurrences in the region was identified. This hotspot area correlated to hotspots of observations for dolphins and adult whales but not whale calves or turtles which may imply preferred foraging areas for sharks. These results are important for increased knowledge of Elasmobranch habitat preferences locally to continue to protect species and habitats of conservation interest.


23. Estimating Declines in Natural Nutrient Cycling in Great South Bay, Long Island New York

Presenter: Danielle Stapleton (Adelphi University, New York; daniellestapleton@mail.adelphi.edu)

Co-author: James P. Browne (Department of Conservation and Waterways, Town of Hempstead, New York; ecojimb@gmail.com)

Abstract:  This study examines the anthropogenic effects on the natural nutrient cycling in the Great South Bay of Long Island, New York. Determining the effects on nutrient cycling requires a baseline examining the early conditions in order to define what is normal. When lacking a baseline, we cannot attain an accurate idea of what habitat restoration is required, and without proper information any restoration may be futile and unworkable. To create a clearer image, we examine the estimates of estuarine fish and invertebrate populations developed in research by Nuttall et al. (2011) and Nuttall (2010), to reconstruct the historic nutrient conditions of Great South Bay. We use the species and biomass listed by Nuttall et al. (2011), combined with excretion rates for those species or similar species as found in the literature to model the changes through time in the natural nutrient cycling. The results show that the natural nutrient cycling declined with population declines, likely due to overharvesting.  We can also conclude that the greater total excretion that we estimate for the older Great South Bay systems would have supported a higher phytoplankton levels that could have, in turn, supported an even greater biomass at upper trophies levels than estimated by Nuttall et al. (2011) in their models of earlier years.


24. Tarmac Terrapins: Comparing Two Populations of Diamondback Terrapins (Malaclemys terrapin) in New York City’s Jamaica Bay

Presenter: Melissa Zostant (Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY; The Port Authority of New York & New Jersey; mzostant@panynj.gov)

Co-authors: Russell Burke (Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY; russell.l.burke@hofstra.edu) and Laura Francoeur, The Port Authority of New York & New Jersey: lfrancoe@panynj.gov)

Abstract: In 2009 hundreds of nesting Malaclemys terrapin (Diamondback Terrapin) emerged onto the runways at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York City, where only a few terrapins had been observed each year previously. Historically, the primary nesting site for the terrapins in Jamaica Bay was the central island of Rulers Bar, in Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge. Since then (2009-2017), approximately 2,600 terrapins have been uniquely marked using cohort notching and RFID tags at JFK compared to approximately 3000 individuals marked 1998-2017 at Rulers Bar. This indicates that a small terrapin population has grown very large, very quickly. Only a few terrapins from JFK have been found at Rulers Bar, and none from Rulers Bar have been found at JFK, suggesting two separate populations although they are only 4.5 km apart. Preliminary data analysis show that the diets of the two populations do not differ significantly. Plastron and carapace measurements, as well as analysis of growth rings from individuals from both populations have shown thus far that the JFK population is much younger, and also smaller in shell size than the population at Rulers Bar. The number of nests, clutch sizes and egg sizes have been observed since 1998 at Rulers Bar and these observations began in 2015 at JFK. The clutch sizes of the two populations do not significantly differ, however the egg mass and length is significantly larger at Rulers Bar.
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25. Mineralogical Analysis of Indian Rock, a Large Glacial Erratic in Rocky Point, NY

Presenter:  Annalisa Zovich (Sanford H. Calhoun High School, Merrick, NY; annzovich@bmchsd.org)

Co-author:  J Bret Bennington (Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY; j.b.bennington@hofstra.edu)

Abstract:  Indian Rock is a glacial erratic found in Rocky Point, New York. It is located along Sam’s Path on private property and has yet to have any major studies completed on it.  Little is known about the history, chemical composition, or classification of the boulder. The rock is approximately 12 x 40 meters. It is well weathered over most of its surface, but has visible feldspar pegmatitic zones within a more foliated groundmass. Samples of unweathered rock were obtained and examined under magnification. Petrographic thin sections were prepared and the mineral composition and texture of the rock were observed with a petrographic microscope. Visual observation reveals dark crystals of biotite mica, pink crystals of potassium feldspar, and clear crystals of quartz and albite. After geochemical and petrologic analysis, the composition was confirmed to be those four minerals, which would mean the boulder is most likely a meta-quartz monzonite, as many glacial erratics found along the north shore of eastern Long Island appear to be. This is a common rock type of the Avalonian Terrain of eastern New England, although the large size and angularity of the erratic suggests that its origin was closer to its present location, from similar crystalline bedrock beneath Long Island Sound.