Science on the River

This past weekend, Hudson River Park hosted an educational event dubbed “Science on the River”. On Saturday, one of our piers was transformed into an environmental education extravaganza. Several organizations converged to educate the public on core sampling, fish of the Hudson River, benthic invertebrates, sponge parks, oysters, and we had an SCA table too! There were some crafts, dirt, live fish, live crabs, and a Hudson River folk band called “Betty and the Baby Boomers”. As people arrived, they were able to snag a yellow “passport” that was stamped at every table and later turned in for a prize of a pencil, Hudson River fish poster, and a temporary tattoo!

The event went very well, despite some early morning rain. I got really wet, but the sun came out at around 10:30 and before we knew it we were in full swing. I mostly stayed at the “fish anatomy” table during the festival, and I had a lot of fun. I was having a little difficulty describing some concepts to the kids at first. One of them included explaining how the swim bladder in a fish works. Eventually, I found that comparing it to sinking or floating in a swimming pool was a good place to start—having an example that child has experienced directly is always helpful.

I also had a lot of fun helping people identify, or “key out,” the fish species in our demonstration tank, especially when someone came up to the table and saw our oyster toadfish!

I also enjoyed having the event attendees interact with our touch tank. The initial squeal was always replaced by excitement once they worked up enough courage to have a mud crab crawl into their hands.

Science on the River was a successful day, and all of the attendees seemed to understand why we were there, and genuinely wanted to learn and listen to what we had to say. This event allowed the park to accomplish one of its many goals, this one being its initiative to educate the public about the ecology and issues facing the Hudson River.

Since we are on the subject of the park, now may be a good time to explain a little bit about how we work over here. The Trust’s mission statement is “to encourage, promote and expand public access to the Hudson River, to promote water-based recreation, and enhance the natural, cultural, and historic aspects of the river from Battery Place to West 59th Street in New York City for residents and visitors to the area.”

Hudson River Park itself is 5 miles long, located on the west side of Manhattan (along the Hudson River) and managed by the Hudson River Park Trust (HRPT). Before HRPT took over the renewal of the waterfront it was completely abandoned, so that access to it was not only difficult, but dangerous. People had to get through fences, broken down buildings, and areas that were constantly falling apart.


Pier 49, Now a pile field that provides habitat and food for fish and wildlife.


West side of Manhattan before the park


Pier 64, 1998


Pier 64, 2012

Since the creation of the Trust, thirteen piers have been completely rebuilt, a continuous bikeway (as well as esplanade) has been constructed that spans the entirety of the park, and free programming draws patrons by the thousands every summer. The difference that HRPT has made over the past ten years is immeasurable, as it has positively affected businesses, housing, overall community building, and has caused countless other positive effects.

What my coworkers and I do on a daily basis can vary. Mostly what we are doing overall is increasing the public’s awareness of the Hudson River and the issues facing it. We do this by introducing people to the waterfront and educating them through our scheduled programming geared towards both adults and children. We also work to encourage research in our 400-acre estuarine sanctuary (managed and protected by the Trust), provide citizen science opportunities for the public (this allows them to be involved in helping the river and surrounding area), and manage historic vessels that wish to dock in the park and educate the public as well. We also occasionally have educational tables at other organizations events.

The Park is really an organization full of people who care about what they do. It is evident when you walk by everyone’s offices and desks and see them hard at work over planning everything from event logistics to fixing a broken golf cart. One thing is for sure, everything we do here involves making the park a wonderful place to be.

On that note, I leave you with this video. A compilation and explanation of the lovely event we had this weekend,

“In the end we will conserve only what we love, we will love only what we understand. We will understand only what we are taught.”-Baba Dioum