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NWP Global Registry of Apprentice Ecologists - Mt. Loretto Unique Area, Staten Island, New York, USA

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Mt. Loretto Unique Area, Staten Island, New York, USA
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Registered: April 2018
City/Town/Province: Staten Island
Posts: 1
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My Project: To combat ocean pollution and help marine wildlife by becoming a DEP Beach Floatables Monitor.
Last February, I had a wonderful experience as I ran along the beach at Mount Loretto on Staten Island. I noticed a large commotion of splashing a few feet out in the water so I stopped to take a closer look. An adorable face with large round eyes and a glistening nose burst out of the water. It was a harbor seal! Three more heads popped up. I was surprised and overjoyed to see seals on Staten Island. I watched as they dove under the water and playfully wrestled with each other. Every few minutes they would pop up again and look right at me. There's something about those large endearing eyes that melted my heart.
Toward the end of March, I was back at Mount Loretto for a run and thrilled to see the seals again. My excitement turned to dread as I realized that one of them had a plastic bag attached to his front flipper. He was desperately trying to remove it by twisting and turning. I went to the Ranger Station for help and they called the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research on Long Island. Riverhead rescues and rehabilitates marine animals. It was almost dark so they said they would come the next day. The ranger informed me that entanglements are very serious because when the animal struggles to free itself the object usually becomes tighter. The next morning, I went back to the beach and the ranger had great news. The bag had come lose and the seal appeared to be uninjured. It was an enormous relief to see the seals back to their comical antics. That was the last time I saw the seals.
The statistics regarding fatal marine animal entanglements are shocking. Hundreds of thousands of marine animals are killed each year from trash in our oceans. Seals, sea turtles, sea lions, sea birds, whales and dolphins are the animals most severely impacted. Plastic is toxic and non-biodegradable so its effect on the environment and wildlife is devastating. The most deadly items are plastic bags, packing bands, straws, balloons, rubber bands, fishing nets and fishing lines. Marine animals die a slow and painful death after ingesting or becoming entangled in these. Unfortunately, there are billions of pounds of plastic swirling in our oceans.
I wanted to do something to help so I began volunteering for beach clean-ups. During one of the these, I heard that the Department of Environmental Protection was looking for volunteers for their Floatables Beach Surveillance Program. I became a Beach Floatables Monitor last spring. I chose Mount Loretto as my location. Floatables are waterborne waste materials that float and wash up on the beaches during high tide. There are 135 different types including medical waste and oil slicks. I clean the beach weekly and I report the floatables that I find. I also monitor and report the quality of the water. The DEP will respond immediately if there is an problem. The majority of the floatables that I dispose of and report are not surprisingly - plastic. Ocean pollution is not going away anytime soon, but it feels good to know that I have removed pounds of pollution that had the potential to harm wildlife around Staten Island and beyond. Even if only one marine animal has been spared the terrible ordeal of an entanglement, it is worth it!
This experience has reinforced my desire to become a Science Teacher. I feel passionate about educating children on environmental issues and hopefully inspiring them to get involved. Education is an important tool in combating ocean pollution and in protecting the animals that live in our oceans. Steve Irwin said it best, "If we teach people about wildlife, they will be touched. Share my wildlife with me. Because humans want to save things that they love."
I hope to see the harbor seals back on Staten Island next winter - happy and healthy!
Date: April 24, 2018 Views: 3706 File size: 16.5kb, 176.6kb : 768 x 730
Hours Volunteered: 64 hours
Volunteers: 5
Authors Age & Age Range of Volunteers: 17 & 22-50
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