Water Quality Monitoring

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In November after 5pm in New York City it’s already dark like at night. But youth in environmental after-school programs in the Bronx are working hard in all seasons to improve urban social-ecological systems. On-Water program in Rocking the Boat is one of such programs that combine a wide range of education and restoration approaches and youth development activities – anything from the restoration of oyster reefs to learning outdoor recreation skills, and from planting moss in walls to conducting various inquiry activities. For example, when I came earlier this week to Rocking the Boat, young people were conducting water quality monitoring. They were using a turbidity tube to evaluate water transparency and a number of other measurements such as temperature, pH, salinity, and dissolved oxygen. Rocking the Boat collects this data on a regular basis and submits it to the Bronx River Alliance, which in turn helps local environmental organizations to make more informed decisions about future restoration activities along the Bronx River watershed.

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Amphibious Architecture

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Illuminating glass pipes sticking out of the Bronx River look very futuristic and high-tech, they capture your imagination and stimulate curiosity. This fall the Bronx River features Amphibious Architecture, a fascinating education project designed by Natalie Jeremijenko, an associate professor at New York University, and her colleagues. The project is a collaboration between the Environmental Health Clinic and the Living Architecture Lab at Columbia Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation. Yesterday Natalie conducted in Drew Gardens a presentation of this project for the Bronx community.

A quote from the Amphibious Architecture website: “Amphibious Architecture is a visual interface floating on the water’s surface, (…) housing a range of sensors below water and an array of light emitting diodes above water. The sensors monitor water quality, the presence of fish, and human interest in the river’s ecosystem, while the lights respond to the sensors, creating feedback loops between humans, fish in their shared environment. Additionally an SMS interface allows homo-citizens to text-message the fish and receive real-time information about the river, contributing towards the collective display of human interest in the aquatic environment. The aim of which is to simultaneously spark a larger public interest and dialogue about our local waterways.”

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About twenty youth and adults came to this presentation, most of them have stopped by during the Pedal and Paddle trip organized by the Bronx River Alliance. They were communicating with fish in the Bronx River by sending SMS (text messages) using cell phones. Then carps responded by activating blue lights in glass-made structures floating on the river as well as by generating automatic SMS responses sent back to people’s cell phones. I think this is such a creative way to inspire curiosity about science, and reconnect people with the natural environment.