Environmental Science students and the Ecology Club were joined by AP Biology and National Honor Society students on a trip that explored the past, present, and future of the Hudson River Estuary. The students sailed out of Kingston on April 25th aboard the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, a reproduction of the historical sailing vessels built particularly for use on the Hudson and once a common sight on the river. Clearwater hosts environmental education programs and acts as a steward and advocate for this magnificent natural resource.
On-board, the group cruised the waters near the Rondout Creek Light House in search of adventure and clues to what lay beneath them in the river.
They divided into groups and rotated through stations to engage in different activities with the Clearwater’s educator-sailors. The students manned the rudder and steered the vessel, raised the sails (and sang some songs), and learned about navigational tools and life aboard a sloop like the Clearwater.
They looked at water chemistry tests and discovered the rain that was falling was fairly acidic. They caught and discussed different types of fish in the river, including perch, hogchoker (pictured), American eel, and catfish.
They also conducted water trawling tests for microplastics, and unfortunately, they found some. Microplastics are a burgeoning environmental issue – tiny nonbiodegradable pieces of plastic (some at the microscopic level) caused by discarded plastic being broken down by waves and weather, or coming from microbeads used in cosmetic products such as toothpaste and exfoliating cleansers. Microplastics carry toxins and can cause harm to fish and other marine life. One of our students on the trip, Stella Fairall, did her senior exhibition on microbeads and led a discussion with her group on their dangers. Clearwater is participating with other organizations to collect and report results of microplastics in the environment to help support legislation that would curb this pollution.
Though it was cold and rainy for most of the day, the students had a really great experience. Several expressed interest in returning to volunteer aboard the Clearwater this summer.
This trip was made possible by a grant CHS science teacher Sandy Fischer wrote and received from the Chatham Education Foundation of the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation.
You can learn more about the Clearwater and its mission at www.clearwater.org.