Live, from Peconic Bay, it's National Estuaries Day

September 24, 2004

Each September, the EstuaryLive Webcast has been the featured event for National Estuaries Day -- a celebration to promote the importance of estuaries and the need to protect them.

This year, Peconic Estuary in New York's eastern Long Island was one of seven featured estuaries from around the country. New York Sea Grant's Shana Miller, Technical Outreach Specialist from the Peconic Estuary Program was one of the participating naturalists as the event went live via the Web the morning of September 23 from the Suffolk County Marine Environmental Learning Center in Southold, NY.

Thousands of students nationally viewed EstuaryLive, a free interactive field trip to some of the nation's estuaries that students and the public viewed by registering at http://www.estuarylive.org.

"The Peconic Estuary Live web cast was informative, interactive and a true collaboration with participants from the Peconic Estuary Program, NOAA's New York Sea Grant, US EPA, NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, Suffolk County, Cornell Extension, and the Riverhead and Quogue school districts," said Barbara Branca, New York Sea Grant's communications manager.

Kicking off the web cast was Peconic Estuary Program Manager Vito Minei who explained why The Nature Conservancy named Peconic Estuary one of the "Last Great Places." The EPA's Rick Balla explained to students from Riverhead High School and Quogue Elementary School why the Peconic Bay system is an "Estuary of National Significance" and what is being done to protect and restore the "habitats and inhabitants" of the estuary.

Along a splendid stretch of beach on the sunny fall day, Gill Lankshear's elementary students got up close and personal with various Peconic critters like horseshoe crab, sea star, whelk and hairy sea cucumber with help from Cornell educator Stacy Myers. Lance Mion's marine science students showed their knowledge of the bay's algae under the direction of Laura Bavaro of the Peconic Estuary Program and DEC's Karen Chytalo both of whom actually munched on some of the bay's sea lettuce.

Introduced by the lively host of the web cast, Gayle Marriner-Smith, Cornell educator Chris Pickerell donned a wet suit and used an underwater camera to give a fish-eye view of the bay. Steve Schott gave students a tour of the eelgrass greenhouse and explained how this important grass acts as a nursery in the Peconics, why it has been depleted, and what is being done to restore it.

At the shellfish hatchery, bayman Fred Fiedler told students first hand about the ecological,economic and cultural importance of shellfish. Aquaculturist Gregg Rivara discussed how brown tide algae virtually wiped out a once nationally significant bay scallop shellfishery. Helped by Mike Patricio, kids got a glimpse of shellfish larvae through microscopes. Aquaculturist Kim Tetrault, Otto Schmid and Quogue fourth graders demonstrated the workings of Cornell's successful "SPAT" program, which aims to encourage community members to become stewards of the environment by restoring shellfish to the bays around which they live.

New York Sea Grant's Shana Miller and a chorus of school kids signed off the web cast with these recommendation to protect Peconic estuary:

The don'ts:
Don't litter
Don't release balloons

The do's:
Participate in beach clean-ups
Practice catch and release fishing
Use bilge socks on boats
Tell others about estuaries

Throughout the web cast, students from around the country sent a steady stream of questions, many of which the naturalists answered on air as time allowed. EstuaryLive is sponsored by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), NOAA's National Estuarine Research Reserve System, the U.S. EPA's National Estuary Program and many other local sponsors. The September 23 web cast also featured estuaries in North Carolina, Weeks Bay, Alabama and Waquoit Bay in Cape Cod, Massachusetts.
-end-


National Sea Grant College Program

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