Stevenson Swanson is the Science Media Manager at The New York Botanical Garden.
Even in this teeming metropolis, nature is all around us. You just have to look for it. But it helps to know what you’re looking for and what you’re seeing when you’ve found it.
That’s where The New York Botanical Garden’s Urban Naturalist Program comes in.
Called “life-changing” by students who took the course this spring, the fall Urban Naturalist Program will equip you with the observation, interpretation and documentation skills necessary to become a citizen scientist and an effective environmental steward. Led by Mike Feller, our team of expert naturalists, including Ken Chaya and Nancy Slowik, will use the Botanical Garden’s grounds and select New York City parks as living labs to investigate the interrelationships between species and discover how our urban environment sustains those ecosystems.
A quicksilver flash diverts your eye from the Bronx River’s frothy flow over the 182nd St. dam at River Park. Was it just the remnants of a potato chip bag slithering downstream?
Look again, and quick! If you’re lucky, you could glimpse an American eel, Anguilla rostrata.
Against unfavorable odds, the American eel has persisted in the urban waterways of New York since the city’s inception—surviving years of industrial pollution, raw sewage dumping, and runoff. In recent years, their populations have entered a precipitous decline, driven in part by long-term effects of the damming of freshwater rivers and streams, which they require as habitat.
What makes this strange and wonderful species—its finely-scaled body coated in a mucous layer that is truly “slippery as an eel”—important?
Chelsea’s powerhouse Gagosian Gallery is not the most likely place you’d find pressed herbarium specimens.
But that’s exactly what you’ll see there as part of the gallery’s current show by multidisciplinary artist Taryn Simon.
In “Paperwork and the Will of Capital,” Simon recreates and photographs the elaborate centerpieces that sat between powerful men as they signed agreements designed to change the world. Preparing the exhibition, Simon worked with Daniel Atha, NYBG botanist and Conservation Program Manager, and Sheranza Alli, NYBG Senior Museum Preparator and Herbarium Aid, who teach a Plant Collection and Preservation Workshop at the Garden.
Daniel Atha is the Conservation Program Manager at The New York Botanical Garden. Richard Abbott, Ph.D., is a botanist at the Botanical Garden, where he works primarily on updating the Manual of Vascular Plants of Northeastern United States and Adjacent Canada. Donald McClelland, Ph.D., studied at the Garden and is currently Adjunct Assistant Professor at Baruch College.
Feeling like astronauts exploring an alien planet, the three of us conducted botanical investigations on the capped and newly vegetated mountains of garbage that is Freshkills Park—once the largest landfill in the world. Resembling a moonscape, only with methane-capturing wells and a thick mantle of grass, the mound at Freshkills Park is soon to become a public recreation area.
Internships may seem like a summer-only opportunity to gain exposure to a field and make a contribution to a project, but that’s not the case at The New York Botanical Garden’s Science Division. We have interns here during all four seasons, performing important work and learning plant science firsthand from our researchers.
One of our volunteer summer interns, Chelsea Fowler, a biology student at the University of Tampa, wrote about her recent experience working in the Garden’s William and Lynda Steere Herbarium on a project that is part of the effort to digitize the Steere Herbarium’s 7.4 million preserved plant specimens. This post is from the iDigBio Web site, a national resource for information about digitized natural history collections. Our thanks to the Florida Museum of Natural History, where the Web site is based, for permission to repost Chelsea’s story.