The Reboli Center for Art and History, 64 Main St., Stony Brook continues its Third Friday series on Feb. 17 with a presentation titled The Enchanted Islands — Galapagos with guest speakers Carl Safina and Patricia Paladines from 6:30 to 8 p.m.
The volcanic islands 600 miles west of the Pacific coast of South America have lured humans for hundreds of years. In 1535 a Spanish galleon carrying the Bishop of Panama found itself drifting helplessly in a no-wind situation near the islands. The crew, including the Bishop—finding themselves running out of water—staggered ashore. For two days they searched the land of black rocks finding nothing to alleviate their thirst. In desperation they began eating the island’s cacti, squeezing out the water these succulent plants retain. Unimpressed with the volcanic oasis that saved his life, the Bishop wrote in his journal that what earth the islands have, “is like a slag, worthless.”
Herman Melville also passed through the Galapagos aboard the whaler Acushnet, drawing inspiration for his most famous novel, Moby-Dick. But the most paradigm shifting visit was made 300 years after the cactus eating Bishop, with the arrival of Charles Darwin aboard the Beagle. His observations in the Galapagos Islands changed the way we understand the origins of life. But at first arrival, Darwin did not immediately see the beauty in the animals that greeted him. Upon seeing the islands’ endemic marine iguana, he noted, “The black Lava rocks on the beach are frequented by large…most disgusting, clumsy Lizards…They are as black as the porous rocks over which they crawl.”
As the world celebrates Charles Darwin’s 224th birthday this month, Safina and Paladines will share their personal observations of the enchanting islands, the unique life forms that inhabit the rugged landscape, and the conservation efforts that now protect this crucible of evolutionary understanding.
This family-friendly event is free to the public and no reservations are required to attend. Refreshments will be served. For more information, call 631-751-7707 or visit www.rebolicenter.org.
Birdlovers art sale to support local environmental groups
By Melissa Arnold
Birds have long fascinated nature enthusiasts of all ages, and it’s easy to understand why. Their wide variety, brilliant colors, seasonal travel and flight skills provide a lot to admire. Those same qualities have made birds a frequent subject in art for generations as well.
On the weekend of Nov. 11, the historic Bates House in Setauket will host a special 3-day art sale and silent auction entitled “Audubon and Friends.” All proceeds from the weekend will be split equally among four local organizations dedicated to protecting Long Island’s wildlife and environment: The Seatuck Environmental Association, the Four Harbors Audubon Society (4HAS), The Safina Center, and Frank Melville Memorial Park.
The idea for the event came from conservationist John Turner and his brother Craig, who shared a love for nature from their early years.
John, who is conservation chair at Seatuck and serves on the board of 4HAS, developed a passion for birding as he watched his father feed the birds as a young boy.
“I was pretty active in conservation even as a teen — when you fall in love with something, you want to see it protected and have the ability to flourish,” said the Setauket resident. “I was really affected by stories of pollution, fires and disasters on the news, and I wanted to do whatever I could to help.”
Craig Turner’s interest in birdwatching developed later, thanks to an old friend from his time in the Air Force.
“He fed all sorts of birds at his home, and whenever I would visit I would become completely captivated by watching them stop to eat,” Craig recalled. “It became a wonderful excuse for me to get outside and see what I could find, and it was a great window into exploring natural history as well.”
Craig would go on to befriend a man who lived near him in Maryland who ran an Audubon magazine and also collected an array of bird depictions, many of them made by early natural history artists. Craig found the prints beautiful and desired to start a collection of his own.
“I thought the prints would look great at home, and then eBay came along, which gave me the ability to acquire things that would otherwise be very expensive, like prints made by John James Audubon in the 1840s,” he said.
By 2012, he had amassed so many prints that he decided to open his own shop in Annapolis, Md. The Audubon and Friends Gallery sold a variety of natural history prints as well as glassware and wood carvings before its closing in 2015.
As much as he treasured each piece, it didn’t make sense for one person to have so many, Craig said to John some time afterward. Why not continue to find ways to share beautiful work with others?
And John had another thought: Why not make it for a good cause as well?
“I wanted to do whatever I could to support the hard work of environmental conservation and protection, and I thought it would be fun to explore the history of natural history art in a talk,” said Craig.
So the event took shape — the beautiful Bates House in Frank Melville Memorial Park would host more than 100 prints from some of the earliest natural history artists, including John James Audubon, Mark Catesby and Alexander Wilson. Depending on value, some pieces will be for sale, while other, rarer pieces will be available in a silent auction held throughout the weekend.
“Audubon wanted to catalogue all the North American birds in life-size prints, and his work became the pinnacle of bird engraving,” Craig explained. “The idea of owning an original natural history print appeals to a lot of people as an important part of Americana, regardless of whether or not they’re birders themselves.”
Among the pieces included at the fundraiser are many first edition, hand-colored prints from John James Audubon’s Royal Octavo edition of “Birds of America,” a foundational work in the field.
Visitors to the show will enjoy light refreshments throughout the weekend, and on Friday, Nov. 11, Craig Turner will offer a special presentation on the history of bird illustration.
It’s a win-win situation for natural history enthusiasts, art lovers and the organizations who will benefit.
“When John Turner approached us about the fundraiser, we thought it was a splendid idea. The art is exquisite and classic,” said Carl Safina, founder of the Safina Center in Setauket. “Birds make the world livable. They are the most beautifully obvious living things in our world and they connect everything, everywhere. It’s truly a tragedy that most people barely notice them, nor do they understand that nearly 200 species can be seen on and around Long Island in the course of a year.”
The Safina Center inspires awareness and action in the community through art, literature and other creative outlets. Safina said that their portion of the funds raised would likely benefit their fellowship program for young, up-and-coming creators.
“Henry David Thoreau said that in wilderness is the preservation of the world, and it’s never been more important to do the work of preservation,” John Turner said. “The biggest thing we can all do is think about the planet in our everyday choices. Some people don’t realize how much of an impact they can make in what they eat, what they buy, and what they reuse.”
The “Audubon and Friends” art sale and silent auction will be held at The Bates House, 1 Bates Road, Setauket on Friday, Nov. 11 from 6:30 to 9 p.m. with a special presentation from Craig Turner titled “A History of Bird Illustration” at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, Nov. 12 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and on Sunday, Nov. 13 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The event is free to attend. For more information, call the Bates House at 631-689-7054.
At year’s end, TBR News Media honors community members who have shared their time and talents to enhance the place they live for the benefit of all. Long Island environmentalist Erica Cirino takes her efforts to a global level.
We are pleased to honor her as a 2021 TBR News Media Person of the Year.
After earning a bachelor of arts in environmental studies and a master’s of science in journalism at Stony Brook University, this former Huntington resident has dedicated herself to one of Earth’s most pressing environmental concerns.
According to the bio on her website, Cirino is a science writer, author and artist exploring the intersection of the human and nonhuman worlds. Her widely published photojournalistic works depict the numerous ways people connect to nature — and each other — and shape the planet. Her work has appeared in Audubon Magazine, The Guardian and on the National Geographic Voices blog and VICE News among other media outlets.
While working at a rehab clinic as a licensed wildlife rehabilitator, Cirino saw firsthand that the majority of animals brought in for care were there as a result of human actions that have deleterious effects on wildlife — and nature. This realization led her to focus on telling the stories she feels need to be heard to prevent continued destruction of the planet and further harm to wildlife.
Currently, Cirino manages outreach campaigns and online and print media for The Safina Center, a nonprofit nature conservation and environmental organization that is affiliated with Stony Brook University. The center is headquartered in Setauket.
Carl Safina, the eponymous center’s founder, said he has known Cirino about six years.
“Erica has been a kind of protégé for years,” he said. “I am not sure that does her justice, because she is her own person with her own work and views. But I have helped her along as best I can because she has great talent well worth assisting. Erica was one of the main reasons we created our junior fellowships [for younger scholars establishing their careers]. Now she is the author of an important book and in high demand as a speaker. I can hardly imagine doing what we do without Erica. She seems able to do just about anything. She is multitalented and preternaturally efficient.”
In a review of her book, “Thicker Than Water: The Quest for Solutions to the Plastic Crisis,” in this newspaper last month, Jeffrey Sanzel lauded Cirino’s recently released treatise.
“Cirino, a gifted author whose writings have been featured in Scientific American and The Atlantic, has penned a smart, passionate exploration of one of the most troubling and challenging issues,” he wrote. “The book examines a problem of overwhelming global impact.”
Sanzel concluded, “It would be impossible to read this powerful book and not look at the world differently, both in the larger picture and day-to-day life. … Erica Cirino’s ideas stimulate thought, raise awareness and, most importantly, are a call to action.”
Lise Hintze’s connection to Cirino began with their dogs. The pups had an affinity for one another in their Setauket neighborhood, and began playing together in Hintze’s fenced backyard during the pandemic as the women got to know each other.
“When I first met her, she said, ‘I’m going to write a book,’” Hintze recalled. “She talked about her sailing and the expeditions she’d been on, and her travel all over the world. And I asked, ‘How old are you?’ because her face did not match the experiences she’d described. She replied, ‘I’m going to be 29.’ And I thought: ‘And you’ve done all that?’”
The more time they spent together, the more Hintze learned from her new friend. Cirino talked about what’s happening in the oceans and how serious it is and Hintze’s admiration for her passion and determination to solve this problem grew.
“Erica is one of the most dynamic young people I’ve ever met,” Hintze said. “She is an incredibly terrific young woman, soft spoken and extremely humble. I wish she knew her own worth. She is going far. Erica can confidently take anything she chooses to the next level.”
Learn more about this talented champion of our planet at her website www.ericacirino.com. Her book, “Thicker Than Water,” is available at islandpress.org/books or Amazon.com.
The Three Village Community Trust will hold its annual Fall Fundraising Gala on Wednesday, Nov. 17 at the Old Field Club. This event supports the Trust’s year-round programs and projects.
Currently, the Trust is conducting major restoration work at the Hawkins Homestead, the Smith/deZafra House, and the three Factory Worker Houses. The Trust is also working to enhance both Patriots Rock Park and the Greenway Trail. With so many undertakings, this year’s Gala will be more an important than ever to keep the Trust moving forward to “Protect the Places We Love.”
The special guest and honoree at this year’s gathering is Maria Hoffman.An artist, photographer and naturalist, Maria is one of the most beloved and respected figures in our community and is widely known as “Everybody’s Best Friend.”Now, after three decades of community service as Chief of Staff to New York State Assemblyman Steve Englebright, Hoffman has retired and, at the Gala, will reflect on her life and career in the Three Villages.
Live music by the renowned Carl Safina and the Natural Causes will fill the party air with magical jazz, and there will be chances to win some fun-filled raffle baskets. The big art raffle prize this year is an oil painting by the well-known artist Nancy Bueti-Randall, titled “Late Day at the Beach.”
Tickets to the event can be purchased on the Trust’s website, www.threevillagecommunitytrust.org. For more information, call 631-689-0225 or visit [email protected]
Save the date! The Ward Melville Heritage Organization continues its Master Class series with Forces of Nature: Travel, Conservation and Love, on Wednesday, July 29 via Zoom at 1 p.m.
Forces of Nature brings you internationally renowned conservationist, Endowed Professor of Nature and Humanity at Stony Brook University, and Macarthur Genius recipient, Dr. Carl Safina and his wife, Patricia Paladines, a photographer, naturalist and writer.
The couple will engage you with powerful stories of travel, their drive to conserve the environment near and far, and their love of nature and each other. With each story, they will challenge you to see the natural world, how humankind is responsible for changing it, and what those changes mean for us and the nonhumans we share it with.
To register for this free event, please email [email protected] or call 631-751-2244.
“A sperm whale learns who she will be journeying with, a macaw casts a covetous eye on a beautiful neighbor, a chimpanzee learns to pay to play. Culture creates vast stores of unprogrammed, unplanned knowledge. The whole world speaks, sings, and shares the codes.”
Carl Safina’s latest book, Becoming Wild: How Animal Cultures Raise Families, Create Beauty and Achieve Peace (Henry Holt and Co.), is a fascinating look at the world of animal culture. It is an analysis of what is passed down (inherited) and what is learned (culture).
Much of the study focuses on communication within the species and how animals form their own societies. “A lot of learning travels socially from parents to offspring or from a group’s elders.”the author doesn’t so much redefine the term culture but, instead, encourages us not to be quite so human-centric in our perceptions.
Safina divides the book into the study of sperm whales (families); scarlet macaws (beauty); and chimpanzees (peace). Each of the three sections is rich, detailed and engaging enough to be a book onto itself. He has brought them together under the umbrella of his exploration of culture.
Each is given a detailed history of the species; description of their habitats; personal characteristics; intersection with the human world; and many fascinating details in both macro and microcosm. This is expertly mixed with his first-hand accounts of his experiences among them as well as the people with whom he takes the journey.It is both objective and wholly personal.
His observations are enlightening:“Chimps horrify and delight us because we recognize in them parts of ourselves. We see in them aspects of our own passions, and so they hold us in fascination.We cannot look away. So much of what is uncomfortable for us in watching chimps is their excruciating similarity to us.” The book is rife with these epiphanies that are presented so simply and yet with such acumen.
One point that Safina makes is the debate over nature vs. nurture. His belief is that it is impossible to separate them as they interact. “Humans,” he writes, “are genetically enabled to acquire any human language. But we must still learn a language. Genes facilitate the learning, but they do not determine whether we will speak Russian.” Applying this to the terms of his overall thesis: “Genes determine what can be learned, what we might do. Culture determines what is learned, how we do things.”
Safina has exceptional clarity and explains his ideas with focus and an underlying hint of humor that bring the reader further into his universe. There are a handful of black-and-white sketches but there are eight pages of glorious color plates. These should be studied prior to reading each section as they will give the ideal visual compliment to the descriptions.
Safina writes in engaging prose, rich in detail, vivid in his descriptions.The depictions of these beings in their habitats truly give a sense of place in a thrilling and absorbing way.
The fact that he is out there, in the midst of it, gives a sense of his joy and wonderment and his unceasing desire to understand. He never loses his awe of the depth and breadth of the natural world.
He is a teacher, a student, and a tour guide. “I seek encounters that will enable me not just to see … not just to observe … but to penetrate past the labels and feel the beings as selves, living with their families, sharing the air where our two worlds meet.” Safina succeeds in his goal —and shares with grace, passion, and honesty.
An ecologist and a MacArthur Fellow, Carl Safina is the author of numerous books on the human relationship with the rest of the living world. He holds the Endowed Chair for Nature and Humanity at Stony Brook University and is founder of the not-for-profit Safina Center.
“Becoming Wild” is available online at bookrevue.com, barnesandnoble.com and Amazon.com. Learn more at CarlSafina.org.
When I was 15 or so, an older neighbor took me fishing to his secret pond in Flanders. It was 1970, the year of the first Earth Day. He led me along a narrow trail through the pine woods to his special spot. It was a modest-sized pond, and the first thing I noticed was that right across the shore was a huge nest made of big sticks. It was a little dilapidated. Abandoned.
I’d always loved birds. And among birds, I particularly was thrilled by hawks, eagles, and falcons. But living in a cookie-cut suburb of central Nassau County, my real-world contact with wild nature at that time was very limited. Much of what I knew was from books. I knew what that nest was. And I knew why it was abandoned.
It belonged to a spectacular species I’d never seen: huge fish hawks called ospreys. And I knew, also — from reading Newsday and Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring — that I would probably never see them because DDT and other hard pesticides had caused all their eggs to break. Adults were now dying off wholesale due to old age, and ospreys were already erased from most of the region.
I knew all this from reading, but actually seeing that nest made me realize in a very visceral way how narrowly I’d missed growing up in a world that contained what it was supposed to contain. I could not believe the bad luck of the timing of my life.
And speaking of bad timing; that same year The New York Times Magazine ran a story on my favorite bird — another that I had only read about and seen photos of. The title of the story: Death Comes To The Peregrine Falcon. I would never see my favorite bird, because the same pesticides that were snuffing out ospreys had also wiped peregrine falcons from their cliff-nests from the New England to the West Coast and indeed all across Europe.
Bald eagles — forget it. A few left in places like southern Florida and Alaska, places I was sure I would never get to.
I assumed the trends would continue. I did not yet know that a small group of people based in a place called East Setauket were about to sue for the cessation of aerial spraying of DDT and some other chlorinated hydrocarbon pesticides. But they did. More surprising — they won!
In a few years, with those pesticides banned, the new Endangered Species Act in place, and the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and National Environmental Policy Act signed into law by a president named Nixon, the natural environment became noticeably cleaner.
Scientists at Cornell University had succeeded in breeding some of the last peregrine falcons in the U.S. — hatchlings collected in Arctic Alaska. So in 1976, I drove up to Ithaca, tucked my long hair under my collar, and entered the office of the breeding facility to make the strongest case I could muster for why I would be a good candidate for helping to release the first generation of captive-bred peregrine falcons into a world newly cleansed of the worst pesticides of the time.
And thus I started my professional career by securing the first of several dream jobs, spending part of the summer caring for and managing the release of three precious falcon chicks that were not just birds; they were three promises we were making to ourselves and to the future of Life on Earth. If it was going to be up to us — and it was, of course — this wondrous species, the fastest living thing in the world, would not vanish from this planet.
That was also the year that I saw an osprey in Cold Spring Harbor.
Other Cornell scientists, who refused to see our ospreys wither into oblivion, moved viable eggs from remaining Chesapeake pairs to failing Long Island nests, keeping a few remnant pairs on reproductive life-support so that a smattering of new young birds might survive and return to the region.
It all started working. Ospreys did start coming back, laying eggs that no longer broke. Slowly at first and then to a degree I never could have imagined, ospreys recovered and came off the Endangered Species list. New York City now hosts the densest known nesting population of peregrine falcons in the world, sited on bridges and tall buildings, back in the Hudson’s Palisades, and even, locally, around Port Jefferson Harbor.
Bald eagles are nesting on Long Island for the first time in our lives, with perhaps a dozen pairs now, and regular sightings in our Setauket and Stony Brook communities. All of that we owe to the few, early, never-say-die scientists and environmentalists of the first Earth Day era.
When the continued existence of several species of whales was very much in doubt, people who are now friends and colleagues of mine worked tireless, hard-fought battles that achieved, in 1986, a global ban on most commercial whale hunting. Another of my friends was burned in effigy for her tireless work to secure regulations that would prevent the last sea turtles on the East Coast from drowning in shrimp nets.
But whales are now so common in our waters that it is no longer exceptional to see them from our ocean beaches. Sea turtle numbers have sky-rocketed from 1980s lows. Since the 1990s I’ve worked on several key campaigns to turn around the deep depletions in our fish populations and some of these, too, have worked beyond our — and our opponents’ — expectations.
Last summer, a friend told me of seeing several whales from the beach in East Hampton. He said they were feeding just beyond the surf on dense schools of herring-like fish called menhaden. Because they formerly existed in enormous schools, are very energy and nutrient rich, and are eaten by many kinds of fish, seabirds, and marine mammals, menhaden have been called “the most important fish in the sea.” And because of recent hard-won catch restrictions, they’ve been rapidly recovering.
The morning after I got my friend’s tip, I checked five beaches from Amagansett to the west side of East Hampton. To my astonishment, I saw whales, dolphins, and dense schools of menhaden at every stop. The next morning I took my boat around Montauk Point for a water view. I first encountered the menhaden schools just west of the Point. Millions of fish extended in an unbroken school twenty miles long, with a humpback whale or two lunging spectacularly into breakfast every mile and a half or so. I went as far west as Amagansett, traveling just beyond the surf. I took a bunch of photos and decided to head back, knowing that the fruits of these spectacular recoveries continued far down the beach.
Nature is under withering pressure worldwide. But we here on Long Island are beneficiaries of some of the best successes I know about. And the successes are both spectacular and instructive.
When we give natural communities and endangered species a break, and make the slightest accommodation to coexist and let life live, they strive to recover the abundance, vitality, and beauty of the original world. Two things are required: we have to want it, and a few people have to move a few obstacles and let it happen. And then we can have, and pass along, a more alive, more beautiful world. It can work.
Carl Safina is an ecologist and a MacArthur Fellow. He holds the Endowed Chair for Nature and Humanity at Stony Brook University and is founder of the not-for-profit Safina Center. He is author of numerous books on the human relationship with the rest of the living world. Carl’s new book is “Becoming Wild; How Animal Cultures Raise Families, Create Beauty, and Achieve Peace.” More at CarlSafina.org and SafinaCenter.org
The world has changed for all of us since we entered the 21st century. While our computers didn’t blow up as the millennium turned, the horrific attacks on 9/11 forever, it seems, altered our sense of safety in our country and elsewhere on the globe. The arrival of the internet on desktop computers, the proliferation of cellphones, the rise of social media — they have upended the architecture of our lives.
Change has been no less dramatic in our work lives. For those of us in the news business, the basic business model is disappearing. Once upon a time the publisher brought together talented reporters and editors with an articulate sales staff, and together editorial and advertising were presented to the reader in an attractive format that informed and enriched the community. In the process, the news organization was also enriched, and there were newspapers everywhere. The biggest challenge was beating competitors to the “scoop” and gaining the greater market share of advertisers.
Today that simple business plan seems like a fairy tale. According to data in a special section of The New York Times on Sunday, “Over the last 15 years, about 2100 local newspapers — or roughly a quarter of all local newsrooms — have either merged with a competitor or ceased printing …About 6800 local newspapers continue to operate across the country, but many are shells of their former selves, with pared down staffs and coverage areas. About half of the remaining local papers are in small and rural communities, and the vast majority distribute fewer than 15,000 copies of each edition.”
I could go on with the statistics, but here’s the point: If we don’t embrace change, we get left behind.
So it is that we at Times Beacon Record Newspapers have become TBR News Media, with the addition of a website, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube platforms to accommodate the various demands for news and advertising. After all, we work for our customers and we must offer them what they want and need. By the same token, while maintaining those platforms has increased our costs, the revenue they generate is minimal. Further worsening the newspaper situation is the demise of the traditional mom-and-pop retail stores, the previous backbone of so many communities and community newspapers.
So we have changed, as the surviving retailers have changed. We, and they, are now building events into our offerings, much as we used to publish supplements to target specific subjects and advertising niches for our papers. Retailing now includes some aspect of entertainment with their event planning, and publishing companies, whether in print or digital, must also provide entertaining events.
Fortunately for us at TBR, we can make this fit with our mission statement to give back to the community, and indeed to endeavor to strengthen the sense of community where we publish. Since our first year in existence, over 43 years ago, we have held the Man and Woman of the Year event at the Three Village Inn, with the financial help of Stony Brook University and the Lessings, at which we have saluted those who go the extra mile offering their products, services or time to their neighbors in their hometowns.
For the last two years, we have produced and directed films with authentic Revolutionary War narrative at Stony Brook’s Staller Center to share pride in our Long Island history, explaining who we were at the dawn of our country and how we got here.
Coming next on the events list is Cooks, Books and Corks, a community-enriching program that features scrumptious food from some of our local restaurants at stations around the perimeter of a room at the Bates House filled with local authors and their books. We started this last year, and it was such a success that both restaurateurs and authors offered themselves on the spot for the next such gathering. They said they liked “the high tone.”
Therefore, the Second Annual Cooks, Books and Corks will take place in the same bucolic location, in Setauket, on Tuesday evening, Sept. 24, from 6 to 8 p.m. The charge is $50 per person, and the money raised will go toward subsidizing the pay of a journalism intern next summer.
Please mark your calendars and join neighbors and friends at this event to share food for both body and mind.
The Three Village Community Trust will host “An Evening with Carl Safina” at the Old Field Club, 86 West Meadow Road, East Setauket at its 14th Annual Celebration of “fun and fundraising” on Wednesday, Nov. 14 at 7:30 pm. Safina, a MacArthur “genius” award winner, renowned author and naturalist and Setauket resident, will speak on “Making a Case for Life on Earth.”
A marine ecologist and environmental writer, Safina is the author of seven books, including the award-winning “Song for the Blue Ocean” and his latest, “Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel.” Safina is also the founding president of The Safina Center at Stony Brook University, where he is also a professor of nature and humanity.
At $50 per person, the festive evening will include wine, hors d’oeuvres, desserts, prizes, basket drawings and the raffle of a pastel painting, “Stony Brook Harbor Sunset,” by Mary Jane van Zeijts (above). Tickets for the painting are $25 each and only 200 tickets will be sold.
Proceeds from the event will help support the trust’s preservation projects, including the restoration of the newly acquired Smith-deZafra House and the Patriots Hollow State Forest stewardship agreement recently signed with New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.
To make a reservation or for more information, please call 631-689-0225, email [email protected] or visit www.threevillagecommunitytrust.org.
Stony Brook University will be well represented on the new state Ocean Acidification Task Force examining the effect of acidification on New York’s coastal waters. The legislation was drafted by Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket), chair of the Assembly Standing Committee on Environmental Conservation.
The university has three representatives on a 14-member team that will explore the impacts of acidification on the ecology, economy and recreational health of the coastal waters, while also looking to identify contributing factors and make recommendations to mitigate the effects of these factors.
“We have some of the best people in ocean acidification science who will be part of the process.”
— James Gennaro
Englebright said he was pleased to have the SBU representatives on the task force.
“We have these extraordinary scholars and researchers at the university who have a lot to contribute, and I hope that we’re able to listen closely to their advice regarding new policy and potentially new law to protect our coastal ecosystem and marine water.”
Larry Swanson, associate dean of the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences will join Malcolm Bowman, distinguished service professor and Carl Safina, endowed research chair for nature and humanity, both also from SoMAS. The task force, which will have its first meeting some time in September at SBU, was signed into law in 2016 and is operating under the direction of Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) and the New York State
Department of Environmental Conservation.
“We will make recommendations to the Department of Environmental Conservation and the Legislature and will share information about what our understanding of the state of knowledge of ocean acidification is, what are the impacts that we know about in New York state waters,” Swanson said, adding the group will suggest factors to monitor for consequences of acidification.
The composition of the group reflects its wide-ranging mandate, with members including Karen Rivara, owner of Aeros Cultured Oyster Company and former president of the Long Island Farm Bureau.
“We have a very significant shellfish industry that’s potentially in jeopardy. We need to understand what ocean acidification is doing to that industry.”
— Larry Swanson
Ocean acidification has been increasing at a rapid pace amid the increasing output of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide. Since the industrial revolution more than 200 years ago, ocean acidification has increased by about 30 percent, as absorbed carbon dioxide is converted into carbonic acid. The rate of change of ocean acidification is at a historic high and is 10 times faster than the last major acidification, 55 million years ago, according to a press release announcing the formation of the task force.
The task force, which will allow the public to provide input through a website it is developing and at its meetings, will focus on gathering existing data about the waters in and around Long Island, collecting additional information and offering the New York State Legislature suggestions for future policies.
The group will “figure out how to make science into policy-ready proposals,” said James Gennaro, chair of the task force and deputy commissioner at the DEC. Gennaro is pleased with the composition of the group.
“We have some of the best people in ocean acidification science who will be part of the process,” Gennaro said.
Swanson believes it’s important to consider understanding what is going on in the interior bays, including the Great South Bay and the Long Island Sound, as well as the New York Bight which is a curved area from Long Island to the north and east, and includes areas south and west to Cape May, New Jersey.
Some of the questions Swanson said he believes the group will explore include, “Can we measure changes based on what we know from historical information, how bad are those changes and what are the likely consequences?”
“This is very much a local water, coastal water, embayment improvement initiative.”
— James Gennaro
Improving the ecology of the ocean doesn’t have to be at the expense of the local economy, and vice versa, Swanson suggested.
Indeed, New York’s marine resources support nearly 350,000 jobs and generate billions of dollars through tourism, fishing and other business.
“We have a very significant shellfish industry that’s potentially in jeopardy,” Swanson said. “We need to understand what ocean acidification is doing to that industry. We can do things like control effluent going into the Great South Bay and Peconic Bay.”
Protecting and preserving the environment will “have a payoff” for the economy, Swanson added.
While the problem is global, monitoring agencies should oversee local impacts, Swanson and Gennaro agreed.
“This is very much a local water, coastal water, embayment improvement initiative,” Gennaro said, who added he is “eager” to get started.
The task force will meet no less than four times. The public will be able to follow the task force on the website that SBU and the DEC
It is “imperative to do all we can to make sure we stay ahead of [and] act on” ocean acidification, Gennaro said.
Swanson suggested that local action can have consequences. People sometimes suggest that whatever policymakers do in New York will be a drop in the bucket compared to the overall problem of ocean acidification.
“If that’s the drop that causes the bucket to overflow, that’s an important drop,” Swanson said. “We can certainly make suggestions that we ought to do things on a national and global level.”