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Patricia Paladines

By Patricia Paladines

West Meadow Beach is one of four locations in New York State where horseshoe crabs are protected from capture for the biomedical and bait fishing industries throughout the year. It is a beach where during full moons of May and June we can witness an annual event that has been occurring for thousands of years in this part of the world; the migration of horseshoe crabs from the depths of the Long Island Sound to mate and deposit eggs on the shore at high tide. The beach’s sand bars are literally where single males and females “hook-up.” 

Horseshoe crabs (Limulus polyphemus) have roamed the seas for over 400 million years. Long Island’s north shore, having existed for just around 20,000 years, is a relatively new site for the romantic rendezvous. 

I’ve led walks for the Four Harbors Audubon Society at West Meadow Beach where we’ve counted hundreds of horseshoe crabs on the stretch of beach between the parking lot and the jetty on the southern end. On a recent solo walk, I came upon a fisherman who had reeled in a horseshoe crab. He was about to use a knife to tear the baited hook out of the horseshoe crab’s mouth. I stopped him and showed him how easy it was to remove the hook by hand. He said he had been told the crabs were dangerous and that the tail could hurt you. After informing him that was incorrect, I took the crab and placed it back in the water while letting him know these animals are protected on this beach. 

I may have come upon the scene just in time to save that horseshoe crab, but the beach was littered with the shells of other crabs that appeared to have been purposely killed. On the same walk I found a large female who had been smashed by a piercing object. A few weeks ago, a couple of friends found a horseshoe crab that appeared to have been burned. There is evidence of many overnight bonfires on the dunes, some very near the piping plover nest barricades. 

Dead horseshoe crabs were not the only bottom feeding sea creatures strewn along the beach. Sun dried sea robins and a few skates also littered the high tide line. 

It was late afternoon and the beach was filling up with fisher folks, both men and women. That meant there would be a lot of bait attracting bottom feeding animals, AKA scavengers, fish and crabs that stroll the sea floor feeding on whatever they can find. Fisherman’s bait is easy pickings, but not the safest, especially if you are not a species preferred on that fisherman’s plate. 

I spotted two fishermen who had just reeled in two sea robins. I went over to ask them what they were going to do with them. They told me they were going to throw them back, but then I noticed a live sea robin on the sand just behind them. I picked it up and threw it back in the water hoping they would do the same with the ones they had on their hooks. I continued my walk near the line of fisher people and found more live sea robins on the sand and threw them all back in the Sound. One woman told me the fish just wash up on the beach with the waves. No, that doesn’t happen. 

I came out for a walk to find peace in the natural beauty this beach offers Brookhaven residents; instead, what I found was upsetting. I talked to a few of the fishermen and learned that some are coming from Nassau County and Queens. Do these people have permits to fish on Brookhaven Town beaches? 

When granted a fishing permit, does the person receive educational material about our local sea creatures and respectful beach use etiquette? The beach is littered not only with dead animals, but also fishing-related garbage — hooks, lines, plastic bags advertising tackle. Educational material should be in various languages. I’m a native Spanish speaker so was able to speak to the Spanish and English-speaking fisher people in the language they were most comfortable with. My experience as an environmental educator on Long Island has informed me that there are speakers of many languages who enjoy catching their meals from our waters; Czech, Polish, and Chinese are some of the other languages I’m aware of. 

Education and patrolling are needed on our beaches. Additionally, West Meadow Beach should be closed to fishing during the horseshoe crab breeding season; allowing fishing during this time is counterproductive to efforts in place to protect a species whose numbers continue to decline along the Atlantic Coast. 

Patricia Paladines is an Adjunct Instructor at Stony Brook University’s School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences and Co-President of Four Harbors Audubon Society.

A pair of Bald Eagles. Photo by Carl Safina

By Patricia Paladines and Peter Martin 

A few of months ago my husband and I received a text message from one of our neighbors, “There’s a bald eagle at the top of one of your trees.” At the time we were in our car a few miles away from our home on Main Street in Setauket. 

Bald eagle sightings are becoming more common on Long Island, and we have seen a couple flyover our home in the past, but have never knowingly had one grace over our yard. We were delighted, but also concerned. Our hens were free ranging around our house as they usually do. Was this eagle assessing whether one of our 5 girls was going to be their next meal? The neighbor texted a phone photo — a representative of the United States’ national symbol sat atop one of our red cedars looking like a tree-topper on a Christmas tree. We drove into our driveway shortly after the photo was sent but the eagle had already flown away. Our first instinct was to search for our hens and count them. They were all there. No birds were harmed on this day. 

The American bald eagle became our national symbol in June of 1782 when Charles Thomson, then secretary of Congress, decided to incorporate the bird into William Barton’s design for the Great Seal of the United States. As the seal began to appear on official documents, flags, currency, and public buildings the bald eagle became an American icon, representing the strength and freedom of a fledging nation. 

Despite its newfound public celebrity, the bald eagle was not appreciated by farmers in the 19th century. They believed the birds to be villains who killed their livestock, even spreading strange myths that the raptors were capable of carrying away helpless human babies. In reality, bald eagles can only lift a maximum of 5 pounds, so yes, maybe a chicken as my husband and I feared, but not most domesticated mammals living on early American farms. Their habit of scavenging probably made them scapegoats for killings perpetrated by predatory mammals. The unjust accusation caused the decline of their populations across the country. 

It is estimated that in the early 1800’s there were 400,000 American bald eagles across their range which extends north from the Mexican border, throughout the United States, and into Canada. Later that century their numbers had decreased to around 100,000 due to hunting and destruction of their preferred habitat, forested area near large bodies of water; habitat similar to what was found on Long Island before settlers arrived and cleared forests for farming, cordwood and construction of homes and ships. 

Bald eagles were originally not protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 because it was falsely believed that the birds did not migrate. In 1940 Congress passed the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act providing full protection to our iconic bird of prey. At around the same time the birds were granted full protection the use of the synthetic pesticide known as DDT (dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane) became popular for use on farms and mosquito-ridden marshes, but it took some time before it was understood how this pesticide would affect the lives of many of our country’s predatory birds, including the bald eagle. By 1963, the population of eagles reached its lowest point with an estimated 417 breeding pairs of bald eagles in the lower 48 states. In the 1970’s it was estimated that there were two bald eagles left in New York state. They seemed to have completely disappeared from Long Island, along with the peregrine falcons and beloved ospreys. 

It was a Brookhaven Town resident, Dennis Puleston, who first noted the decline of ospreys on Long Island. He had been studying a large breeding colony of the birds—also known as fish hawks—on Gardiners Island. He shared his concern with members of the Brookhaven Town Natural Resource Committee (BTNRC), founded in 1966 by group of environmentally minded individuals that met at an adult marine biology class taught by Art Cooley at Bellport High School. The group included Stony Brook University professors Robert Smolker and Charles Wurster. 

Informed by Rachel Carson’s book, Silent Spring, the group analyzed osprey eggshells and found that DDT weakened the shells so much that they would easily crack and prevent the embryos from developing into chicks. Puelston and the others from BTNRC testified in a class action suit, initiated by Victor Yannacone, Jr., a feisty Long Island attorney, demanding the ban of DDT usage across Suffolk County. 

The case was originally dismissed but the group persisted, successfully having DDT banned across Suffolk County in 1967, New York state in 1970 and nationwide in 1972. Their unique approach to environmental issues, suing the government for protection of the environment, led to the group’s founding of the Environmental Defense Fund. Their first office was located behind the mechanical eagle that adorns the front of the Stony Brook Village post office. 

Ospreys have now been a familiar sight around Long Island for many years, returning from their wintering grounds in mid-March, raising young, and leaving the island again in the fall. Eagles are following on their wings,  sometimes even taking over osprey nests. There are now over 8 known bald eagle nest on the island. 

The memory of the appearance of an American bald eagle atop our Eastern Red Cedar on Setauket’s Main Street, where it is said that George Washington walked when he came to thank the members of the Setauket Spy Ring, seems like a beautiful way to celebrate Earth Day and the conservation successes initiated by small groups of people who care.

About the authors:

Patricia Paladines is an Adjunct Instructor at Stony Brook University’s School of Marine and
Atmospheric Sciences, as well as a photographer.

Peter Martin is a graduate student in the Marine Conservation and Policy Program at Stony
Brook University.

Photo from the Reboli Center

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.

‘76’, photograph by Joseph Reboli

Through March 27, The Reboli Center for Art & History in Stony Brook will for the first time feature the photographs of the late artist Joseph Reboli and several well-known Long Island and New York based photographers including Donna Crinnian, Jeremy Dennis, Vanessa Fischer, Daniel Jones, Jacques LeBlanc, Timothy McCarthy, Jessica Neilson, Patricia Paladines, Matthew Raynor, Paul Scala, Leonid Shishov, Corinne Tousey, Marlene Weinstein, and Jo-Anne Wilson in a new exhibit is titled Through the Lens.

Photo by Jeremy Dennis

In conjunction with the exhibit, the History Room will feature a companion show focusing on the life and work of nature photographer, Howard Eskin, a patron of the arts and dear friend of Joseph Reboli, who also collected many of his paintings.  Eskin concentrated on photographing nature, and many of his pictures were published by the Audubon Society. In addition, there will be a slideshow depicting the evolution of photography from when the first recorded photograph was taken in the early 1800s.

“Just as Joe’s paintings glowed with illuminous light, so do his photographs. Joe was not widely known for his photography, but he really enjoyed it and I am happy to share that side of him. I have known the Eskin family for a longtime, and am very proud to document Howard’s life and work as part of this new exhibit,” said Lois Reboli, a founder and president of the Reboli Center.

The Reboli Center is located at 64 Main Street in Stony Brook, and is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m. Admission is free. For more information, call 631-751-7707 or go to www.ReboliCenter.org.

A celebration of a local harbor returned Sept. 25.

After canceling last year due to COVID-19, the Setauket Harbor Task Force was able to hold its annual Setauket Harbor Day at the Town of Brookhaven dock and beach on Shore Road in East Setauket.

The free event included boat tours of the harbor, kayaking, marine science exhibits and more.

The local nonprofit, which advocates for improving water quality and protecting and restoring marine habitats, hosts the annual event to help residents reconnect with the harbor.

By Tara Mae

After a 3 year absence, Local Color returns to Gallery North, a proclamation of the connection between art, artist, and community. On view from Aug. 19 to Sept. 26, the exhibit is presented in conjunction with the North Shore Artists Coalition and includes a reception and Open Studio Tour. 

The beautiful show features artists whose work is both universal and local in impact, meaning, and appeal. 

“[Executive Director] Ned Puchner and I decided to bring Local Color back this year and re-envision it to show through these artists what local culture is about. The exhibit is defining the role artists play in shaping identity of community and showing diversity of how artists define community: creating culture, creating beautiful and impactful work, adding to the identity through their outreach, etc,” said curator Kate Schwarting. 

The show’s art is as varied as its interpretation of theme, featuring oil and acrylic paintings, photography, sculptures, and digital renderings. Thirty artists, from St. James to Mount Sinai, will be featured including Kelynn Alder, Arts.codes (Margaret Schedel and Melissa Clarke), Fred Badalamenti, Joan Branca, Sheila Breck, Pam Brown, Nancy Bueti-Randall, Sue Contessa, Micheal Drakopoulos, Paul Edelson, Peter Galasso, Han Qin, LoVid, Flo Kemp, Karen Kemp, Jim Lecky, Jim Molloy, Carlos Morales, Patricia Morrison, Patricia Paladines, Mel Pekarsky, Alicia R. Peterson, Doug Reina, Joseph Rotella, Angela Stratton, Mary Jane van Zeijts, Lorraine Walsh, Annmarie Waugh, Marlene Weinstein, and Christian White.

“What is so special about this exhibition is that each artist brings a different thing to the exhibition,” explained Schwarting. “A plein air painter captures the essence of a familiar location and allows us to see it in different light; someone else [deals] with a scientific topic that is so difficult to comprehend, but creates art that enables us to know through physical form and visual cues.”   

Several of the participants are also activists who champion social, technological, and environmental awareness and change through their art. 

According to Schwarting, a number of the artists were recruited through the gallery’s association with the North Shore Artists Coalition, while others were invited by her and Puchner. 

Pam Brown, a sculptor who lives in Stony Brook and co-founder of the coalition, helped facilitate the partnership between the group and the gallery. Her piece, Armour, is a sculpture fabricated out of sheet metal, wire, boar bristles, and vinyl. Brown’s efforts in facilitating the relationship between Gallery North and the North Shore Artists Coalition reflect the connection she sees between art and community outreach. 

“Community engagement creates an opportunity for the arts and artists to be seen by their communities — it initiates new ways for the public and artists to build connections between different groups. It brings together communities so they can articulate their own history and culture and to acknowledge that art is taking place in a larger context,” she said. 

For artist Doug Reina of Stony Brook, who has exhibited at Gallery North in the past, showing his work in Local Color is reconnecting with a “fun, summertime tradition.” 

“My work is about sharing the interesting, touching, emotional, funny, beautiful, sad human things that mean something to me with the viewer,” said Reina. His oil painting, titled Boys Night Out, depicts 4 teenage boys sneaking out of the house on a summer night. “The painting is based on real life experiences we had when our son was that age,” he explained.

Interpersonal connection is a recurring subject of the show’s art. This focus extends outward into explorations of our interactions with and responsibility to the world-at-large.

Han Qin of St. James will be entering her cyanotype on paper, White Goddess, which incorporates digital photo editing, drawing, and papermaking. It was inspired by two poems: “The White Goddess” by Robert Graves and “Quiet Night Thoughts” by Li Bai. 

“I started the White Goddess series during my pregnancy and have been developing it until now. Poetry and life experience are the main inspirations. The idea behind the artwork becomes a shared experience that brings people together,” she said.

“We as a people have a long continuous personal storyline. Artwork is the moment on the storyline. My moment connects with others’ moments in their individual storylines; thus, a web of emotional connections builds up. That is a community, too,” said Qin.

Such cultural connections are enhanced through community involvement. In this spirit, exhibiting artists of Local Color will also be featured in an Open Studio Tour hosted by the North Shore Artists Coalition and Gallery North on Sept. 25 and 26, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day. 

“With one piece from each of the selected artists in the exhibit itself, the Open Studio Tour allows for an expanded view of the individual artists,” said Schwarting. 

Gallery North, 90 North Coutry Road, Setauket presents Local Color from Aug. 19 to Sept. 26. Join the artists for an opening reception tonight, August 19, from 6 to 8 p.m. The gallery is open Wednesday to Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m. For more information, call 631-751-2676 or visit www.gallerynorth.org.

Patricia Paladines. Photo by Carl Safina

By Leah Chiappino

The Center for Environmental Education and Discovery in Brookhaven has been connecting Long Islanders with nature since its inception in 2015. Setauket resident Patricia Paladines, who recently joined the board of directors, pledges to continue fostering that connection and hopes to expand the organization’s outreach to traditionally underserved populations.

Patricia Paladines

“Patricia is a naturalist, environmentalist, photographer and educator who has taught science and nature to students of every age from elementary school to college,” said Tom Pelletier, CEED board chair, in a statement. “Paladines’ photographs of people, wildlife and landscapes have been exhibited all over Long Island, she has a master’s degree in educational psychology, and she brings a wealth of skills and experience to CEED’s mission.”

Born in Ecuador, Paladines moved to Chicago with her parents when she was 3 years old. She relocated to New York in 1985 where she began a career in photography and design. Paladines worked as a research assistant in the Department of Prints, Photographs, and Architecture at the New-York Historical Society, while doing some graphic camera work for Estée Lauder.

“I used to do a lot of black-and-white photography back in the ’80s and ’90s,” she said. “I did work in the darkroom, so I think my background as an educator kind of stems from that: Finding images, and finding things that interest me to share with others.”

Her work has been featured at the Islip Art Museum, The Art Guild of Port Washington, Tabler art gallery at Stony Brook University and the New-York Historical Society.

In 1995, Paladines took a job as executive assistant to the vice president of ocean conservation at the National Audubon Society in Islip, where she said she discovered the true beauty of Long Island’s outdoors, as well as a general appreciation
for nature.

“When I started working for the Audubon Society, I realized that Long Island was much more than shopping malls and expressways, which is what a lot of people think when they live in the city,” she said. “[My work] showed me the wild side of Long Island, and the birds and the ocean. Having grown up in Chicago, this was very different for me.”

Her enthusiasm led her to work at the Long Island Aquarium in Riverhead, first through the Cornell Cooperative Extension, where she developed a program called Aspiring Latin American Scientists in 2000. She was responsible for leading naturalist tours, coordinating with college interns and giving public presentations. Having worked in environmental careers for some time, Paladines noticed Hispanic/Latinx communities were largely underrepresented in the field, even within the large environmental community in activities such as birding or hiking. She also coordinated presentations on various types of marine life to be done in Spanish.

She went on to initiate a partnership between the aquarium and Blue Ocean Institute after the aquarium decided not to renew an education contract with CCE a few years later. While managing the BOI program she received a grant from National Grid for an ocean literacy project. Paladines said with the grant she was able to develop workshops for teachers and schools, and one of the collaborations was with an English Language Learner class at Longwood High School filled with students from various countries who spoke different languages. She said it gave students the opportunity to “strengthen their English while learning about wildlife and the ocean.”

It is this kind of outreach Paladines wants to bring to CEED, encouraging the Hispanic community along the South Shore to utilize the facility and working on deploying “teams” from Bellport High School to build environmental leadership and to teach students how to bring it into their own communities.

In addition to her chosen fields, Paladines is married to ecologist and author Carl Safina. She also has a daughter, Alexandra Srp.

Pelletier said Paladines is an asset to the board.

“I mean, to put it bluntly, the environmental movement and nature center movement and all that tends to be pretty white,” Pelletier said. “We’re trying to do our part to change that. One of the reasons that we thought Patricia would be a really good fit for our board is that she’s done that kind of thing before. I’m kind of excited about having her on our board because that is one of our goals to do that: Make that kind of outreach and bring more people of color to our programs.”

Paladines’ appointment to the board comes as CEED attempts to get off the ground with expanding programming. A little more than three years ago, the nonprofit signed agreements with the Town of Brookhaven and with Suffolk County to use over 60 acres of nature preserve and green-space land, which includes the Washington Lodge estate where CEED is located.

Carl Safina and Patricia Paladines. Photo from WMHO

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.

Patricia Paladines teaches a child the art of seining during Setauket Harbor Day on Sept. 28, 2019. Photo by Maria Hoffman

By Patricia Paladines

Patricia Paladines at West Meadow Creek. Photo by Carl Safina

The first Earth Day on April 22, 1970 catalyzed the modern environmental education movement. A few months after that first official celebration of the Earth’s natural environment, the Congress of the United States passed The Environmental Education Act, which was signed into law by President Richard Nixon on October 30, 1970. Later, Nixon noted that it is “vital that our entire society develop a new understanding and new awareness of man’s relation to his environment – what might be called ‘environmental literacy.’” 

The Act states that “The Congress of the United States finds that the deterioration of the quality of the Nation’s environment and of its ecological balance poses a serious threat to the strength and vitality of the people of the Nation and is in part due to poor understanding of the Nation’s environment and of the need for ecological balance; that presently there do not exist adequate resources for educating and informing citizens in these areas, and that concerted efforts in educating citizens about environmental quality and ecological balance are therefore necessary.” 

The Environmental Education Act encouraged and provided financial support for the development of curricula that improved American’s understanding of policies that enhance environmental quality and maintain ecological balance. It called for the use of such curricula in model educational programs at the elementary and secondary school levels, the development of training programs for teachers, other educational personnel, public service personnel, community, labor, industrial and business leaders, and government employees at State, Federal and local levels. 

It supported the planning of outdoor ecological centers that would provide community education programs on preserving and enhancing environmental quality and maintaining ecological balance, and the preparation and distribution of material by mass media in dealing with the environment and ecology. 

In 1971, the U.S. Commissioner of Education, Sidney P. Marland Jr. wrote an article titled Environmental Education Cannot Wait in American Education. In the article he stated, “Environment as a high priority educational theme has also been assisted by strong student concern for the decline in environmental quality. Youth is more concerned with the future state of the environment than is the older generation because young people are, for one thing, going to spend so much time inhaling that future environment, swallowing it, and finding their way through it. Environmental concern offers an attractive neutral ground in which to work out the ‘alliance between generations’ which President Nixon spoke of at the University of Nebraska in January.”

Many of us were the “youth” Mr. Marland refers to in his article. We grew up inhaling, swallowing and finding our way through the environment our leaders at the time sought to protect. We raised our children on a less polluted planet than what we had begun to experience in the 1950s and 60s when we were children. 

Opportunities for learning about the natural environment that surrounds us are readily available around Long Island through nature centers, aquariums, universities, and our protected forests and beaches. 

On this 50th anniversary of the first Earth Day, the world is on lockdown due to a pandemic which is believed to have originated from disturbance to wildlife and habitats. It is an opportunity to give us pause and reflect on how we now should work out an “alliance between generations” for preventing future Earth Days experienced in lockdowns caused by environmental illiteracy. 

Patricia Paladines is an environmental educator and photographer living Setauket. She works as a consultant for an organization that funds UNICEF’s Let Us Learn projects in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Liberia, Madagascar and Nepal. Patricia is on the board of various local environmental organizations including the Four Harbors Audubon Society and the Center for Environmental Education and Discovery in Brookhaven, and in the warm months enjoys leading trips around Stony Brook’s West Meadow Creek aboard the Ward Melville Heritage Organization’s Discovery tour boat.