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Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station [Rutgers Environmental Stewards]

Certified Rutgers Environmental Stewards 2009


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Certified Rutgers Environmental Steward
Intern Projects and Impacts - 2009

The following projects were completed in fulfillment of the internship requirement of the Rutgers Environmental Stewards program. Graduates of the 60 hour lecture portion of the program are required to complete an approved intern project of 60 hours or more to become Certified Rutgers Environmental Stewards.

Atlantic Class of 2006

Sandra Keen              Williamstown, NJ
Created a storm water wetland pond that also became an outdoor classroom at the Williamstown Middle School in Williamstown, NJ. There students take a hands- on approach to their learning and they take on ownership of their new knowledge. The Folker/Science Courtyard was several years in the making. It originated with a $2,600 WHIP Grant (Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program), from Gloucester County Soil Conservation. Then school children & faculty & master gardeners created an outdoor classroom out of a courtyard that was filled with construction debris & was completely closed off to the school for several years. The grant enabled Community of Caring Gardens to create a workable science class. Native plantings were chosen to sustain wildlife attracted to the area. This spring the Special Needs program grew tomatoes from seedlings that were germinated by the Master Gardeners; the fruits were shared with the Community Food Bank.
Sandy constructed a rain garden off of an area that was flooding she also finished a pond that an Art teacher designed, integrating the Community of Caring Gardens Program, which is part of the environmental Science Curriculum.
The completion of the Folker Science Courtyard allows 1800 children the opportunity to enjoy the true hands on experience of the Sciences of Life, and take that ability home to apply it.

Atlantic Class of 2008

Mary Harper              Margate, NJ
Becky Hedden           Manahawkin, NJ
Assisted the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Reserve in improving the collection, management and dissemination of migratory bird observations logged there by amateur and professional wildlife observers.
They did this by:

  1. Expanding the cooperative activities between the EBFNWR and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology through online data reporting to Cornell’s eBird site (http://www.ebird.org). To date, seven years worth of essential shorebird and water bird data have been incorporated into the Cornell Lab’s database and is now available to all agencies and the public for the purpose of planning continued conservation strategies
  1. Expanding visitor utilization and awareness of EB Forsythe properties and trails. To this end they gathered data and created a sign to encourage other refuge visitors to hike the Songbird Trail and report their sightings using eBird tools.  They also worked with other refuge volunteers to teach them how to post data from other refuge sites including sites at Holgate and Barnegat. 
    They improved the ease of doing this by posting 18 months worth of bird survey data to the refuge page.  They worked with the staff at Cornell to facilitate ease of visitor data posting and refuge data tracking.  Then they created and posted information sheets encouraging visitors to post their sightings at eBird and we ordered eBird brochures and TrailTracker brochures from Cornell to be distributed at the refuge.
  1. Facilitating the refuge’s participation in the international migrating shorebird monitoring project and expanding cooperation with NJ Audubon, NJ Fish and Wildlife, Manomet, and PRISM in the shorebird project. They did this conducting surveys at Malibu Beach WMA at 10 day intervals through October 31, 2008. They established a Friends of Malibu Beach group by recruiting nine volunteers coordinating a training session for them. These subsequently became NJ Fish and Wildlife volunteers.  These seven will complete training as Shorebird Stewards and provide stewardship services for Malibu Beach WMA and other locations throughout the state.

Subsequently, the Director of Visitor Services at the refuge pursued the TrailTracker kiosk placement.  He submitted a proposal and was granted monies for the cost of the kiosk which will be placed in the new visitor contact center which will be completed in Spring, ’09.  ($15,000 grant). The intern’s volunteer service at the refuge was valued in the grant application as $1,800 in-kind and the seven new volunteers they recruited and trained for the New Jersey Wildlife Conservation Corps were valued at $10,500 in-kind.


Atlantic Class of 2009

Kim Faustino              Swedesboro, NJ

Partnered with Rutgers Cooperative Extension in her capacity as an employee of the Gloucester County Improvement Authority  to improve a 15 acre section of the 500 acre solid waste complex in South Harrison Township, NJ. The restored area includes a recently constructed storm water detention basin. It was planted with native grasses which do not require regular mowing and which will improve filtering capacity of the basin and increase groundwater filtration. The grasses will also provide habitat to species experiencing loss from development such as bobwhite quail, grasshopper sparrow, upland sandpiper and ring necked pheasant. It is also hoped the native grasses will discourage Canada geese from using the area. Her internship included maintenance and monitoring after the initial planting.


Duke Class of 2006

Thuy Anh Le              Hillsborough, NJ

Encouraged environmental leadership activities by Girl Scouts by developing presentations and workshops to help them plan and execute environmentally focused Gold Projects (The highest award in Girl Scouting). So far, as a result, 3 Girl Scouts have achieved these Gold Awards and a younger troop is planning to implement a project that recycles sneakers into artificial playground turf.

Thuy also worked with two local organizations, the Sustainable Montgomery Steering Committee (SMSC) and the Sustainable Hillsborough Steering Committee (SHSC) for over 2 years.  During this time she helped organize 12 events including Earth Day Celebrations, 4th of July festivals, a campaign to promote home energy audits, a Sustainable Hillsborough Fair, a campaign that signed up 200 people to convert to using energy efficient lighting, and an anti-idling campaign and workshop done in collaboration with the local PTA.

Among the results the town of Montgomery has completed a carbon inventory and are identifying the key goals for next year using data from the carbon inventory. 
The is working closely with the NJ Sustainability Initiative at Rutgers to identify priorities in 5 targeted objectives: community, environment, mobility, local economy, energy and carbon footprint.  Thuy is applying for joint grants for the 2 towns.

In January ‘09, she ran a home energy audit workshop at the library in partnership with SMSC which will be repeated this coming January 2010. The Anti-idling workshops counted for 10 points each towards Sustainable Jersey certification for both towns.  The 2 towns were the first 2 towns in Somerset County to submit for certification and will be acknowledged at the League of Municipalities in November 09.
Thuy commented, “I personally feel energized by my participation in the Sustainable Committees in Montgomery and Hillsborough.  I am valued and respected by my colleagues and believe that the Environmental Steward program provided the background that I needed to speak up about environmental issues. “


Duke Class of 2008

Robert Becker           Flemington, NJ

Developed and implemented a systematic evaluation of trail conditions in consultation with the Hunterdon County Park System in eight parks. Evaluations included Trail Head Condition, Deep Trenching of Trail, Width of Trail, Short Cuts, Tripping Hazards, Steepness, Erosion, Wetness, Marking, Signage, Obstacles and Construction Needs. Items needing attention were mapped and prioritized before submitting to William Clothier, Supervising Planner for the Hunterdon County Department of Parks and Recreation.

The completed and field tested “Trail Conditions Report” will be a useful tool for the Department in the future and the field testing helped identify improvements that will enhance the use, safety and enjoyment of an already fine park system.

Anthony Robbi           Hopewell, NJ
Devoted approximately 140 hours to the restoration of Omick woods, a 128 acre wood  with hydric soils owned by the D&R Greenway.  His contribution is described by Jim Amon, Director of Stewardship for the D&R Greenway:
“Toni Robbi has done impressive and useful stewardship for the D&R Greenway Land Trust.  He concentrated his work to one of our most ecologically sensitive areas, a sedge bog on a preserve that we acquired within the last couple of years.  The bog has `experienced some changes in its drainage pattern, which we intend to restore, but first we wanted to remove a number of plants that had invaded the bog, taking advantage of the lowered water conditions.  Toni girdled dozens of Red Maples, cut and applied herbicide to the stumps of Multiflora rose, and pulled Purple loosestrife, which had been starting to colonize the area.  Further, he participated in conducting a plant inventory of the area.  He also worked on other parts of this preserve, walking the driftways and cutting back invasive plant material as he went. 

Further, Toni has been a stalwart of our Monday morning volunteer stewardship crew.  He has joined us most Mondays over the last year, helping us gain control over invasive plant material at several locations, helping us enhance habitat for Long-eared owls, clearing paths and joining in a variety of stewardship projects.
The work that he did has been extremely helpful in our goal of restoring a diverse native flora and to open the preserves to appropriate public use.”

Dan Morley                South Plainfield, NJ
Assisted in conducting the Fall Migratory Bird Survey at Duke Farms in conjunction with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society. Dan collected data at 12 assigned observation points twice a week from September 15 to October
 31, 2008. During that period 88 bird species were identified and 3235 birds were counted.  Duke Farms is an oasis for avian wildlife in one of the most densely
 populated states in the country. Birds, such as the Nashville Warbler
 which travels 2500 miles from its breeding ground along the eastern
 border of the U.S. and Canada to winter in Mexico and Central America,
 use Duke Farms diverse habitat during migration.

Dan also assisted the South Plainfield Environmental Commission by leading the work necessary to clear overgrown trails in Veterans Park in South Plainfield, which is about six acres of land lying between the Bound Brook and the Cedar Brook. After the trail is reopened this Fall the Self-Guiding Nature Trail pamphlet will be revised and help from a local scout troop or a community organization will be enlisted to assist in its maintenance.

Dena Steele                Tuxedo Park, NY
Finished a management plan for the Hunter Farm Preserve, an 85 acre property owned by the Orange County Land Trust (OCLT) in the town of Waywayanda, N.Y.. As an intern for the Land Trust she studied the history of the Hunter Farm and the objectives and stewardship priorities of the OCLT in order to complete a management plan that addresses delineating boundaries, monitoring for malicious or negligent acts, increasing public usage, inventorying species, updating the conservation plan, managing storm water runoff, removing invasive species and educating neighbors and local community leaders regarding all this.

Dena further used the knowledge gained at the Hunter Farm to initiate preservation of another 25 acre property in Tuxedo Park, NY, known as the Racetrack. So far a preliminary study has been completed of vegetation with help from the Bowman’s Hill Preserve staff to assess biodiversity value and presentations have been made to the local Environmental Committee.  It is hoped that this property might eventually be acquired by the OCLT.

Kim Hood                   Asbury, NJ
“..played a critical role in the planning, construction and LEED certification of the Musconnetcong Watershed Association’s River Resource Center” , according to Beth Styler, Executive Director of the MWA. Kim did this by serving first as “Green Building Champion” during early stages of planning for the River Resource Center. Once the decision was made by the Board of Trustees for the MWA to seek Leed platinum certification for their new headquarters, Kim served as Building Committee Chair. She continued in that role throughout the construction period which was completed in spring 2009. The completed Center is not only a home for the MWA but serves as a demonstration site in the community for green building options, using 47% less energy and  68% less water than a conventionally built office building of the same size. To help outreach the building’s story Kim created a brochure, “River Resource Center Green Features”.

Duke Class of 2009

Eleanor Monks          South Plainfield, NJ
Organized an archive of historical documents belonging to the New Jersey Conservation Foundation  to help them promote knowledge and awareness of the accomplishments of their organization on the occasion of their 50th anniversary in 2010. Eleanor created a functional filing system to access information on our history quickly and efficiently which will be used to create a timeline to document NJCF’s history in a 50th Anniversary publication
Eleanor also created a display of some of the awards was created in the library which make these accolades prominent during board and donor meetings.
Pat Huizing, Director of Development and Outreach, said that “Eleanor was invaluable to getting this project off the ground and we are very grateful for her contributions. Thanks for allowing Eleanor to work with us.”

Mary Beth Phelan     Morristown, NJ
Lead a 25 member volunteer team which followed the Geese Peace protocol to addle Goose eggs at 4 locations in Morristown, NJ, Foote’s Pond and a smaller pond ½ mile away, Burnham Park and Speedwell Lake. In all, 250 geese were prevented from hatching in the area served. Astute observation by the volunteers led to the realization that in nests that had been robbed of eggs by predators the parents could be fooled from laying another clutch of eggs by inserting golf balls in the nest as egg substitutes. This improved the efficiency of control efforts.

Vijay Tulsiani, Somerville, NJ
            Identified potential Borough-owned sites for locating alternative energy generation facilities. Surveyed the sites with regard to suitability for alternative energy generation. Prepared a report summarizing the costs, benefits, and economic viability of the various sites for review by the Somerville Environmental Commission and the Borough Engineering Department. Worked with private firms specializing in alternative energy to prepare installation proposals for submission to government and utility programs for funding.
His analysis showed potential for rooftop installation of 158 kW of solar power which would save the town of Somerville approximately $32,000 per year.

EcoComplex Class of 2008

Ken Johnson              Cranberry, NJ
Assisted the national State Climatologist, Dave Robinson and the Cocorahs climate observation program by making a total of 185 single-day observations, and 21 multi-day observations.  These involved maintaining and reading a rain gauge or snow measurement device, and reporting to the network via the internet.  These data are used by several agencies in the analysis of storm and precipitation events.  As an example, the NOAA websites have used the data several times in analysis of storm tracks and strengths.  Data was explicitly shown on their national website.
Ken also participated as Chemical Analysis Team member for the Stony Brook/Millstone Watershed Association, monitoring the water quality flowing through Cranbury Brook.  This brook feeds the lake in Cranbury, which drains into the Millstone River, and Stony Brook.  In addition to collecting and reporting the chemical data, he photographed non-point source pollution into the brook from the local roadways.  This data visually identified the impact of large storms runoff.

Robert Tallon Bordentown, NJ
Conducted monthly water quality testing for the Water Testing Lab at the Rutgers EcoComplex, which is required to maintain the lab’s state certification. He mastered calibrating and operating electronic meters for testing PH, conductivity, turbidity and dissolved oxygen. Bob trained Rutgers researchers in the use of the lab’s field testing equipment and he also presented lectures on the importance of water quality testing. Lab Director Manisha Patel placed the monetary value of his work for the lab at $500 per month yielding a total value of $8,000 for the 16 months  worked  to date. Bob continues to devote two days a week to the lab. “I find the work involved rewarding”, he states.

Bob Bocci                   Burlington, NJ
Harry Shallcross        Medford, NJ
Pioneered an innovative partnership with an organic waste recycling company, Organic Diversion, LLC. Bob and Harry piloted the creation of the position of “recycling coach”, which will be filled by future Rutgers Environmental Steward interns.

The environmentally appropriate disposal of waste is a major concern especially in the densely populated State of New Jersey.  Landfills are reaching capacity and costs to waste generators for waste disposal average $70 per ton and continue to rise.  Organic Diversion, LLC, located in Marlton, NJ, has developed a commercial, proprietary program which attempts to address both the environmental impact and cost of waste disposal.  Commercial food operations generate more recyclable organic materials than any other business and up to 75% of the waste coming out of commercial food operations is recyclable.  Further when organic items are buried in a landfill, they decompose without oxygen and release methane which is a greater contributor to climate change than carbon dioxide.  The program developed by Organic Diversion involves the separation of organic material from the waste stream generated by commercial food operations and diverts it to recyclers in New Jersey and Delaware where the organic waste is converted to compost or fertilizer, which is used commercially on lawns, golf courses, etc.  Besides the positive environmental benefits, the process contributes to a lower overall waste disposal cost to the commercial food operator.

Project Description:
The success of the program is heavily dependent upon effective education and training of commercial food operation management and staff, followed by close and regular support including the “coaching” of staff that actually divert the organic waste.  The staff of Organic Diversion makes the initial contact with the facility and conducts training.  The Environmental Steward Intern may participate in this initial training and then revisits each facility on a regular basis and speaks with management and employees regarding any problems or concerns they may have regarding the program.
The “coach/intern” prepares a report to Organic Diversion regarding the visit and
provides feedback to Organic Diversion on corrective action.
These revisits are unannounced but are conducted on a regular, periodic basis.

Results and Impacts:
Facilities visited on a regular basis included hospitals, supermarkets and hotels.  In most instances, management was enthused to participate in the program and saw its benefits for the environment, increasing the “green” image of the company, and lowering operating costs.  Many employees were also enthused believing that their participation in the program is for the benefit of the environment.  Conversations with managers at these facilities revealed that cost savings were being realized and that such savings were substantial.
175.78 tons of organic wastes were diverted from the waste stream due to Harry and Bob’s efforts and the tonnage represents approximately 35% of the waste generated by these facilities and would have cost approximately $12,000 to dispose of conventionally.

EcoComplex Class of 2009

Tom Latza                  Belmar, NJ
Initiated, planned and directed a collective effort to have Belmar, NJ conduct an energy audit with the NJ Board of Public Utilities Clean Energy program and to couple this with a successful application to have Belmar certified as a Sustainable Jersey town.  Working with his Environmental Commission, Tom gathered data, calculated energy consumption, made the necessary applications, prepared and mailed RFP’s for the energy audit work and evaluated the responses. He was able to document enough activity that Belmar’s application for Sustainable Jersey had 190 points, far in excess of the 100 minimum needed for certification. Another significant outcome was the installation of a 4KW wind turbine that will power a town building plus supply power to the townships electric car fleet.

William Lewis New Egypt, NJ
Invigorated his town’s appreciation of the value and importance of outdoor recreation and nature appreciation by creating an event for youth that integrated a bluebird festival and a kayak race which he called the New Egypt Fall Fest.  It is planned that approximately 1000 children and adults will participate in the half day event. William also coordinated a kickoff dinner two nights before the Fall Fest aimed at adults and the business community with the goal of building support for this and similar events on an on-going basis. A principal message transmitted at this ‘kickoff ‘event is the economic impact of birding and other passive recreation activities in a community like New Egypt.

Gibson Reynolds        Collingswood, NJ
Helped the Nature Conservancy protect and monitor beach-nesting shorebirds (Piping Plovers) as they nest and feed at the Cape May Migratory Bird Refuge. He accomplished this by educating beach-goers about the importance o the birds and recording info about human-use along the 1 mile beach-front of the refuge.

The result is that the site has produced 9 successful fledglings to date for this season.  The Cape May Migratory Bird Refuge is the most successful breeding site in NJ for Piping Plovers, due to the protection efforts at the site, and in particular, to the hard work and dedication of seasonal interns and volunteer Piping Plover Patrollers.


Essex Class of 2008

Peter Rinaldi              New Providence, NJ
Helped the Schiff Land Stewardship Internship to obtain an on-the-ground understanding of natural land management and land stewardship, implement a non-native invasive plant control program, and create a plan for a white tailed deer exclosure demonstration area.
Pete Rinaldi, after getting an orientation to Schiff Natural Lands Trust and general land management problems assisted in repair of existing white tailed deer exclosures and designed a new deer exclosure for the Preserve.  He helped with invasive species management of the great meadow, 16-acres of native prairie habitat.  Pete also assisted with construction of a new segment of public access trail, called the Franklin Parker Trail.   Finally, he helped manage a small native plant children’s garden next to Schiff Nature Center and designed and build a new entrance gate.  

Virginia Citrano         Verona, NJ
Joined the Verona Environmental Commission and drafted press releases, handouts, reports and other documents to support its outreach to both the community and ANJEC, and contributed to the overhaul of its Web site (http://www.veronaec.org/). A key effort in the 2008-2009 fiscal year has been to get our township to approve and implement idle-free zones at six schools.

Virginia also assisted “Nature's Pals”, a Verona After-School Enrichment Cluster of eight-week after-school classes for elementary school students, by writing applications for grants from two civic organizations, to develop a new environmental curriculum. With $600 in grants she led Nature's Pals in Fall 2008 and Spring 2009, focusing on the ecosystem surrounding the Brookdale Elementary School. Both classes were fully subscribed, and she was asked to lead the program again for Fall 2009

She also promoted Community-Supported Agriculture by approaching the board of the Episcopal Church of the Holy Spirit in Verona with a proposal to bring the CSA program for an organic farm to Verona. She developed press releases and handouts for the community, resulting in the participation of 52 families in 2008. Despite a severely limited harvest in 2008 and the collapse of the U.S. economy, she won a renewal of the farm's distribution in Verona for 2009, which attracted 26 families. She also created a blog for the farm (http://uppermeadowsfarm.wordpress.com/), which provides information to all of its distribution sites in New Jersey and New York. She writes regularly for the blog under her own name, and ghost-write many of the pieces put up under the by line of the farmer, Leonard Pollara. She has also had discussions with the New Jersey Farm Bureau about creating a similar blog for its members.

Virginia also developed a social networking site for the Association of New Jersey Environmental Commissions. The social networking site, ANJEC Forum,  will allow members of local commissions and municipal officials across the site to exchange text, audio, photo and video information on sustainability issues across the state, giving members a way to highlight successes and strategies outside of the regular, in-person ANJEC meetings. Participation will be by invitation only, and will not, for the foreseeable future, include the general public. She has completed the initial design of the site, which will be presented to ANJEC Director Sandy Batty in early September. After a month of internal testing, it will be unveiled at ANJEC's annual meeting in October.

And while all this more than satisfied her intern requirement she is currently helping the Verona Board of Education to submit an application for the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection's Local Government Greenhouse Gas Reduction Grants program and drafting a proposal for the school board to fund and build a greenhouse at our local middle school.
Her Environmental Commission in Verona has been selected to receive a 2009 ANJEC Environmental Achievement Award at ANJEC’s Environmental Congress . The award recognizes the VEC's successful efforts in establishing paper recycling in all of Verona's schools.