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Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station [Rutgers Environmental Stewards]

Certified Rutgers Environmental Stewards 2011

adop a beach
Certified Rutgers Environmental Steward
Intern Projects and Impacts - 2011

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.


Michael  Bradway                     Vineland, NJ                ACUA 2010

Mike set out to monitor water quality in Vineland, NJ. including rapid bio assessments of muddy bottom creeks surrounding the city.  But, after speaking with the City of Vineland Environmental Commission, his project evolved to include:

  • Providing information on threatened, endangered, stable and uncommon species of animals and insects.
  • Addressing a lake eutrophication problem at Burnt Mill Pond which stalled when volunteers pulling out the over-abundant lily pads and algae found the work was too difficult and too dangerous to proceed. Insurance was needed for the work to continue and to get it a sponsoring organization was needed.

Mike approached Rutgers Agent Cara Muscio, Diane Amico of the Vineland Enviro Commission, Phil Arsenault, watershed ambassador from DEP, and Butch Fiocchi of the local lake group to help him assess the problem at Burnt Mill Pond, form a plan and start activities that would lead to completion of the project: .
Meeting with the group resulted in the following activities.

  • Organized a cleanup that involved scouts, the residents of the lake, people from Mike’s motorcycle club as well as other volunteers. 
  • Rapid Bio Assessments in the creek flowing from the lake showed impairment and invasive species.
  • A tree planting was done in a muddy area defaced by atv traffic.
  • Clearances were obtained from the City of Vineland for maintaining brush and trees around a historic bridge on the site.
  • Through his own trucking business contacts and accountants, Mike gave the lake committee and residents, resources to start their own non profit or LLC. They plan to form this organization in order to obtain insurance, prioritize the projects based on the recommendations of the resource people and to seek funding.

In pursuit of funding, Mike attended a NJ Wildlife Action Plan seminar. He obtained a sample document on how to request funding prepared by Kris Schantz of the NJ Division of Fish Nongame and Endangered Species program. He corresponded with Senator VanDrew about fertilizer bills and a proposed law for the Barnegat bay area and the Delaware River oil spill litigation. He contacted Bradley Smith, the director of the Delaware Bayshores chapter of the Nature Conservancy, to discuss sustainable farming methods which would help reduce agricultural impact in the watershed .

Activities planned as a result of this preparatory activity include:

  • Determine the sources of nutrients in the lake. Potential draining of the lake to repair the dam and possible dredging to clear the over-abundant plant life would still require finding the source of extra nutrients in the lake.
  • Soil testing will be done to study the amount of fertilizer present in the dirt around the lake’s edge. Soil test kits have been obtained from the local Rutgers Extension office but testing has been hampered by the closing of the lake for concerns with the dam.  It will begin when possible.
  • Records for nitrates in the ground water will be examined.
  • Studies will be done on the health of this lake and its effect on Atlantic White Cedar downstream. Mike will work with Dr. George Zimmerman, Stockton College professor and author of cedar guide books.

Mike has devoted many hours to this project and tapped a lot of personal and business contacts. During this time period, he also volunteered on an unrelated supplemental project. He did a deer pellet count for Nature Conservancy on a local preserve. This is a time consuming project that has been determined to be very accurate for deer population density estimates.


Edward English                                    Bernardsville, NJ          Duke 2011

Recorded and edited an excellent 2 hour video from Dr. Peter Montague’s 3 hour lecture to the Rutgers Environmental Stewards in 2011. This video will be made available to future students on line as well as be used by Dr. Montague. This significant achievement alone would have qualified Ed for his intern project but he also devoted well over 100 hours to 4 other significant projects that included:

1.  Board of Adjustment, Bernardsville, NJ

He used many of the lessons learned in the Environmental steward lectures to address local development issues.

2.  Green Team, Bernardsville, NJ
He proposed that the Green Team take the lead in getting a Deer Management Plan for Bernardsville.

3.  Community Garden, Bernardsville, NJ
He used his video and photography skills to provide material for the town web site, a slide show and the town’s Sustainable Jersey submission.

4.  An Integrated Deer Management Program, Duke Farms, Hillsborough, NJ. He is collaborating to create slides and a video to help disseminate knowledge from a recent workshop to a broader audience.


Susann   Joski                           North Brunswick, NJ                Duke 2009

Helped train, support and monitor the organic material recycling effort in one hotel and three supermarkets for Organic Diversion LLP,   diverting a total of 497.37 Tons or 994,740 lbs of commercial food waste from landfills to compost.

Organic Diversion is a young company that recycles organic materials. Their main focus is food producers who would like to reduce their disposal costs by recycling more of their waste. 

Susann accomplished this successful diversion by regularly visiting the clients, checking what was being recycled and dealing with questions and problems.
Her four clients were:

  • McCaffrey’s, Princeton
  • Pathmark, Middlesex Township
  • Thriftway, Robbinsville
  • Westin, Princeton

Susann commented: “Organic Diversion’s program of repeated visits to their clients helps to ensure that appropriate items are recycled and increases the participation of the staff.”

Her supervisor, Gail Rosati, CEO of Organic Diversion , made the following comments: “Susann was very methodical when coaching the accounts.  She was sure to follow up whenever an account was challenged and was strong at communicating with management, kitchen and supermarket staff as well as Organic Diversion.”

As New Jersey Townships struggle with budgets during this difficult economic period, organic recycling allows townships to receive grant funds in return for recycling.   


Ellen  Lichtenstein                            Margate, NJ                             ACUA 2008

tableWorked with her local city commissioners and the Margate Beautification Board to develop and implement the first Adopt-A-Beach program in Atlantic County. She worked with the local public works department to analyze the litter problem on the beach and experiment with solutions. They learned that while availability of trash receptacles was part of the problem, an equal problem was lack of public concern. To address this, she led several “awareness” activities including Earth Hour “We were one of the first United States cities to join the world in shutting off our extraneous public lights and dimming all other lights in order to raise awareness about energy use.” She also ran an Earth Day lecture on “Earth Wise Lawn Care” that drew 75 people.  After b uilding momentum and local interest, she moved on to the creation of an Adopt-A-Beach (AAB) program. Partnering with the Public Works department and a liaison from the Clean Communities Program, the AAB program was adapted to fit Margate’s demographics. They began generating publicity and spent a year refining the program. 

The Ribbon Cutting Ceremony on May 24, 2009 was met by overwhelming response. An invitation was sent out to the NJ Governor, Senators, Congressmen, Freeholders, Assemblymen, Margate's Chief of Police, Head of the Public Works Department, and other local dignitaries and news organizations. Senator Whelan attended, as did Congressman Frank LoBiondo, the Mayor and Commissioners of Margate and many of the Adopt-A-Beach Environmental Stewards. Assemblyman John Amodeo was also able to attend and surprised them by having a Resolution passed by the NJ General Assembly to recognize the launching of the Margate Adopt-A-Beach program. NBC 40 was in attendance, and showed the ribbon cutting on the evening news.

There are 41 entry points onto the Margate Beach. To date, 31 separate Environmental Stewards represent 26 beaches. Some of the Stewards are actually a group - for example: from one block. Next summer they will concentrate on getting the last group of fifteen beaches covered.

A good deal of creative work was required to develop the AAB signage. Much  help was provided by local artist, Jon Baker, and the local sign producers through Chester's Florist. It took many rounds of revisions, but the process produced a sign that is both pleasant to look at and sophisticated, which was important to all involved. These signs were designed to be able to endure the salt air and windy winters.

The first annual Environmental Stewards and Friends Seminar was held in the beginning of this summer. More than half of the Stewards and many more "friends" came out to hear what had been done about getting the trash picked up off the beach to keep it from blow ing all over, and how to reach those who don't even bother getting their trash to receptacles. Ideas continue to flow and many refinements continue to be implemented. Ellen has gotten telephone calls from other cities about how to start an Adopt-A-Beach program. Two years ago she helped a representative from Miami Beach start their Adopt-A-Beach program. This past year she had discussions with a commissioner from Ventnor, and another representative from Atlantic City.

Ellen sees this effort as logically leading to the creation of an Environmental Commission in Margate which could address a much longer list of environmental projects.


Laura Mandell                      Warren, NJ                              Duke 2011

As Chair of the Warren Green team, Laura is leading the process of Warren becoming Bronze Certified through the Sustainable Jersey program. The Green Team has partnered with the Warren Environmental Commission, the schools, the library, the scouts, the recreation commission, and will continue to do so for the upcoming Green Fair in the spring. After certification is achieved, the next priority is to increase recycling among Warren businesses. This should save local businesses money in trash fees.

The Green Team targeted 18 Sustainable Jersey Action Items in 9 different categories. All actions have been completed and the Sustainable Jersey application has been submitted.  The Sustainable Jersey Bronze Certification requires 150 points of Action Items;  the Warren submission includes over 200 points of Action Items. They have been submitted under the categories of:  Community Partnership & Outreach, Energy Efficiency, Health & Wellness, Land Use & Transportation, Food, Natural Resources, Operations & Maintenance, Sustainability Planning, and Waste Management. 

Laura is also a Commissioner on the Warren Environmental Commission which is conducting a revision of the Natural Resource Inventory for the first time since 1988. In addition to Laura, members of the Environmental Commission, volunteers, and staff members will be working on this project. Warren Township received a grant from ANJEC for $1750, with Warren matching fifty percent. This can be used for like services, such as mapping. The completed NRI will be used by the township for planning purposes.

On August 9th the Green Team hosted a tour of a large solar installation at a commercial building in Warren . The goal was to recognize a local business that is reducing its impact on the environment and, by reporting the story, to encourage other businesses to do the same. This tour was educational for green team members, local leaders and the reporters. Local media from four separate outlets covered the event.

To accomplish their goals, Green Team members hold monthly meetings and stay in contact through email


Mary Masilamani                            Morristown, NJ                        Duke 2010

Created and maintained  an annotated catalog of native plants for the habitat plant sale at the Scherman-Hoffman Sanctuary of New Jersey Audubon in Bernardsville and participated in plant selection and planning prior to the sale and on sale day.

Environmental Impact:  This plant sale focuses on habitat plants native to Somerset and Morris Counties in NJ.  The fourteen page catalog for the sale includes over 100 varieties of perennials, shrubs, trees, vines, ferns and several non-native tender plants of exceptional wildlife value.  The plant list is available on the Internet at (http://www.njaudubon.org/SectionBackyardHabitat/WildlifePlantsforSale.aspx). 

In addition to shoppers at the sale who regularly arrive with carefully annotated copies of the catalog in hand, the catalog is also used by people purchasing habitat plants from other vendors and for college-level classes for students of landscape design and maintenance. 

The habitat plant sale evolved from a simple fund raising sale of flats of annuals, gradually adding non-native and native perennials until eventually its focus became solely native plants with wildlife value.  Today the sale is the largest single fund raiser for the sanctuary and one of the largest native plant sales in New Jersey.  Customers include residential gardeners, owners of larger properties, schools, and county parks.  The catalog helps all of these customers select plants that are suitable for their part of the state.

The original catalog included only plant names and brief descriptions.  The current catalog, developed with guidance from a NJ Audubon Society naturalist, now includes advice about habitat creation, detailed plant descriptions including growing conditions, size, bloom time, and wildlife value, and sources for additional information about both native and invasive plants in this region of NJ.


Charlie Miller                          Brigantine, NJ                           ACUA 2011

Initiated and evaluated the effectiveness of anti–litter efforts on 10 beaches in Brigantine, NJ.  He also developed videos to raise awareness of the impact of litter on the marine environment and help the Marine Mammal Stranding Center in Brigantine further it’s mission of rescuing, rehabilitating and releasing dolphins, seals and sea turtles that are beached  along the coast of New Jersey. The projects will impact not only the barrier island community of Brigantine, N.J., but will also provide an educational opportunity for students across the state.

The videos identified the harmful impacts of human actions on these mammals, such as discarded fishing line, party balloons, plastic lids and plastic bags. The resulting DVD is being made available to schools across the State as a cost effective way to get the message out. He also produced two short videos. One is a 1.5 minute PSA on the effects of litter on Marine Mammals (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mmrtXJBtOdsand the second is a 10 minute documentary on the Marine Mammal Stranding center: (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=36dQQMIkos0)

In the second part of his project he designed, funded and installed anti-littering signs on litter containers found at the entrances to Brigantine Beaches in order to encourage beachgoers to properly dispose of trash. Signs were designed, ordered and installed on 4 out of five blue limited access litter containers that were deployed at the beach entrances as noted in the following chart. A four day study was conducted between June 8, 2011 and June 16, 2011 to test the effectiveness of this technique, after which the containers were redeployed to other locations in Brigantine.  

Conclusion: There was a measurable decrease in the amount of litter found on the beaches where litter containers, at those beach entrances, had Anti-Littering messages. The beaches with the anti-littering messages had approx. 17% less litter.  Over an 80 day period this would equate to 300 fewer pieces of litter.

Charlie also ran three beach clean-ups in Brigantine with Joe Campitelli, the Clean Communities coordinator. There were 489 total participants who collected approx 489 bags of litter.  The Brigantine Public Works Department collected the bags of litter after each cleanup and they estimate that each bag was approx. ¼ filled and weighed about 3lbs. This equates to 1467 lbs of litter, much of which would have found its way into the marine environment where it po ses a direct hazard to Marine Mammals.


Ruth  Murphy                                   Atlantic City, NJ                       ACUA 2008

Updated 5,000 records and species counts for the NJ Audubon Important Bird Areas (IBA) program. This program collects bird survey data from around the state and uses it in a database to identify potential global IBS’s in New Jersey. The data is also used by Audubon statewide, nationally and internationally to identify and prioritize stewardship projects.

Ruth commented, “As a result of this project I have learned about bird conservation efforts, birding enthusiasts’ great contribution to the effort and the tremendous amount of data involved to support the effort.  I most enjoyed the project involving analysis of some of the data to determine sites having numbers which might qualify for application for IBA Global designation.”

Her NJAS Coordinator, Suzanne Treyger, commented, “5,000 entries is incredible! … from our perspective you greatly helped to update a number of NJ records in the National Audubon IBA database and have helped us to identify potential global IBA sites in NJ. “


Gary Oppenheimer                          Newfoundland, NJ                   Essex 2005

Founded and directs the AmpleHarvest.org Campaign, a 501c3 not-for-profit charity incorporated in the State of New Jersey.

The AmpleHarvest.org website provides an opportunity for food pantries to register in all 50 states so that home gardeners and other growers of food can locate a pantry in their neighborhood where they can donate their surplus crops. This is done at no cost to the pantries or to the donors.

The organization points out that over 50 million Americans lack the food necessary for a nutritious diet, while over 40 million Americans often grow more produce in their home gardens than they can use.  AmpleHarvest.org currently provides the opportunity for 4,500 registered food pantries to connect with and receive freshly harvested food from local growers.

Gary has received many citations for this project. He is a CNN Hero, winner of the Russell Berrie Foundation “Making a Difference Award,” was the Huffington Post’s “Greatest Person of the Day” and has been interviewed many times by the news media.
AmpleHarvest.org is backed by the USDA, Google Inc. the National Gardening Association, the National Council of Churches and many faith and service organizations. It is cited on the White House website.

An AmpleHarvest.org, Inc Brochure is available in PDF form.


Lisa Petriello          Moorestown, NJ                      Duke 2010

Interned from July 2010 through February 2011 and coached 12 Accounts -  5 hospitals, one diner, 6 supermarkets. Her efforts were responsible for the diversion of 439.92 Tons or 879,840 lbs of commercial food waste from landfills to compost.

Her efforts involved visiting these accounts on a monthly or semi-monthly basis as determined by need and working with management and staff to promote the goals of their food waste recycling program.   Her efforts were directed toward driving continuous process improvement, maximizing diverted waste while maintaining sanitation standards, educating staff, and effecting strong working partnerships between Organic Diversion and their clients.

Gail Rosati, CEO of Organic Diversion commented, “Lisa was very detailed and very effective in communicating how to improve composting inside a commercial kitchen and supermarket with both management and staff.  Lisa also had good follow through with Organic Diversion.”

In addition to coaching corporate clients, she toured the composting facility in Wilmington, Delaware and discussed food waste diversion issues and efforts with leaders in Boulder, Colorado , a city that has adopted a Zero Waste Ordinance and is in the forefront of recycling and waste reduction in the U.S.

Organic Diversion is a commercial food waste recycler (located in Medford, NJ) that operates throughout the Tri-State region. They provide an enterprise-wide solution for businesses seeking to divert food waste from waste intended for landfills.  The service offered by Organic Diversion is unique because it provides ongoing on-site support and coaching to its clients.  Throughout the industry, this type of support has been a component of successful programs because a “culture change” is acquired only over time.

In the US, food waste is the second largest category of municipal waste and represents 18% of the waste sent to landfills.   Currently, less than 3% of this waste is diverted.


Carol Stein                            Chesterfield, NJ                        EcoComplex 2010

Removed invasives and restored habitat with the nonprofit organization, Friends of Hopewell Valley Open Space (FOHVOS).  FOHVOS is dedicated to preserving and protecting the diversity of forests, wetlands, meadows, the scenic beauty and character of Hopewell Valley in Mercer County for the benefit of people, animals, birds and insects.  There are 35 species of mammals, 106 bird species, 27 reptiles, 23 amphibians, 85 fish species, 57 dragonflies/damselflies, 94 butterflies/moths, and 10 mussel species in Hopewell Valley, of which 65 are listed as priorities for conservation in New Jersey.

  • Removed Japanese wisteria from several areas on Baldpate mountain.  Baldpate Mountain is part of the Ted Stiles Preserve which stretches across 1800 acres in Hopewell Valley.  There are over 10 miles of trails.  Japanese wisteria is an invasive vining plant which grows densely and rapidly takes over habitats, smothering out native species, such as spice bush, witch hazels, viburnums and mountain laurels.  This in turn endangers the survival of insects and animals that depend on the natives.   Along with a group of 3-6 participants (part of the Central Jersey Invasive Species Strike Team and FOHVOS volunteers), she cut back the wisteria and applied herbicide to control its spread. 
  • Helped eradicate Japanese Aralia from the Albahary Preserve – 7.9 acres of forests – which is damaging the native diversity there. 
  • Participated in a reforestation effort in the Ted Stiles Preserve.  The project involved 116 volunteers over 5 days planting 1,660 native trees and shrubs (white oaks, chestnut oaks, black cherry trees, persimmons, spicebushes, bayberry, etc) in 8.3 acres of abandoned fields.  The area was fenced off so that deer browsing could be controlled.   Once established, the forest will significantly improve the habitat for endangered birds such as hooded warblers, worm-eating warblers and Kentucky warblers, whose only known breeding location in Mercer County is on Baldpate Mountain in the Stiles Preserve.
  • Engaged in trail maintenance which involved cutting back invasive plants such as multiflora rose and barberry, clearing obstructions from streams, laying gravel for parking areas for the public, removing fallen trees and branches which blocked trails, picking up trash, making sure the trails are safe to walk so that people would not trip on rocks, etc.  She helped build 5 new benches for rest areas along the trails.  The trails worked on include:
  • Heritage Preserve (1.5 mile trail over 66 acres of beech trees, wildflower meadows, red maples, sweet gum, etc) 
  • Eames Preserve (1.6 mi trail over 76 acres) 
  • Elks Preserve (1 mi trail over 45 acres of former agricultural lands, now reverting to maple and cedar)
  • Franz Preserve – Jacobs Creek (19 acres of forested wetlands, red cedar)
  • Nayfield Preserve (1.5 mi trail over 57 acres, wet meadow, white pine, beech, blackhaw viburnum, etc)
  • Thompson Preserve (57 acres – trail building in progress)
  • Researched fact sheets to help the general public identify invasive species.  The fact sheets will be made available on the FOHVOS website and distributed through newsletters and other conservation organizations. Topics she worked on include: Kousa Dogwood (Cornus kousa), the Emerald Ash Borer (Agrilus planipennis fairmaire), Asian Shore Crab (Hemigrapsus sanguineus), the Asian Longhorn Beetle (Anoplophora glabripennis), viburnum leaf beetle (Pyrrhalta viburni), mute swan (Cygnus olor) and White Pine Blister Rust (Cronartium ribicola).
  • Helped to teach a group of 25-30 7th graders from the Stuart School about invasive species.  She showed the students how to eradicate wisteria on a school field trip.

Ingrid  Witty                           Boonton, NJ                             Duke 2010

As a Rutgers Cooperative Extension (RCE) Water Resources Program Certified Rain Garden Specialist and Trainer, Ingrid Witty chose to earn volunteer hours assisting Pat Rector, County Environmental and Resource Management Agent of Morris and Somerset Counties. Her educational project culminated in the construction of residential rain gardens in the hills of Parsippany's Troy neighborhood through a grant from the NJ Department of Environmental Protection. The project consisted of installing five free
rain gardens in a residential neighborhood. The mission was to raise the awareness of private property homeowners to the importance of rain gardens at their homes as a solution to storm water runoff.

The first part of the project consisted of educating homeowners about stormwater, the Troy Brook Stormwater Plan, and the opportunity to have a free rain garden installed on their property. A press release about the project was sent out to the newspapers, the homeowners association website and the municipal website. The next step was the canvassing of the 196 homes in the Hills of Troy neighborhood educating through one-on-one conversations as they worked through the neighborhood.

During the canvassing, which took several days, homeowners were provided with a copy of a flyer describing the project, including how rain gardens could help reduce stormwater runoff along with registration information. A book of rain garden pictures was specifically developed to help provide talking points as they stood on porches discussing rain gardens on each property. Preliminary visits to all the registered homeowners were undertaken to gather information such as homeowners' knowledge and interest in rain gardens, possible locations, and photographs of the possible sites. A Visit Response Sheet was created to document the results of the visit, and to help select a list of candidates. The five free rain garden recipients were selected by the Rutgers engineers who visited the sites, and who created a rain garden design for each of the five homeowners.

Once the percolation test and utility mark outs were complete, the rain garden construction began. The rain gardens took five days to install, and the construction process was documented through photographs. Maintenance manuals specific to each homeowner were also developed. As part of the continuing education, Ingrid Witty gave a Powerpoint presentation to the Whippany River Watershed on the entire project. This committee included members of the public and appointed representatives from most of the municipalities in the Whippany watershed along with County representatives.

The internship process was fun, along with providing great experience in project management from beginning to end. The impacts of this project were: education of homeowners, municipal and county officials and other residents in the area, the estimated reduction of 43,280 gallons per year of stormwater, and the development of a template for a maintenance manual. A follow-up survey is being conducted with the residents in the Hills of Troy.