The following projects were completed in fulfillment of the internship requirement of the Rutgers Environmental Stewards program. Projects are organized by class location.
John Addrizzo—Class of 2017—Atlantic County
Creation of a Brigantine Green Team Health & Wellness Committee
The goal of this Rutgers Environmental Stewards Program internship project was to create a Health & Wellness Committee (H&WC) of the Brigantine Green Team to increase awareness of the important link between personal wellness and environmental sustainability. Brigantine Beach, like many Jersey Shore locations, has an amazing natural environment. Residents of Brigantine Beach, like many Americans, could benefit from focused education and programming for healthier eating and a more active lifestyle.
As Chairperson of the H&W Committee, John led initiatives that combined health and environmental concerns. From mid-March through late September, he hosted bi-monthly “Active Awareness” events –walks in different sections of the island where participants could burn calories, increase mobility and beautify Brigantine’s streets, parks and beaches by picking up litter. A second component of the H&WC activities was monthly participation at the Brigantine Farmers Market.
Highlights from the project included:
- 18 total project events, which were attended by 91 volunteers donating a total of 196 hours.
- 166 total “miles covered” during all events.
- 65 bags of trash and 45 bags of recyclable material collected during 13 Active Awareness events.
- 209 people coming to the Health & Wellness booth at 4 Farmers Markets.
- $200 of funding for trash and recyclable clean up from the ACUA “Adopt-A-Road” Program.
- 66 personal hours on planning, marketing and participation.
The Health & Wellness events have become an integral part of Brigantine’s Green Team, and the project earned the town of Brigantine 10 Sustainable Jersey points, which contributed to the town’s Bronze Medal Certification. Planning for 2018 has already begun, and John intends to build upon the initial success of the project’s first year of programming.
iTree Inventory Cranford NJ. Garry Annibal—Class of 2016—Passaic County
The goal of Garry’s project was to inventory trees within the public right-of-way in Cranford, a suburban/urban township in Union County. Garry collaborated with the Land Conservancy of NJ to complete a comprehensive tree inventory using iTrees, a mobile app provided by the US Forest Service. The app allowed him to include in the survey the number, species, size and condition of each tree and impact on the local infrastructure.
He surveyed eleven (11) municipally-managed parks to determine the composition and condition of the trees. The inventory includes statistics about each tree including:
- diameter at breast height (DBH)
- existing damage to sidewalks
- conflict with overhead lines
- pest infiltration.
An action plan for hazard trees as well as recommendations for tree selection and maintenance was offered. Despite the township’s dense population, 5,000/sq.mi, Cranford acknowledges a goal to maintain the township as a tree city and intends to continue implementing the shade-tree planting program by planting additional street trees.
The information from Garry’s project will be used by the Township to treat or remove diseased trees, to remove dead trees and stumps, and to plan for replacement of trees that are likely to be affected by pending challenges such as the Emerald Ash Borer, Dutch Elm Disease or Oak Wilt.
The inventory will serve as an update to a prior study conducted back in 1999 by a certified tree expert working with interns from Rutgers University. Since then, development, storms, and diseases have changed the number and types of trees in the township leading to the interest in updating the inventory. The completion of the inventory earned points for Cranford in their Sustainable Jersey application. In total, Garry invested 146 hours towards completing the inventory, and 5,626 street trees of 102 different species were identified.
NJ Legislative Environmental Scorecard. Carolee Bol—Class of 2016—Passaic County
The goal of the project was to track how NJ State legislators voted on the top 15 environmental bills for the 2016-17 session.
Carolee spent approximately 300-400 hours over the span of 10 months compiling this information and making it readily accessible and easy to understand. The report empowers voters to make well-informed decisions when they cast their votes for chosen representatives.
This information was a contribution to the Clean Water Action NJ Legislative Scorecard for 2015-2017. Because of this project, New Jersey legislators are aware that their environmental records will be published and publicly scrutinized. Environmental “heroes and zeroes” were also identified based on their voting records on key environmental issues.
After attending many committee meetings and meeting legislators, scoring votes for over 20 bills, Carolee reports that she now has a much better appreciation of the process. “Like sausage-making, it's something that is not pretty! Sometimes legislators will vote pro-environment on some issues but not on others. Both parties vote positively and negatively on environmental issues. Many times a legislator will try to do the right thing only to be thwarted. They are given credit for these attempts, even though it's not represented by a strict vote.”
Mill Brook, Portrait of an Urban Stream. Susan Edmunds– Class of 2016– Middlesex County
The goal of Susan’s project was to walk the length of Mill Brook, which flows through Highland Park and Edison, NJ. Susan photographed and conducted a visual and written assessment of the environmental attributes of the Mill Brook. Susan has taken and organized about 900 photographs of Mill Brook and also collected historical and geographical data.
Susan’s desire to be a responsible steward of Mill Brook, and her uncertainty about how to accomplish that goal ultimately brought her to the Rutgers Environmental Stewards program.
The characteristics of urban streams, including Mill Brook, have been studied and organized for the development of a Story Map: "Mill Brook, Portrait of an Urban Stream". The Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership (LRWP) plans on utilizing her data to tell the story of the Mill Brook.
Susan also gave a presentation on her findings to a small group of concerned citizens from Highland Park and at a meeting hosted by the Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership. Susan has lived beside Mill Brook for almost 30 years. Reflecting on the project Susan observed that “the internship project has been one of discovery in the service of communicating what I learn to other neighbors of Mill Brook and to a wider audience interested in the dynamics of urban streams.”
Susan estimates that she spent approximately 150 hours of her time photographing the brook, examining current and historic maps of the brook, and noting problems and potential opportunities for the brook.
Mill Pond Park Walk and Talk. Nancy Gable—Class of 2017—Somerset County
The goal of this project was to simultaneously encourage current members of the Washington Township Land Trust (WTLT) to become more active in the Stewardship of Green Acres properties throughout town and to provide education about the ecology of Mill Pond Park.
In total, 27 people attended the “Walk and Talk.” Invasive species were identified by New Jersey Conservation Foundation’s (NJCF’s) Dr. Emile DeVito. As a direct result of hosting the event, current members of the WTLT will be working to eradicate mugwort and mile-a-minute plants from the Mill Pond Park, and transplanting swamp oak seedlings to areas in the park where they will thrive and counteract invasive species.
During the "Walk and Talk", Dr. DeVito pointed out both native and invasive plant species and gave specific recommendations on how to deal with them. He also talked about the impact of climate change on the ecology of the park and explained the conditions that contribute to the presence of invasive species.
Nancy estimates that she and her volunteers invested approximately 80 hours on this project, and she is hopeful that her efforts will entice others to become passionate about land stewardship and invasive plant management.
Soil Moisture Active Passive Monitoring (SMAP) Patrick Gilliam—Class of 2016—Middlesex County
Patrick brought an interest in soil science with him when he first began the RES class. He soon learned about a project developed by NASA officially titled Soil Moisture Active Passive monitoring or (SMAP) which became a perfect fit for his internship project.
The goal of this initiative is to make predictions about soil moisture across the earth once every 3 days. This is achieved by satellite surveillance and data entry from citizen scientists like Patrick. Essentially, the moredata that is collected, the greater the accuracy in the predictions of the soil moisture. Since the satellite is making predictions as it travels over an area, data collected at the time when the satellite is nearest the site are most useful. SMAP data can help better predict and understand flooding, droughts, weather patterns, and the effects of climate change.
Prior to getting started with the project, Patrick first had to familiarize himself with the Global Learning and Observation to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE) program, which is a worldwide, hands-on, primary and secondary school-based science and education program, that is involved with promoting SMAP and similar projects. The GLOBE website contained all of the resources that he needed and is also where he uploaded all of his data.
Patrick noted that finding acceptable sampling locations was perhaps the most challenging aspect of the project because he needed to be able to park and safely access the sites. The locations also needed to be on public property or Patrick had to gain permission for private properties. In addition there could be no artificial irrigation, or evidence of disturbance such as human foot traffic, preferably no steep slopes, and mostly free of vegetation within the 9’ by 9’ sample area.
Following the completion of his project, Patrick gave a presentation about his work to the 2017 Middlesex County RES class at the Earth Center in South Brunswick. One Steward also chose to continue the project in the future. Patrick’s main take-away from the project was “This kind of project is what breeds youthful curiosity. I hope that at least some school-aged children get involved with SMAP and get a true hands-on experience with science as a result of my project.”
2017 New Jersey Osprey Survey. Tony Kono—Class of 2017—Middlesex County
The goal of Tony’s internship was to help determine if ospreys in NJ have recovered sufficiently to downgrade their status as a threatened species in New Jersey. Tony partnered with Conserve Wildlife New Jersey to assist them with their on-going Osprey Survey. In total, Tony surveyed more than 175 nests - with approximately 100 of them active.
Tony surveyed active osprey nests on platforms in Barnegat Bay, on cell phone towers, and telephone poles in all of Monmouth County and in Northern Ocean County. The nests had not been surveyed since before Super Storm Sandy and the results were added to the ongoing osprey census.
Tony built five Osprey platforms at the NJ Outdoor Expo in Jackson with the assistance of several groups of young people.
Reflecting on his motivation for the project, Tony says that from his home in Brick, he has often marveled at osprey fishing in the Metedeconck River. He would often talk with locals in and around town about the osprey and was surprised at how little most folks knew about the local apex raptors. “I decided then, that I would do whatever I could to increase awareness of these amazing birds locally as well as to do whatever I could on a volunteer basis to help with their on-going recovery. It was one of the best things I’ve ever done.”
Promoting Environmental Awareness Through Climate Change Documentary. Anne Maiese—Class of 2016—Atlantic County
The goal of Anne’s project was to raise awareness of the immediacy of climate change and its effects on people today. Through networking, she learned of several environmentally-focused student organizations at nearby Stockton University and quickly enlisted their help to reach a larger audience.
Anne partnered with Carly Griffiths, co-president of Stockton University Sustainability Trust (SUST), the group’s faculty mentor Prof. Patrick Hossay, and Stockton Action Volunteers for the Environment (SAVE) to promote a film viewing and panel discussion.
Anne was determined to raise awareness through the sharing of the film, "Facing the Surge," which showcased the threat of rising sea levels, and the pressing need for coastal resiliency planning on a local and regional level.
With her partners, she showed the film on campus at Stockton. Students also helped to promote the event and attract a larger audience.
The film, "Facing the Surge," is part of a series of documentaries from the group Adaptation Now, which hopes to educate the public on the effects of global climate change.
Following the showing of the film, Anne also arranged to have Professor Hossay host a panel discussion on the topic. In total, 35 people attended the film and 26 of them answered the post-viewing questionnaire.
Results from the survey indicated that many of the viewers from the audience had indeed changed their minds about the immediacy of climate change, and the pressing need to take action to protect our coastlines.
Volunteer Recruitment and Training for the Holgate Unit of the Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge (FNWR). Mary Jane Mannherz Class of 2017 Atlantic County
The goal of Mary Jane's project was to recruit and train volunteers to staff the Interpretative Tent at the entrance to the Holgate Unit of the Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge (FNWR).
Mary Jane created The Holgate Volunteer Resource Manual, a fifty-page training resource, which covers environmental topics relevant to Holgate. The manual will remain available to the Refuge for future trainings.
The Volunteer Training and the Volunteer Resource Manual educated volunteers about the mission of the Refuge and its wildlife value. Volunteers were able to better share that information with visitors to the refuge.
Mary Jane successfully trained fourteen volunteers, who staffed the summer Interpretation table at the Refuge. These new Forsythe volunteers contributed over 272 hours of time during the 10-week season. Mary Jane personally exceeded 95 hours working on this project.
As a result of her volunteer recruitment project, the Refuge Volunteer Coordinator now has a greater number, and a more diverse pool, of volunteers from which to draw upon for future projects. Plans are underway to repeat the training again next year.
Atlantic County Rain Barrel Educational Workshops. Quentin Moore Class of 2016- Atlantic County
The goal of Quentin's project was to educate participants at several rain barrel workshops on the value of slowing down storm water runoff and the role rain barrels serve in conserving water. Quentin provided hands-on training on how to build a rain barrel and explained how to properly install it at home.
After learning about rain barrels during a Green Infrastructure RES class lecture, Quentin became interested in teaching others about them. He then attended a class on rain barrel building at the Atlantic County Utilities Authority (ACUA), and began running workshops.
Often, the difficulty with hosting rain barrel workshops stems from the expense to purchase, and transport them or the difficulty in obtaining barrels in quantity. Quentin was fortunate to establish a contact at a soft drink company and was able to obtain dozens of food grade barrels. This enabled the ACUA to continue with their rain barrel training program.
Quentin trained 51 participants in the use, construction, and benefits of rain barrels in three different workshops. Given that a rain barrel will save about 1,300 gallons of water during the peak summer months, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the barrels constructed during these workshops have the capacity to collect 66,300 gallons of stormwater!
Reflecting on his project, Quentin said 'the positive reactions of the people I trained inspired me to want to continue to advocate for the promotion of rain barrel use. My own family's use of rain barrels has also inspired me to inform more people of the benefits of rain barrel usage.
Quentin plans to continue preparing rain barrels for organizations in need of them, and training others. He is happy to report that because of his efforts, the ACUA can continue hosting rain barrel workshops. Cloverdale County Park captures runoff from the roof of their visitor's center with their new rain barrels, courtesy of Quentin, and thereby decreases erosion.
Cloverdale is currently using three rain barrels which are used to conserve water, educate the public, and provide additional suggestions on how to be more environmentally-responsible at home. Cloverdale also plans to continue to offer the workshops based on the success of the project.
Passaic County Sustainable Jersey Certification Lead for Cedar Grove. Dinah Perkins Class of 2016
The goal of Dinah's project was to help lead Cedar Grove Township in applying for Sustainable Jersey certification for the first time.
The municipality of Cedar Grove has adopted several Sustainable Jersey initiatives and has passed several ordinances in support of sustainability practices, such as no smoking in township parks, and a formal green grounds and maintenance policy.
The township had also successfully completed the 2016-2020 NJ Forestry Service Community Forestry Management Plan. In addition, as a member of the Environmental Commission, Dinah and her peers reviewed and updated the township's Environmental Resources Inventory.
Dinah reports that it has been a two-year long effort to build the municipal alignment and resources to decide which Sustainable Jersey initiatives they would undertake, and to complete the required work, and documentation.
Dinah estimates that approximately 230 hours went into this project from volunteers, with another approximately 50 hours by municipal employees.
They utilized municipal funds for tree planting, installing signage in the parks for a no smoking policy, and grounds maintenance of Morgan's Farm park grounds.
Once the township gains their certification, they will also be applying for grants to make township improvements in the areas of walking trails in the township's parks.
'Operation Oyster' Oyster Monitoring Program. Susan Sansone, Class of 2017, Somerset County
The goal of Susan's project was to was to determine if there were any wild oysters in the Shrewsbury or Navesink Rivers in Monmouth County. Data from the project was utilized to help make better decisions moving forward with oyster restoration in and around New Jersey. Her project also helped to determine whether or not recycled shells in bags could provide a microhabitat for oyster spat and other marine species.
The restoration research project involved hanging bagged recycled clamshells off docks in five locations along the NJ coast. Once a month, from June to September, the bags were pulled out of the water, where they had rested to catalog the species inhabiting the bag. There was an emphasis on searching for natural oyster spat on the shells.
Susan entered her data into a master spreadsheet, which was shared with the project host agency the American Littoral Society (ALS). Once analyzed, the shells were rehung with the addition of a new bag of shells to enlarge the microhabitat they were trying to create.
Susan reports that there are plans to continue the project next summer. In 2018, a spat tank will be set up at a local dock to grow juvenile oysters, which will be added to the shell bags before they are rehung. This will provide additional data to the ALS which will be used to determine the viability of growing oysters in the river.
This year an educational component of the project began with the local schools, having students conducting assessments. There are plans to expand this next year.
While wild oysters were not found during this initial study, the program, which took place on five docks located on the Navesink and Shrewsbury Rivers, raised awareness regarding pollution in our waterways and the vital role oysters can play in helping to filter and clean our rivers.
Reflecting on her work Susan said 'I believe the towns around the river are engaged in working together to solve the problem of pollution and including the educational component will educate students who will take that knowledge home.
Berkeley Heights Green Community Challenge Pledge (for Sustainable Jersey). Kinan Tadmori, Class of 2016, Somerset County
The goal of Kinan's project was to assist her township in acquiring Sustainable Jersey points toward obtaining their Silver Certification.
As an Environmental Commissioner in her town of Berkeley Heights, Kinan disseminated a Town-wide survey to collect data on actions residents of the town were already doing, as well as what actions they would pledge to do, to protect the environment and live more sustainably.
The Environmental Commission assisted in distributing the green pledge to their contacts at various events, including township council meetings, summer concerts, and an environmental movie screening.
As a direct result of her initiative, in addition to earning the Sustainable Jersey points, Kinan's efforts will also assist her Environmental Commission with grant applications for future projects and initiatives.
Kinan's Green Pledge serves to highlight the efforts of the Environmental Commission, and to bring increased awareness to at least 241 residents who have pledged to engage in more environmentally-friendly actions.
To maintain Sustainable Jersey certification, townships must apply for their re-certification every 3 years, and, according to Kinan, the project just seemed to be ideal.
'Because the timing of our re-certification coincided with my internship, I decided to complete a project that would help us with the certification. I liked the idea of the Green Community Challenge Pledge because it engaged residents in a simple way and would give us valuable information about residents' attitude towards the environment.
Native Riparian Buffer for Manalapan Lake. Emily Toth, Class of 2017, Middlesex County
Emily's project centered on designing and installing a shoreline buffer in Thompson Park at Manalapan Lake. The goals of the project were to help improve water and soil quality, create a new habitat, promote pollinators, and improve park aesthetics.
The planting, which was installed close to the shoreline, included a variety of native plants and will serve as a natural filter for water runoff.
Emily started the project by thoroughly analyzing the site through a series of visits, taking note of the quality of soil, topography, and sunlight angles. She continued by researching various types of native plants that could be used for the site. After her initial research, she began creating a physical design and drafting the site plan.
After determining the final quantity of plants and plant types, and identifying a nearby native nursery to order the plants, Emily and 18 volunteers spent approximately 50 hours installing the buffer with funding made possible by Rutgers Cooperative Extension. In addition, Emily spent over 60 hours planning the garden.
Manalapan Lake will benefit from the additional vegetation around its shore. Emily's planting specifically serves as a filter for from onpoint source pollutants from stormwater runoff. The plants will help slow erosion and improve the quality of the lake's water. This will benefit both the wildlife and visitors of Thompson Park. The county will be able to use her planting as an example of the benefits of creating additional plantings around Manalapan Lake in the future.