On Air, On YouTube: Partners, Teachers, Other Stakeholders on NYSG's Benefits to Coastal Communities

Stony Brook, NY, October 11, 2017 - Earlier this year when Sea Grant was called into question in the federal budget proposal, many spoke out in support of the 50+ year national program. That's because in that time  the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) National Sea Grant College Program (NOAA Sea Grant) has been putting science to work for America's coastal communities.

“Sea Grant has been working with a wide assemblage of partners to support New York’s coastal communities, businesses and residents for five decades now," said New York Sea Grant Director William Wise. "Thousands of New Yorkers have benefited over the years from Sea Grant programming in such areas as fisheries, aquatic invasive species, coastal tourism and coastal community resilience."

Early Support from Sea Grant Partner Program

In late March, Adam Parris, Executive Director of the Science and Resilience Institute at Jamaica Bay (SRIatJB), wrote about Sea Grant's budget concerns in article for WaterWire, the Waterfront Alliance's e-newsletter: “Eliminating NOAA Sea Grant will severely affect the research and efforts to bring tangible science-based benefits to coastal communities around Jamaica Bay, and all around the country.”

Sea Grant partners on a number of efforts with SRIatJB, a Brooklyn College-based non-profit that provides funding for projects such as research on horseshoe crabs on Plumb Beach, shellfish functionality and algal blooms in Jamaica Bay and Long Island Sound, and nutrient cycling on Long Island.

“Regardless of what the President may propose in a budget, it is the Congress that ultimately disposes in setting the financial appropriations for federal agencies and programs,” said Parris. “Congress has been a staunch friend of Sea Grant. NYSG program leaders are in Washington speaking directly with members of Congress, but hearing from individual stakeholders such as you will likely carry even more weight with these elected officials.”

Teachers Tout Sea Grant's Education Efforts

This past April, Payne Horning, a reporter for National Public Radio's WRVO station (Oswego 89.9, Syracuse 90.3, Watertown 91.7, Clayton 89.3), met with a group of middle and high school science teachers during one NYSG-hosted training seminar to see how teachers viewed Sea Grant. At SUNY Oswego's Rice Creek Field Station, they clustered around bins full of classroom activities they can implement into their lessons about the Great Lakes. Their conversation can be heard in its entirety here:

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Fulton biology high school teacher Dan Mainville, who attended the training, said the information and expertise Sea Grant provides for the communities they serve is worth the investment. "I mean how do you replace that? I don’t think you can," Mainville said. "To remove that funding is ridiculous - counter-intuitive."

Kristin Scheehan-Vautrin, who teaches life science and environmental science in Pulaski, said the cuts would be a huge disservice to the nation's future. "I think there’s a huge disconnect for students between what they know about nature and their experiences with it," Scheehan-Vautrin said. "I think a lot of these activities allow the students to have experiences – not only outdoors, but learning about their natural resources -- and I think that’s the only way they can become a good steward for those natural resources is by having those experiences."

Fulton science teacher Dan Mainville, right, tests out a classroom activity meant to teach students about the Great Lakes at a seminar sponsored by the New York Sea Grant. The organization would be eliminated under the president's proposed budget. Credit: Payne Horning / WRVO FM

Helen Domske, New York Sea Grant's coastal education specialist, says these workshops and resources help teachers find ways to reach thousands of students.

"We’re trying to get teachers excited and interested in the Great Lakes so they can share this newfound information with their students and get them excited because they are the next generation of scientists," said Domske. "So if we don’t get them trained and interested, the lakes won’t have the protection they need."

In addition to education services, Sea Grant personnel also provide information and research to local governments and institutions that are tasked with preserving the Great Lakes and their resources.

"A lot of the projects we are doing now looking at impacts of extreme weather, changes of lake levels on shorelines - these kinds of projects are really important, not only to scientists or the community members, but the land owners who are getting their information from us and those we have educated," said New York Sea Grant associate director Kathy Bunting-Howarth.

The Federal Administration's budget plan says Sea Grant is a low priority that primarily has a state and local impact. But Sea Grant's fisheries expert Jesse Lepak says the program has leveraged millions of dollars in economic impact and created thousands of jobs during its 51-year lifespan.

"I think one-fifth of the world’s fresh water is a resource that we really need to take care of and realize how important it is," Lepak said.

At the Safety at Sea training event in Inlet Seafood in Montauk, NY, commercial fishermen, boaters and others who work on the water learn how to don immersion suits. Credit: Paul C. Focazio / NYSG

Sea Grant Serves A Variety of Stakeholders

In June, Suzanne “Suky” Cannon, a U.S. Coast Guard 100GT Master Mariner Captain, wrote a Letter to the Editor that was published by Boating Times Long Island. In it, Cannon highlighted a key to Sea Grant's success: it's support of many different kinds of New Yorkers:

"Sea Grant has served and continues to serve a wide variety of coastal stakeholders," she wrote. "New York Sea Grant conducts workshops and trainings vital for over 114,000 boaters, recreational fishing-related businesses, and anglers annually."

"Sea Grant works hand-in-glove with marine recreational businesses, for-hire boats, and bait and tackle shops, to develop innovative marketing approaches to secure a steady stream of clientele at a time when some say participation rates in marine recreational fishing are declining. New York Sea Grant offers certifications for lifesaving safety for commercial anglers and boaters ensuring that those who leave the dock return to the dock. After Sandy, Sea Grant worked with marina operators to access the disaster relief and rebuilding funds that became available. As a charter boat captain, the safety of my passengers and crew is paramount and is dependent on accurate weather information. Sea Grant’s work on issues of coastal hazards, severe storms, and shoreline resilience is critical."

To read Cannon's full letter, click here (pdf).

Sea Grant: By The Numbers

To learn more about why Sea Grant is a smart investment in our nation's coastal economy, check out NOAA Sea Grant's two-page fact sheet (pdf) as well as its nationwide "By The Numbers" one-page stats sheet (pdf) ...

Also, there's the 44-page 2016 Biennial Report to the U.S. Congress, "The State of Sea Grant" (pdf) ...

And, in New York, check out our "New York Sea Grant: By The Numbers" March 2017 one-page stats sheet (pdf) and July 2017 one-page economic impacts fact sheet (pdf) ...

We also have a  "What is NYSG?" two-page introduction to our state program (pdf) as well as our year-by-year "Success Stories" ...

There's also the 10-minute retrospective video "SeaGrant@50: Science Serving America's Coasts," as well as its 30-second trailer ...

More Info: New York Sea Grant

New York Sea Grant (NYSG), a cooperative program of Cornell University and the State University of New York, is one of 33 university-based programs under the National Sea Grant College Program (NSGCP) of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The NSGCP engages this network of the nation’s top universities in conducting scientific research, education, training and extension projects designed to foster science-based decisions about the use and conservation of our aquatic resources. Through its statewide network of integrated services, NYSG has been promoting coastal vitality, environmental sustainability, and citizen awareness about the State’s marine and Great Lakes resources since 1971.

New York Sea Grant maintains Great Lakes offices at SUNY Buffalo, the Wayne County Cooperative Extension office in Newark and at SUNY Oswego. In the State's marine waters, NYSG has offices at Stony Brook University and Stony Brook Manhattan, in the Hudson Valley through Cooperative Extension in Kingston and at Brooklyn College.

For updates on Sea Grant activities: www.nyseagrant.org has RSS, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube links. NYSG produces a monthly e-newsletter, "NOAA Sea Grant's Social Media Review," via its blog, www.nyseagrant.org/blog. Our program also offers a free e-list sign up via www.nyseagrant.org/coastlines for its flagship publication, NY Coastlines/Currents, which is published 1-2 times a year.

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