Author: Heather Fenyk

August 15, 2019 Raritan River monitoring results

Raritan River Enterococci results for 8.15.2019, for six non-swimming beach public access sites. Enterococci results are reported in Colony Forming Units or CFUs. Suitable levels for enterococci should not exceed 104cfu/100mL.

**Please note: these results are preliminary and awaiting Quality Control.**

Raritan River Pathogens Monitoring Results 8.7.2019

Raritan River Enterococci results for 8.8.2019, for six non-swimming beach public access sites. Enterococci results are reported in Colony Forming Units or CFUs. Suitable levels for enterococci should not exceed 104cfu/100mL.

**Please note: these results are preliminary and awaiting quality control.**

Please see this article for more information on our Summer 2019 monitoring project.

Raritan River Monitoring Results for August 1, 2019

Raritan River Enterococci results for August 1, 2019 for six non-swimming beach public access sites along the Raritan River. Enterococcus results are reported in Colony Forming Units or CFUs. Suitable levels for Enterococcus should not exceed 104cfu / 100mL. TNTC = Too Numerous To Count. 

**Please note: these results are preliminary and awaiting Quality Control**

Raritan River Pathogens Results 7.18.2019

Raritan River Enterococci results for 7.18.2019, for six non-swimming beach public access sites along the Raritan River. Enterococci results are reported in Colony Forming Units or CFUs. Suitable levels for enterococci should not exceed 104cfu/100mL. TNTC = too numerous to count.  **Please note: these results are preliminary and awaiting Quality Control.**

Field Trip Recap: July 15 Green Infrastructure Tour

Middlesex County Extension Agent Michele Bakacs explains shoreline restoration to our group.

Many thanks to everyone who joined the LRWP and Middlesex County Water Resources Association for a picnic and tour of green infrastructure and detention basins in Middlesex County!

Rutgers County Extension Agent Michele Bakacs and Rutgers Doctoral Student and plant expert Kate Douthat provided guidance as we explored several sites in Middlesex County’s Thompson Park (Monroe Township), a retention basin retrofit site in Monmouth County, and a new rain garden at Spotswood Middle School.

Lake buffer restoration was the highlight at Thompson Park (more information on this project is available on the Freehold Soil Conservation District project webpage). This area is also part of the Watershed Protection and Restoration Plan for the Manalapan Brook Watershed one of the southernmost sub-watersheds in the Lower Raritan watershed.

For more info on wetland islands….

Additional general resources on Green Infrastructure include the following:

Overview of Green Infrastructure practices (brochure)- http://water.rutgers.edu/Green_Infrastructure_Guidance_Manual/GI-Brochure_PRINT-FRIENDLY.pdf

Rain Garden Manual of New Jersey- http://water.rutgers.edu/Rain_Gardens/RGWebsite/RainGardenManualofNJ.html

Manalapan Watershed Restoration videos- www.tinyurl.com/ManalapanWatershed

More technical resources include:

Green Infrastructure Guidance Manual- http://water.rutgers.edu/GreenInfrastructureGuidanceManual.html

NJ’s Developers Green Infrastructure Guide (NJ Future)- https://developersguide.njfuture.org/

NJDEP’s maintenance guidance for stormwater- https://www.njstormwater.org/maintenance_guidance.htm

Butterflies in the rain garden.

Meet LRWP Board Member Doriann Kerber!

Interview by April Callahan, Rutgers Raritan Scholar

Doriann Kerber is Councilwoman for the Borough of Milltown, NJ, and serves as Treasurer for the Middlesex County Water Resources Association. She is also active with Jersey Water Works, and with the Milltown and East Brunswick Green Teams. She took time out of her busy schedule for an interview about Green Infrastructure outreach in the watershed, and her vision for improving environmental education to benefit the health of our watershed communities.

Doriann Kerber receiving the Sustainable Raritan River Initiative 2019 Award for “Outstanding Achievement in Stewardship” for the Lower Raritan.

AC: Where are you from in the Lower Raritan Watershed? In your time here, how have you engaged in and explored the area?

DK: I am from Milltown and we have a sub-watershed, Lawrence Brook Watershed, that I enjoy exploring. In 2014 I volunteered to be on the Middlesex Water Resources Association and I heard about the Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership. I feel strongly about cleaning up the waterways just like anyone else in my town, and feel that we should all take part in caring for our waterways. I got involved with the LRWP to do just that.

AC: What, in your opinion, are the primary issues that need to be addressed in the watershed?

DK: Continuous cleanups are important for all areas of the watershed. Every town in the watershed should have annual clean-ups! And education/outreach is so important. We need folks to understand that the land use choices they make, that their consumption and disposal choices affect their water and environment. If they want cleaner water and a better quality of life, then they need to make good choices and help take care of our waterways.

AC: What is your vision for the LRWP?

DK: I will be assisting with cleanups, but also helping with outreach events. I want the organization to get more media coverage, more speaking engagements, and attract more people from all walks of life to enjoy bicycling, walking, our natural spaces.

AC: I understand you are training with Rutgers Cooperative Extension to deliver Green Infrastructure outreach for area municipalities. Can you tell me more about that?

DK: Rutgers Cooperative Extension offers a “Green Infrastructure Champion” training Program, which I went through. This training allows me to be able to assess green infrastructure in towns and municipalities. For example, I met with the General Manager of the Brunswick Square Mall to discuss stormwater management improvements that will also make the area more attractive. I have training to assist four different groups: resident, commercial, government and nonprofit. In addition to working in Milltown and East Brunswick I can work throughout Middlesex County and the Lower Raritan Watershed.

AC: What do you see as the most important actions Town Council members can take in their home communities to improve overall watershed health?

DK: Environmental education and outreach is so important. We need Town Councils to show how everybody plays a part in improving watershed health, and give them the tools and know-how to make a difference. It’s not just the town, or the water treatment center, or the wastewater treatment center that is responsible for water management. Everybody plays a role!

AC: Is there anything else you would like to add? 

DK: I think the Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership has really grown in the last four years. I want it to be recognized throughout the county and throughout the state, and hope that the work we do will get more people involved in their local watersheds.

July 11, 2019 Raritan River Pathogens Report

Water quality (Enterococci) results are in for Thursday, July 11 for six non-swimming beach public access sites along the Raritan River. See here for more information on our Summer 2019 monitoring program.

Enterococci results are reported in Colony Forming Units or CFUs. 
Suitable levels should not exceed 104 cfu/100mL.

Enterococci levels are used as indicators of the possible presence of disease-causing bacteria in recreational waters. Such pathogens may pose health risks to people fishing and swimming in a water body. Sources of bacteria include Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs), improperly functioning wastewater treatment plants, stormwater runoff, leaking septic systems, animal carcasses, and runoff from manure storage areas. Enterococci levels are often high after heavy or consistent rainfall.

Huge thanks to our the EARTH Center of Middlesex County, to Jesse Stratowski and his team at the Rutgers Boathouse, and to our wonderful volunteers.

**Please note: these results are preliminary and awaiting Quality Control.**

Two times five, plus one

Article and photos by Joe Mish

What the eagle sees

I love math, as it reveals patterns of periodicity which lead to predictability and useful projection of the future and explanation of the past. Even chaos in nature follows mathematical formulas, as explained by Fibonacci’s sequence and the golden rule.

When a simple mathematical formula is applied to the pair of eagles that make their home on the South Branch of the Raritan River, an amazing picture is revealed.

Two times five plus one; Do the math and the answer is, eleven. It is this simple formula, with a single constant and two variables that summarize the efforts of one pair of eagles over a five-year period. It also theoretically predicts their future contribution to the greater eagle population.

The constant, two, is the single pair of eagles that have built and rebuilt their nest at a single riverside location on the South Branch.

Structures on the tongue to help stiffen it.

If any deserve to be called a constant, it is this dedicated pair of eagles. Though, over the years, argument between them has been has been loud and expressive. The larger female revealing her feelings in a series of threatening calls, directed at the male, beg for anthropomorphic interpretation. Dad proudly arrives with a large branch to improve the nest and mom decides its arrangement as if she was changing the furniture around. It is mom that spends the night on the nest. Food deliveries stop at dusk and by morning mom is hungry, needs to take a shower and stretch her wings. If dad is not there at first light, she becomes quite vocal, calling for him to take her place on the nest.

Every once in a while, dad would wander back a little late and get a real tongue lashing. Through the travails of their relationship, they persist as a dedicated pair. Their partnership is undeniable as they attend the needs of their offspring and each other. Both will bring food to the nest and share it with their partner. Though sometimes the fish provided has a few bites taken out.

The next variable, two, is the number of eggs this pair has laid and the number of chicks they have fledged every year for over five years.

To achieve one-hundred percent success on the number of eggs laid to eaglets fledged is quite an accomplishment. Not all eggs remain viable and not all hatched chicks survive. Some may fall out and be fatally injured or attacked by a predator. Of those that do successfully fledge, their fate is tenuous. This is one reason banding eagles can provide some data on survivability. If enough data is collected a statistical projection can be attempted by age group.

Any deviation from ‘two’ in our eagle formula is added or subtracted in the second variable. In this case it is plus one, which represents the fostering of an eaglet from a down stream nest that fell or was forced out by an attacker.

The aluminum band affixed to E82. This year both chicks were male.

Last year a female eaglet, assigned band number E68, was placed in the south branch nest during the scheduled banding session. The adult eagles and their two, six-week-old offspring, accepted the stranger. One can only imagine the endless thought bubbles appearing over each bird’s head to reveal their thoughts and words when two, magically became three. The adults had to work overtime to feed an extra hungry mouth and the established pair had to share the food provided. Consider the eagles at six weeks of age weighed almost seven pounds each.

Doing the math, our eagle pair can live thirty years or more. Subtract their immature years and in theory could produce, plus or minus, fifty offspring. Consider their first nestlings from the 2015 season are approaching maturity and the number of eagles of South Branch origin, keep growing. More impressive, today’s eagles may be seen by our grandchildren along the South Branch or several states away.

A four-year-old immature eagle captured in Quantico Virginia, March 15, 2018 as part of a study, was observed in South Jersey earlier this spring. A square solar panel on its back powers a transmitter and records a plot of its travels. Truly, the skies are the limit, to the world of an eagle and a lesson we might take to heart, literally and figuratively.

By year, this eagle pairs’ offspring have been banded with numbers…… 2015 – E14, E15,  2016 – E43, E44, 2017 – E57, E58, 2018 – E66, E67, E68 and 2019 – E82, E83.

Veterinarian with NJ fish and game endangered and non game species program, Erica Miller draws a blood sample while Kathy Clark assists in the process. Kathy is head of the endangered and non game species program.

Author Joe Mish has been running wild in New Jersey since childhood when he found ways to escape his mother’s watchful eyes. He continues to trek the swamps, rivers and thickets seeking to share, with the residents and visitors, all of the state’s natural beauty hidden within full view. To read more of his writing and view more of his gorgeous photographs visit Winter Bear Rising, his wordpress blog. Joe’s series “Nature on the Raritan, Hidden in Plain View” runs monthly as part of the LRWP “Voices of the Watershed” series. Writing and photos used with permission from the author. Contact jjmish57@msn.com. See more articles and photos at winterbearrising.wordpress.com.

Raritan River pathogens results for July 2, 2019

Happy July 4!

Our team conducted pathogens (enterococci) monitoring of six Raritan River public access sites a bit early this week so as to report out in time for the holiday weekend. We are very happy to report that with a few exceptions (Piscatway and Perth Amboy), our numbers look pretty good!

Enterococci levels are used as indicators of the possible presence of disease-causing bacteria in recreational waters. Such pathogens may pose health risks to people fishing and swimming in a water body. We take the samples to the Interstate Environmental Commission for processing, and then report out results via our website, twitter, and facebook. See the Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership website for a map of our sites, and for more information on our monitoring program.

Enterococci results are reported in Colony Forming Units or CFUs. 
Suitable levels should not exceed 104 cfu/100mL.

The Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership is grateful to our EARTH Center of Middlesex County partners, to the Interstate Environmental Commission for lab analysis, to the Sustainable Raritan River Initiative for providing grant support, to Jesse Stratowski and his team at the Rutgers Boathouse, and of course to our wonderful volunteers!

**Please note: these results are preliminary and awaiting Quality Control**

Luci in the Sky with Diamonds

Article and photo by Joe Mish

Another magic moment revealed itself in a face to face encounter with a deer fawn enjoying the cool water of the South Branch. The pattern and contrast of spots on the fawn is reminiscent of the firefly spectacle and becomes a walking billboard for the upcoming bioluminescence night show.

This year mid to late June showcased a bumper crop of fireflies or lightning bugs as they are often referred. Who hasn’t seen a lightning bug flitting around their yard? Big deal! Well it is a big deal if you see the intense display of luminescence played out in a grassy pasture surrounded by tall trees on a moonless night.

Beginning just before dark, with a growing intensity, the concentrated fireflies put on a dynamic light show guaranteed to hold your attention until the curtain begins to fall at around 11 pm. Strangely enough the moving flashes of bright yellow light contrast against the black darkness to steal away any perception of depth or relative position. Stare long enough and you might lose your balance. The scale, intensity and contrast of this visual phenomenon does much to anesthetize any thoughts of logic and scientific understanding from creeping in to spoil the moment. The experience is heightened by our primal esteem of fire and light to reflect upon our souls as we surrender to the magical display of luminescence.

Fireflies are the stuff of childhood memories. Many a captive luminary flashed a desperate signal through the clear glass of a Skippy peanut butter jar. Our fascination soon ended with puberty to become an unremarkable footnote in our adult lives.

Read on and you might want to salute every time you see a lightning bug.

Fireflies belong to the family Lampyridae, so even without knowing Latin, the assignment makes sense. It was about 1948 that the luminescence was isolated but unusable until years later when sufficient quantities of the material could be produced. The firefly’s light is created by using a combination of luciferin, an enzyme named luciferase and ATP. Lucifer in Latin can be translated as ‘light giver’. Lucid is a word that means clear and derives from the Latin word for ‘light’. To the uninitiated luciferin sounds like something the devil had a hand in. Amazingly when compared to a misnamed “light bulb” almost all of the lightning bug’s light energy goes to creating light while the “light bulb” is said to produce 10% light and 90% heat.

Typically poisonous plants and animals are brightly colored to warn away potential predators. So it is with lightning bugs that they contain a substance similar to digitalis. Veterinary journals report many exotic lizards kept as pets die each year when owners try to vary the pet’s diet by feeding them lightning bugs

Worldwide there are many species of fireflies. Our local bugs display the luminescence as adults and as larvae. In fact the larvae are predatory and eat earthworms by injecting a mix of enzymes and probably anesthetic into the worm and then sucking out the blended juices. Often referred to as glow worms, firefly larvae will intensify their light when stressed not unlike you turning red in anger or embarrassment.

Female fireflies climb onto tall grasses or shrubs as they cannot fly. All the flashers cavorting in the night sky are the males. When a female finds a flash pattern she likes she signals to the male in similar fashion to ‘come on down’.

Recently with the advent of genomic research and the clinical application of gene therapy, bioluminescence has been recruited to make stunning inroads into medical research. Attaching a bioluminescent gene to a cancer cell allows researchers to follow the progression of cancer cells from the moment they are injected into animal models. Up until now, researchers would have to wait months after inoculating animals with cancer cells to see the manifestation of clinical or laboratory effects. The incubation period for tumor production was a blind spot that has now been revealed with the help of the common firefly. Immediately the distribution of cancer cells can be followed as it spreads through the body and does battle with our rather effective immune system. Immediately the effectiveness of cancer therapies can be tracked and adjusted or changed.

These light producing cells can be attached to bacteria as well in the study of anti-infective drugs. Imagine a visual image of bacteria spreading throughout an animal’s body, injecting medication and seeing immediately the effectiveness of the trial drug and dosage.

Last of all consider the myth surrounding the old favorite Beatles tune, “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”. Most Beatle’s fans agree the title of the song came from the Fab Four’s immersion in the psychedelic drug culture. I, however, contend the song was named after watching a mid summer’s spectacle of lightning bugs flashing in the sky like diamonds courtesy of Luci- ferin and Luci-ferase.

Author Joe Mish has been running wild in New Jersey since childhood when he found ways to escape his mother’s watchful eyes. He continues to trek the swamps, rivers and thickets seeking to share, with the residents and visitors, all of the state’s natural beauty hidden within full view. To read more of his writing and view more of his gorgeous photographs visit Winter Bear Rising, his wordpress blog. Joe’s series “Nature on the Raritan, Hidden in Plain View” runs monthly as part of the LRWP “Voices of the Watershed” series. Writing and photos used with permission from the author. Contact jjmish57@msn.com. See more articles and photos at winterbearrising.wordpress.com.

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