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Oct 7, 2014 1:04 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Students Participate In Peconic Estuary Program

Oct 7, 2014 5:31 PM

Southampton High School science teachers have made it their mission to make sure students know the importance of maintaining beaches and waterways.

That’s why the district jumped this year at an opportunity to participate in the “A Day in the Life” program taking place throughout the Peconic Estuary. “A Day in the Life” highlights ecosystems throughout New York State by having students collect data on the same day each year to create a database for scientists, as well as educational opportunities for the students.

Last week, 42 students from the Southampton School District participated in the program, focusing on the Peconic Estuary. They took water samples from three locations: Sebonac Inlet, Towd Point and the Morton Wildlife Refuge.

“The idea behind it is, you have multiple schools sampling the exact same data at the same time, year after year,” Advanced Placement environmental science teacher Jen Keller said last week. “Over time, that data becomes a valuable database for scientists to see how the health of an ecosystem has changed.”

Southampton students from the oceanography, AP environmental science and research courses joined more than 1,000 students from across Long Island in the program—which also runs in the Nissequogue and Carmans rivers—according to the “A Day in the Life” website, Portaldiscovery.org.

During a separate, recent field trip to Munn Pond, Southampton students said it’s important for the next generation to understand how sensitive and important the East End’s ecosystem is.

“I think it is important because we know how the water is now, and we know that we love to be here, where there are really good, quality beaches,” said junior Alex Ambrose. “We want to be able to make it better for the future based on the knowledge we have now.”

Senior Peter Strassfield agreed, saying that the local aspect of the program really helped him key in and focus on the task at hand.

“We live in an area that is so diverse with environmental science, and the fact that we can go out and do this in practically our own backyard is cool,” he said. “Instead of just reading about it, we can do it ourselves, and that adds something to it, makes it more interesting.”

For other students, like senior Sarah Pierson, the experience was eye-opening. Tasked with drawing pictures of each of the three locations, Sarah said it showed how important the waterways are. “It was great to be really aware of what is happening,” she said. “It was important because all of the organisms that we found are related to the environment in some way, so it shows why certain things are happening.”

Ms. Keller, who routinely takes her students into the field to monitor marine life in the neighborhood, said she hopes to be able to participate again next year. While she said a lot of her students can appreciate the significance of the beaches, not many of them understand at first how important the waterways are to East End culture and landscape. She also said it is great to watch the students come together for the project.

“It is not only important for everybody to get out into the environment, but it is our community, which makes it more special for us to see what is going on in our home,” senior Lara Fayyaz said. “This way, if anything of special interest is going on we can monitor how it progresses to slow it down if it is bad or speed it up if it is good. This community is very special.”

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