April 22, 2019 – Yonkers, NY – Smaller than a garden worm but just as squirmy, glass eels, which make their way from the Sargasso Sea to the Hudson River, were the stars of an Earth Day program held at Sarah Lawrence College’s Center for the Urban River at Beczak (CURB).
In honor of Earth Day and a visit by Westchester County Executive George Latimer, students from Yonkers and families put on wading gear and ventured out into the Hudson River on a rainy day to collect eels – an indicator species for the health of the Hudson River.
CURB works with environmental partners to conduct research and monitor water quality on the Hudson River and urban watersheds. This was one of the more than 200 environmental education programs the Center hosts each year for 5,000, kindergarten-college students and hundreds of teachers.
Jason Muller, educator and outreach coordinator for CURB, led the program, explaining the eels’ significance to the water monitoring program and showing participants how to count the tiny creatures. Muller said so far this year, CURB has collected a record 2,500 eels, including more than 600 on one day earlier this month. The results are reported to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, which tracks the eel count up and down the Hudson River.
“The eels act as a good indicator species to tell us about the water quality in the Hudson,’’ said Muller. “If we see high yield numbers, that’s really telling us that the water is looking up.’’
The American eel starts its life cycle in the Sargasso Sea south of Bermuda and slowly matures on its journey across the Atlantic Ocean. By the time they are one-year old they reach the Hudson River, where they spend most of their lives before eventually returning to the Sargasso Sea to give birth to a new generation.
Latimer said he appreciated the importance of CURB’s work and the dedication of its volunteers to keeping our water clean. “It was a pleasure to spend some of my Earth Day learning more about our region’s crown jewel – the mighty Hudson River,” he said. “Thanks to the wonderful staff at Sarah Lawrence College’s Center for the Urban River for teaching me – and a host of students eager to learn – about how eels migrate from the ocean to the River and are essential indicators of cleanliness and health. There are a thousand little things we need to do to restore our ecological health – and it is on all of us to make sure we do our part.”
John Lang, a high school student from Yonkers, will work at CURB this summer as a paid intern as part of a program funded by a state grant designed to groom future environmentalists.
“I think I might pursue this as a career because it’s something that I really enjoy,” said Lang, a sophomore at Lincoln High School.
The eel collection will continue through the end of May. Those interested in volunteering can call CURB at 914-377-1900.
About the Center for Urban River at Beczak
CURB began in 2013 when Sarah Lawrence College entered an alliance with the Beczak Environmental Education Center on the banks of the Hudson River in downtown Yonkers. The collaboration allowed the College to establish a research field station, facilitate faculty and student research, while continuing environmental education programming about the river for school and community groups. In addition to providing hands-on, K-12 environmental education, CURB works with partners such as the Riverkeeper to perform studies to look for ways to combat sewage and other contamination of river water.
About Sarah Lawrence College
Founded in 1926, Sarah Lawrence College is a prestigious, coeducational liberal arts college. Consistently ranked among the leading liberal arts colleges in the country, Sarah Lawrence is known for its pioneering approach to education, for its long history of impassioned, intellectual engagement, and for its vibrant, successful alumni. For more information, please visit www.sarahlawrence.edu.