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An Eelebration! 10th Annual Recognition of Citizen Scientists

Wednesday, May 24, 2017–An enthusiastic troupe of well over 250 gathered at the Mid-Hudson Children’s Museum pavilion (in Poughkeepsie, NY) to mark the end of the 2017 NYSDEC’s Eel Research Project monitoring season.  The main purpose of the festivities was to honor volunteer citizen scientists’ time and commitment to daily monitoring efforts over 6-8 weeks of glass eel migration.

Student holding a bag of recently caught American Eels

American eels are fascinating creatures, that begin their life in the Sargasso Sea in the North Atlantic Ocean.  The translucent juveniles ride the powerful gulf stream current up the eastern seaboard of North America, travelling through estuary systems, and ultimately landing in freshwater tributaries all along the Atlantic coast.  It is this initial migration that the NYSDEC’s Eel Research Project monitors.  The data collected helps conservation specialists track and project the health of eel populations in the Hudson River Valley, before they mature to adults, ready for the return trip back downriver and out to sea to spawn (a life cycle known as “catadromous“).

 

In fact, the data itself was another item to celebrate at this week’s gathering.  Over the season, volunteers collect information on eel numbers and weight, as well as environmental data, along Hudson River tributaries.  During the Eelebration, project staff presented a summary of the collected data, including the total number of eels caught and the catch per unit effort.

 

Beyond the human communities and research performed, there were a couple milestones to recognize this year as well.  First, three of the project’s sites (Fall Kill, Saw Kill, and Furnace Brook) turned 10 years old this year.  In fact, Poughkeepsie High School surprised project staff with t-shirts and a plaque commemorating a decade’s worth of eeling.  Additionally, the 550,000th eel was counted this season.  Over half a million eels accounted for and moved upstream (past eel barriers when possible) since 2008 is no small feat!

 

Overall, volunteers and community members alike swapped stories, results, and experiences over light refreshments until the early evening.  All in attendance celebrated the research season within the greater context of community members engaging in scientific design and field methods, as well as monitoring the vitality of American eels in the Hudson River Valley.

A cake decorated with an American Eel with the word "Eelebration!" across the top.

 

For more information on Citizen-science Fisheries Research, please call 845-889-4745 x108 or email grace.ballou@dec.ny.gov

Hudson River National Estuarine Research Reserve

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
NOAA National Estuarine Research Reserve System

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