NYSG Students Gain Real-World Environmental Science and Law Experience
Education - News


Kathy Bunting-Howarth, NYSG's Associate Director, E: keb264@cornell.edu, P: 607-255-2832

By Kara Lynn Dunn, NYSG's Freelance Great Lakes Publicist

Stony Brook, NY, November 1, 2023 - Fellowships with New York Sea Grant (NYSG) provided eight college students with real-world experience related to the environmental sciences and environmental law in the summer of 2023. These student learning experiences were made possible through NYSG’s New York Coastal Resilience Law and Policy Fellowship program, NYSG’s Community Engaged Internship (CEI) program, and the Cornell Cooperative Extension Summer Internship program.

“These student experiences with New York Sea Grant and its partners provide excellent learning and career-building opportunities for students interested in environmental and biological sciences, and coastal policy and community development,” said New York Sea Grant Associate Director and Cornell University Cooperative Extension Assistant Director Katherine Bunting-Howarth, Ph.D., J.D.

Law Students for the Environment

Bunting-Howarth, who holds a Doctorate of Law degree with a Certificate in Environment and Natural Resource Law from the University of Oregon, created the New York Coastal Resilience Law and Policy Fellowship program in 2020. The program is a partnership with the University at Buffalo School of Law, Elizabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University, and the City University of New York Law School and Center for Urban Environmental Reform. 

The Law and Policy Fellowship program actively engages students in the development of resources useful to community leaders and stakeholders in New York’s freshwater and marine regions. In 2023, the fourth cohort of the program’s summer fellows undertook projects to benefit communities statewide. 

2023 NYSG Coastal Resilience Law & Policy Fellow Taylor S. Morisey.

University at Buffalo (UB) School of Law student Taylor S. Morisey, of Victor, New York, drafted a Community Risk and Resiliency Act (CRRA) “explainer” document to help municipalities learn about the CRRA that requires consideration of the effects of climate and extreme weather events for certain activities. The document serves as a CRRA-related resource finder and a general starting point for meeting the Act’s requirements. Morisey is a sophomore Environmental Law major at UB. 

Once completed, a Model Local Laws for Stormwater Management guide drafted by New York Sea Grant Law and Policy Fellow Eric Horowitz will help municipal leaders deal with such issues as road flooding. Credit: Elizabeth Hornstein/NYSG

City University of New York Law School student Eric Horowitz, of Brooklyn, New York, drafted a Model Local Laws for Stormwater Management guide to assist municipal officials with communicating the purposes and practical implications of such laws. Seeing how legal provisions, if adopted, would enhance stormwater management and community resiliency supports decision-making by stakeholders and municipal leaders. Horowitz is a third-year CUNY Law student.

2023 NYSG Coastal Resilience Law & Policy Fellow Ethan Muller.

City University of New York Law School student Ethan Muller, a Brooklyn, New York, native, drafted a public engagement guide focused on Article VII, a New York regulatory process that is one step involved in developing offshore wind projects. There is a need for available educational materials to help the public understand how Article VII works in regard to wind projects and to bring some transparency to how interested community members can become involved in the permitting process. Muller is a second-year student at CUNY Law, with a primary interest in environmental law.

Bunting-Howarth notes, “New York Sea Grant’s Law Fellows program particularly benefits coastal leaders and community members who need a working knowledge of law and policy to evaluate and manage local resilience challenges and opportunities and to build community-level decision-making capacity related to environmental issues.” 

Hands-On Marine and Freshwater Science

Four summer environmental fellows were mentored by NYSG’s Long Island Sound Study Outreach Coordinator Lillit Genovesi; Marine Fisheries Specialist Antoinette Clemetson; Coastal Processes and Hazards Specialist Kathleen M. Fallon, Ph.D.; and Great Lakes Fisheries and Ecosystem Health Specialist Stacy Furgal.

Adelphia University student Holly Weeks of Ozone Park, New York, participated with data collection in support of natural and nature-based monitoring along the Bronx River and Long Island Sound. Working alongside New York City Parks staff and Natural Areas Conservancy and City University of New York interns, Weeks documented local marsh, wetlands, and meadow ecosystems and coastal geology; and collected social science data and observations of open space use. Weeks shared information at the City of Water Day and Sound Stewards training days. Weeks is a 4th-year Environmental Science major. 

Holly Weeks collected a variety of data along the Long Island Sound as part of her NYSG summer internship. Credit: Holly Weeks

State University of New York at Oswego student Olivia Bonilla of Queens, New York, assisted the research of Sarah Weisberg, Ph.D. candidate at the Stony Brook University School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences in the laboratory of Janet Nye, Ph.D. Bonilla aided an ongoing study of the early life stages (eggs and larvae) of fish in the waters off the southern shore of Long Island. The study is working to understand how climate change and warming waters are impacting the abundance and coastal habitats of the young fish.  This research is critically important for the sustainable management of economically significant fish species. Bonilla is a 3rd year Biology major.

NYSG summer intern Olivia Bonilla examines locally-collected phytoplankton samples for fish eggs and larvae for DNA barcoding analysis in the Stony Brook University School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences (SOMAS) laboratory of Janet Nye, Ph.D.; Below, you can watch the video that Bonilla created during her Summer '23 CEI fellowship about her collegiate experiences. More on this in the NYSG news item, "On YouTube: 2023 Community-Engaged Fellowship: Olivia Bonilla — My Perspective, My Field, My FutureCredit: Olivia Bonilla

Stony Brook University senior Scout Miller, a native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, assisted with development of identification cards of plant species well-suited for shoreline stabilization projects. She also utilized current water quality data to draft a profile of the state of the health of the Great South Bay of Long Island to help guide future data collection from the 50-some creeks that serve as arteries to the bay from 16 towns and villages. The data collected include dissolved oxygen, pH, and phosphate and nitrate levels. This internship also provided Miller with the opportunity to expand an interest in aquaculture by visiting local hatcheries. Miller is an Environmental Studies major with a concentration in Marine Conservation.
Cornell University’s Oneida Lake Biological Field Station on Oneida Lake hosted two undergraduate students who gained real-world experience with environmental science through summer 2023 fellowships with New York Sea Grant (NYSG). 

Internships Provide Hands-On Environmental Experience

SUNY Geneseo junior Micah Ford of Arkport, New York, used microscopy to analyze changes in the abundance and species of phytoplankton, including cyanobacteria, that cause harmful algal blooms (HAB) in Oneida Lake. Ford also developed educational materials to assist citizen scientists with NOAA’s Phytoplankton Monitoring Network (PMN), a nationwide, community-based effort by volunteers monitoring marine and freshwater phytoplankton and HAB. Ford’s internship included the opportunity to visit the home of the PMN at NOAA’s Hollings Marine Laboratory in Charleston, South Carolina, for a week. For more information on the PMN, visit NOAA's National Phytoplankton Monitoring Network or email pmn@noaa.gov

Ford is a biology major with an interest in environmental health. This fellowship was part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Community Engaged Internship (CEI) program.

At NOAA’s Hollings Marine Laboratory, NYSG summer intern Micah Ford met with Phytoplankton Monitoring Network Coordinator Jennifer Maucher Fuquay and Research Oceanographer Steve Morton, Ph.D. Credit: NOAA 

Cornell University rising senior Krystal Dixon, of New Hampton, New York, assisted Oneida Lake researchers with lake sturgeon sampling and laboratory analysis to better understand the large fish’s diet. Dixon developed public education materials related to lake sturgeon restoration efforts in New York state. The materials include an age-to-length relationship key that can be used for estimating the age of lake sturgeon in Oneida Lake in comparison to sturgeon found in other New York waters, including Onondaga Lake and the Niagara River. 

Dixon is an environment and sustainability major. Her internship was made possible through the Cornell Cooperative Extension Summer Internship Program.

NYSG summer intern Krystal Dixon assisted researchers with a lake sturgeon focus. This fish was released back to the lake after weighing and measuring. Credit: Stacy Furgal/NYSG

“The educational resources developed by Micah and Krystal will help advance the public’s understanding of the environmental value of New York waters, particularly in the Great Lakes watershed. Micah’s project contributes to providing an avenue for the community to directly participate in citizen science. The materials Krystal developed add to statewide efforts to teach the public about lake sturgeon conservation, life history, and research,” Furgal said.

“These internship experiences provide students with hands-on opportunities to learn about New York’s fish communities and the aquatic food web as well as the ecological interactions in New York waters and innovative technologies supporting research that informs management of the Great Lakes and its watershed,” said Oneida Lake Biological Field Station Associate Director and Cornell University Natural Resources and the Environment Senior Research Associate James Watkins, Ph.D.

Cornell University Senior Research Associate Zoe Almeida, Ph.D. also served as a mentor to the two NYSG interns on Oneida Lake.

These environmental fellowships were funded under award NA22OAR4170096 granted from the National Sea Grant College Program of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to the Research Foundation of the State University of New York on behalf of New York Sea Grant.

More Info: New York Sea Grant

New York Sea Grant (NYSG), a cooperative program of Cornell University and the State University of New York (SUNY), is one of 34 university-based programs under the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Sea Grant College Program.

Since 1971, NYSG has represented a statewide network of integrated research, education and extension services promoting coastal community economic vitality, environmental sustainability and citizen awareness and understanding about the State’s marine and Great Lakes resources.

Through NYSG’s efforts, the combined talents of university scientists and extension specialists help develop and transfer science-based information to many coastal user groups—businesses and industries, federal, state and local government decision-makers and agency managers, educators, the media and the interested public.

The program maintains Great Lakes offices at Cornell University, SUNY Buffalo, SUNY Oswego and the Wayne County Cooperative Extension office in Newark. In the State's marine waters, NYSG has offices at Stony Brook University and with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Nassau County on Long Island, Brooklyn College and Cornell Cooperative Extension in NYC and Kingston in the Hudson Valley.

For updates on Sea Grant activities: www.nyseagrant.org has RSS, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube links. NYSG offers a free e-list sign up via www.nyseagrant.org/nycoastlines for its flagship publication, NY Coastlines/Currents, which is published quarterly.

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