Cornell Cooperative Extension’s (CCE) Marine Program has several program areas that were developed to meet the needs of our maritime community here in Suffolk County. These program areas include Habitat, Aquaculture, Fisheries, Youth Education and Water Quality.
The Habitat Program specializes in the restoration and monitoring of native marine
plants that form crucial habitat and shoreline protection, including eelgrass (Zostera marina), marsh grass (Spartina alterniflora), and beach grass (Ammophila breviligulata). In recent years, the Habitat Program launched its volunteer-based restoration initiative known as Marine Meadows. Marine Meadows coordinates volunteers to work with Cornell restoration scientists and divers to help with the habitat restoration process. To learn more on how to get involved, click HERE.
The Aquaculture Program has several divisions. CCE Aquaculture Specialists work with local municipalities and environmental groups to reseed shellfish into local embayments. They also work closely with baymen who are involved in or interested in shellfish aquaculture to supplement their income or as a full-time profession, helping them obtain the skills and knowledge to raise shellfish on their own. The Aquaculture Program also has a project known as SPAT (Suffolk Project in Aquaculture Training) which folks can join to learn about raising shellfish for personal consumption. This enthusiastic group is made up of newcomers as well as seasoned veterans who meet three days a week to care for their shellfish and help with ongoing projects. There are also classes in aquaculture training scheduled throughout the year. To learn more about SPAT and how to get involved, click HERE. Another division of the Aquaculture Program is the Bay Scallop Restoration Project, which is a cooperative effort between CCE and LIU (Long Island University) to bring back bay scallop populations in Peconic Bay through an enormous spawner sanctuary in Orient Harbor. Since it’s inception, bay scallop populations climbing closer to what they once were before the population collapsed in the 1980’s due to brown tide. To learn more about the Bay Scallop Restoration Project, click HERE.
CCE’s Fisheries Program is involved in several projects, all of which help balance maintaining sustainability of local fisheries with preserving the ability of local fisherman to continue their way of life. Fisheries staff works with state and federal agencies to collect and process data on vessel trip reports as well as data on biological sampling of commercial species to help with the management of these target species. They work on innovative ways to adapt fishing gear that reduces bycatch, they remove derelict lobster traps that continue to “ghost fish” from Long Island Sound, and they developed a network of fishermen who actively communicate locations of species of concern to avoid bycatch hotspots. They also conduct research on bycatch survival and sex ratios of fish populations. To learn more about these projects and more, click HERE.
Youth Education is crucial to the future health of our waters and the species that live
there as well as the future of our way of life here in eastern Long Island. CCE youth educators run summer camps and educational programs out of several facilities in Suffolk County, and they also work on outreach programs at schools throughout the county as well. Marine education programs are designed for different age groups, ranging from “Bay Babies” to teens and beyond. New programs are being developed for Girl Scouts as well! A new division of our youth education includes integrating art and design into traditional STEM education (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), known as the STEAM movement. To learn more, click HERE.
Because clean water is essential for people and native species to thrive, CCE’s Water Quality Program works with Suffolk County as well as local municipalities and environmental groups to help manage stormwater runoff into our waterways. This includes pinpointing sources of pollution using innovative DNA technology and mapping stormwater infastructure using GIS technology. Water Quality staff educates the public on stormwater runoff, one of the main contributors of pollution to our waterways. They also work with school groups and environmental groups to limit runnoff on their properties by installing rain gardens. To learn more, click HERE.