Gowanus Dredgers Canoe Club

Scy-Posium 2024

What do you get when you gather art, science, and community on Governors Island to explore the water around New York City in dozens of different ways? The Billion Oyster Project’s 2024 Scy-Posium, of course! 

Corinne Brenner, Cale Basaraba, and Erica Eliason represented the Dredgers’ ongoing water quality testing project at the event. The poster summarized how the fish kill we observed during last year’s City of Water Day highlighted the need for fast, reliable information about conditions in the canal. 

Corinne and Erica smile & stand in front of the poster titled "Community Science in the Gowanus Canal: What's Lurking Under the Surface?" Erica is also holding a laptop with a prototype of a website to display data about water quality in the Gowanus.

While the three of us are not intimidated by spreadsheets or a little R code, none of us are water quality experts. We’ve learned so much in the past months, including what’s considered an acceptable level of dissolved oxygen in the canal (3.0 mg/L, a level that would stress most fish), how fast that changes during rain events (within the hour!) and why the presence of enterococcus is a big red flag that sewage has overflowed into the canal (it’s bacteria characteristic of poop!). 

We’ve also learned how to process data about the weather and tides, and how to free dissolved oxygen from their tables in the GRT’s reports! Assembling this data is no small feat, and the code library we’ve built up is getting pretty impressive. We also tested out an application to visualize and share our data on the website, so we’re hoping to roll that out soon.

We had a great time hearing about the different creative and community projects going on around the harbor! Everything from mycelium modeling and yeast pigment projects from Vanessa and Sarai from Genspace, how to report coastal flooding and build resilience to the Community Flood Watch Project from Hannah at New York Sea Grant, telling the story of Newtown Creek with plastic wrap, embroidery, and a visit to the Oracle of Newtown Creek with Priscilla, diving below the surface in VR with Wei Wu, Nate Dorr’s experiments with developing 16mm film in the waters of various local superfund sites…though not yet the Gowanus! We officially invite you down to Lavender Lake, Nate. 

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