Greener JC 2020 Internship Program Recap
Greener JC is a non-profit environmental organization committed to supporting a more sustainable future in Jersey City. Founded in 2018, Greener JC has created and supported initiatives such as a plastic and straw reduction campaigns, a reusable bag share program, and community-wide BioBlitz events. Greener JC is dedicated to education, and we are proud to provide resources and curriculum to Jersey City public school teachers and students for the Sustainability STEAM Challenge. At Greener JC, we hope to inspire Jersey City students and residents of all ages to connect with nature in their communities and become stewards of the environment.
This summer, Greener JC hosted a six-week internship program which provided opportunities for 18 Jersey City high school students and three Saint Peter’s University students to gain valuable knowledge, experience, and mentorship in the fields of environmental science, sustainability, and biology. The Greener JC Internship Program was a collaborative effort supported by local governmental and non-governmental partners and community volunteers. Led by expert mentors, student groups conducted research projects focusing on the following four topics: BioBlitz – habitat documentation via the iNaturalist app, bird surveys at Liberty State Park’s Caven Point, abundance and diversity assessments of pollinators in two Jersey City Parks, and the creation of educational materials to increase outreach capability and enhance Greener JC’s social media presence. Most importantly, the program was successful in getting students outside and connecting with nature and wildlife, an objective which is of particular importance in light of the emotional stress of the coronavirus pandemic. For the remote component of the internship, Google Classroom served as a learning platform for mentors to hold lessons, webinars, discussions, and collaborate online with the students.
The BioBlitz team conducted biodiversity assessment and comparison of parks and green spaces in Jersey City. The students led by their mentors and volunteers explored parks and learned how to use iNaturalist and field guides to correctly identify and record the various species they encountered. The iNaturalist App is free and allows the user to take a picture of a plant or animal and based on the image and other user’s feedback, the App suggests the identity of the species. The data the students collected was all recorded in the App and was then exported and analyzed. Students compared the biodiversity found in seven Jersey City parks and looked at the relationships between size, location, tree cover, impervious surface, and demographics. Their research found that the biodiversity and number of species in the surveyed parks varied greatly. For example, Van Vorst, one of the smaller parks, had the highest number of different species. They concluded that parks located in neighborhoods with a higher percentage of minorities and less wealth had a more impervious surface. Also, the parks located in areas with a higher median income often had more trees. The students recommend that more trees, native plants, and green infrastructure be planted in lower income areas to increase biodiversity of species and help mitigate effects of climate change like urban heat island.
“I learned how to identify plant life around me with the powerful tool of iNaturalist, as well as the structures of flowers and the leaves of trees. I also learned how to present a research project to showcase work that has been done throughout the program. My favorite part of the internship was definitely exploring the parks and recording species. I learned the names of species that I always have seen but couldn’t identify. It enlightened me on the diversity that lives in parks, such diversity that I thought only existed in forests.” -Anass Mountasser, Senior at McNair High School
Bird Surveys at Caven Point
Students Birding at Caven Point, the ecological hotspot in Liberty State Park, surveyed bird diversity and habitat. Led by mentor Purbitia Saha and Liberty State Park NJDEP staff, students became pro-birders learning how to identify migratory birds and their calls along with the rich history and importance of Caven Point. At the beginning of the internship, each student formed their own hypotheses, and over the course of the summer they conducted independent research projects to test their hypotheses. The students examined the birds at Caven Point in relation to the tide, the bird’s terrestrial habitats and interactions, and compared the birds present today to those surveyed in 2005 and 1977. The students analyzed their individual findings and presented them through scientific posters. Some students’ hypotheses were correct and others incorrect. Learn more here! What remains constant is that Caven Point is a critical nesting and feeding sport for migratory birds of varying species and must be protected.
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“The amount of knowledge I have gained from this internship is incredible. As a teenager living in Jersey City her entire life I never knew about Caven Point. When I first started the internship I thought I would see basic birds such as pigeons and Canadian Geese at most but I was completely baffled by the species I got to see. Not only did my mentor help me understand the importance of the area but also why it needs to be protected. My favorite part of the internship was getting to experience birding in general…Thanks to the Liberty State Park employees I also got to learn about the history of Caven Point and how much it has/is changing.” – Hadia Hussain, Senior at County Prep High School
The students conducting a Pollinator Study gained knowledge on the importance of pollinators and pollinator habitat, and how both can be supported in urban areas like Jersey City. Students learned how to identify pollinator species, native and non-native flowering plants, and how to conduct a habitat assessment. The team carried out a comparative study of Canco Park, which has an established pollinator garden, to Fairmount Triangle Park, where a future pollinator garden will be installed. Their study found that Canco Park has a far greater diversity of plant species as compared with Fairmount Triangle Park. Similarly, the interns found that Canco Park’s plant diversity supported a greater number and diversity of pollinator species. The students concluded that when constructing the Fairmount Triangle Park pollinator garden, it will be beneficial to have a large diversity of plant species that will be capable of supporting a variety of pollinator and bird species. Their findings provide a baseline for a potential future study after a pollinator garden is installed at Fairmount Triangle Park.
“During this internship I gained knowledge and skill in an outdoor research environment. I got to collect data in the field and had to organize and analyze it. My favorite part was exploring nature in my city that I had not even noticed before and understanding things that I had seen in passing. This experience changed my awareness of environmentalism/ sustainability issues by helping me to better understand the relationship between my city and the natural life within it.” – Carolyn Abdalla, Senior at McNair High School
Education & Outreach
Lastly, the Education & Outreach team learned about local environmental issues and how to convey information effectively to the public. Students acquired skills using the graphic design platform Canva and created educational materials, videos, infographics, and blog posts. Their work included a pollinators brochure, resources about plastics and reusables during COVID, combined sewage overflow and beyond. Additionally, students helped enhance Greener JC’s social media presence by doing weekly Instagram takeovers on all of our platforms. At the conclusion of the internship, the students presented their work, research, and scientific posters to each other and community members via Zoom Symposium. Check out all the awesome work by our interns and the Final Presentation recording here!
“This internship helped change my awareness of sustainability issues, I feel as it made me more aware of smaller decisions that we as a society make, we sometimes do not think about the consequences. I feel as if before this internship, I would be aware of the nature in Jersey City, but I feel as if this internship really helped me slow down and stop, and really learn how to take in all the aspects of my surroundings – the birds, the plants, the trees – just everything that makes my surrounding so special.” – Kashish Makker, Senior, McNair High School
Greener JC would like to give a huge thanks to our funders: Mayor Steven Fulop and the Jersey City COVID – 19 Relief Fund Committee, the Board of Trustees of the Jersey City Economic Development Corporation, the Bergen County Audubon Society, and all our GoFundMe Supporters. We thank our collaborators: Jersey City Department of Recreation & Youth Development, Liberty State Park NJDEP, Canco Park Conservancy, the Jersey City Environmental Commission, and Saint Peter’s University. Thank you to our mentors and volunteers: Purbita Saha, Dawn Giambalvo, Sophia Martinez, Bess Morrison and Lorraine Freeney. Most importantly, thank you to the amazing students for their time and effort, especially during these trying times. Your work is invaluable to Greener JC and the City of Jersey City!