Five Questions with a Scientist & Professor

dr. chris gobler pointing to a map of Long Island

The Long Island Pine Barrens Society is continuing on with our new blog feature called “Five Questions with an Environmentalist.” We have interviewed a variety of people who are involved in protecting Long Island’s natural environment – advocates, scientists, artists, educators and more! Each person has their own unique perspective and we are excited to share their voices over the next few months.

This week, we are delighted to share the interview we had with Dr. Christopher Gobler,  a professor at Stony Brook University and the Director of Stony Brook’s Center for Clean Water Technology.

1. What kind of research does the Gobler Lab perform?

We perform research to understand how anthropogenic activities (climate change, eutrophication, and the overharvest of fisheries) alter the ecological and biogeochemical functioning of coastal ecosystems.  We are also striving to discover means by which impaired functioning of coastal ecosystems may be mitigated and share our understanding and discoveries with scientists, policymakers, managers, and the public. 

dr. chris gobler of stony brook university in the lab credit newsday

Dr. Chris Gobler in the lab. (Photo credit: Newsday)

2. What do you see as the greatest threat to Long Island’s waters?

The overloading of nitrogen to our groundwater from wastewater, as it is a direct health threat to our drinking water supply, but is an even greater threat to sensitive surface waters and coastal ecosystems.  

Map of Long Island showing wate quality impairments

Long Island Water Quality Impairments 2019 – Nitrogen pollution most notably from septic systems and cesspools is leading to the degradation of our ground and surface waters.

3. You’re also the Director of the Stony Brook University Center for Clean Water Technology – what kind of work is being done there?

Our goal is to marshal the public and private-sector resources of New York State and beyond to develop water quality restoration and protection technologies.  The Center is developing septic systems to remove nitrogen and contaminants and novel methods of removing contaminants from drinking water supplies. 

Ribbon Cutting Ceremony at the Stony Brook Center for Clean Water Technology (Credit: SBU)

Ribbon Cutting Ceremony at the Stony Brook Center for Clean Water Technology (Credit: SBU)

4. Is there hope for Long Island’s waters?

Absolutely.  For the first time in my life, politicians, government agencies, environmental advocates, citizens, and scientists are all pushing together in the same direction to improve water quality on Long Island.  If this momentum can be sustained, future generations may well look back as this moment in time as a turning point for Long Island.

5. What’s your favorite outdoor activity on Long Island and why is it your favorite?

I love running, biking, paddle boarding, fishing, boating and open water swimming, but I’ll have to put open water swimming at the top of the list.  Its special as the season is short and the meditative feeling of moving through water is unparalleled.  Plus it provides extra motivation to get it as clean as possible!