Endangered and Threatened Species on Long Island

Friday, May 20th is National Endangered Species Day.  Many remarkable creatures inhabiting our local environment are at risk of disappearing forever.  This is an unfortunate reality for several Long Island wildlife species.  Let’s learn about some of these vulnerable reptiles, amphibians, birds, and insects and how we can help them continue to call Long Island home.

But first, let’s define some important terms.  What does endangered mean? The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) defines endangered as “any native species in imminent danger of extirpation or extinction in New York State.”  Extinction means no longer living or existing anywhere, whereas when a species is extirpated, it is locally extinct.  So, there are no populations left in New York, but the species is still found in other states.  Finally, when a species is listed as threatened, it is likely to become endangered in the near future.

Now let’s look at some of the unique Long Island wildlife that are in danger of being lost to history.

 

Endangered Species

Eastern Tiger Salamander (Ambystoma tigrinum)

This amphibian spends the majority of its life in its burrow underground, but it comes out at night to breed in ponds.  In New York State, the Eastern Tiger Salamander is found exclusively on Long Island, mostly within the central Pine Barrens.  Recent surveys have identified only 90 breeding ponds in eastern Nassau and Suffolk County.  This mole salamander has been extirpated from western Long Island because of heavy development resulting in loss of habitat.  Additional threats to this species include pesticide contamination and introduction of predatory fish in its breeding ponds as well as increased road construction and development.  There has been a recent effort to construct tunnels under roadways for this salamander, so it can safely migrate to ponds for breeding.  You can help this wonderful amphibian by not using pesticides on your lawn or in your garden – try a natural alternative to avoid contributing to contamination of ponds and waterways.

Eastern Tiger Salamander
Credit: Alex Roukis

 

Eastern Mud Turtle (Kinosternon subrubum)

This small hard-shelled reptile only measures 3-4 inches long!  This semi-aquatic turtle can be found in marshes, small ponds, wet ditches and fields, and offshore islands.  When its habitat dries up, it travels on land to another body of water.  This short journey could land this turtle in trouble – turtles are very often killed by cars when attempting to cross roads.  Other threats to the Eastern Mud Turtle include habitat loss due to the draining of wetlands for urban and industrial development, land clearing, habitat fragmentation from road construction, and the illegal pet trade.  The NYSDEC recommends habitat management activities, such as placing “turtle crossing” signs along roads to warn drivers as well as protecting areas where mud turtle populations currently reside.  Help protect the rarest turtle species in New York by looking out for this creature when you’re driving and avoiding keeping it as a pet.

Eastern Mud Turtle
Credit: animalspot.net

 

Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus)

You can find this sand-colored shorebird on Long Island’s sandy beaches from Queens to as far east as the Hamptons.  From early to mid-March, this species starts breeding and building nests in preparation for laying eggs between May and early July.  Unfortunately, the Piping Plover is continually threatened by increasing human activity.  Coastal development, recreational activities, and disturbance by off-road vehicles all compromise its breeding habitat.  These problems are not exclusive to New York State; this bird is listed as endangered in many other eastern states as well.  You have probably seen signs and fencing surrounding the dunes at your local beach.  These serve to protect this bird’s nesting and feeding sites.  Long Island conservation efforts also include annual censuses of the plover’s breeding colonies and active monitoring of its nesting sites to help increase nesting success.  Help protect this bird by keeping off the dunes during the spring and summer seasons, or even become a volunteer to assist with yearly breeding surveys.

Piping Plover
Credit: AllAboutBirds.org

 

Hessel’s Hairstreak (Callophrys hesseli)

This butterfly species is rather unique because it feeds only on the Atlantic White Cedar tree.  Unfortunately, the Hessel’s Hairstreak is believed to be extirpated from New York State as it has not been observed since the mid-1990s.  Spraying of harmful pesticide DDT (dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane) in the 1950’s for gypsy moths wiped out many colonies and the population is still struggling to recover.  In addition, much of its Atlantic White Cedar swamp habitat has been converted to agricultural land.  It is important to protect what is left of these swamps as well as maintain cedar tree populations in order to help safeguard this beautiful butterfly.

Hessel’s Hairstreak
Credit: butterfliesandmoths.org

 

 

Threatened Species

Pine Barrens Bluet (Enallagma recurvatum)

This damselfly (smaller than a dragonfly) inhabits coastal plain ponds in our very own Pine Barrens!  Just one inch long, the Pine Barrens Bluet lives only three to four weeks.  Threats to this species include anything that leads to water pollution, like roadway or agricultural run-off, eutrophication and nutrient loading from fertilizers, herbicides, and septic systems, or development near their habitats.  Invasive plants, like the white water lily, that are replacing native plants are an additional risk to the bluet population.  To combat the decrease in bluet numbers, the New York Natural Heritage Program suggests restoring native vegetation as well as maintaining good water quality by reducing run-off and other sources of pollution.

Pine Barrens Bluet
Credit: New York Natural Heritage Program

 

Northeastern Beach Tiger Beetle (Cicindela dorsalis dorsalis)

This cool insect gets its name from its aggressive predatory behavior – it grasps prey with long mandibles (mouthparts) in a “tiger-like” manner.  This species feeds on lice, fleas, and flies as well as scavenges dead crabs and fish.  This beetle used to be very common on Long Island beaches, but unfortunately it is no longer found anywhere in New York State.  The only known population north of Maryland is on Martha’s Vineyard.  The depletion of its population is attributed to habitat degradation by off-road vehicle use and increased foot traffic on beaches.  Larvae are deeply affected by these activities because they are crushed by the heavy physical impact.  Without larvae, the Northeastern Beach Tiger Beetle isn’t be able to produce enough individuals to ensure its long-term survival.  The NYSDEC recommends translocating beetles from other areas, like the Chesapeake Bay, to help restore the species in its historical range.  However, current beach activities will need to be addressed prior to this effort.

Northeastern Beach Tiger Beetle
Credit: chesapeakebay.net

 

There are so many neat species on Long Island that we may not be able to see for much longer.  These animals are part of what makes our island such a unique place to live.  Help protect these remarkable creatures by avoiding animals while you are driving, using natural alternatives to pesticides, and being more aware of the environment around you.  Consider becoming a volunteer in your local community to support the recovery of the populations of these species.

 


By: Kaitlyn Sherman, Long Island Pine Barrens Society

Sources:

https://www.dec.ny.gov/animals/7494.html

https://guides.nynhp.org/hessels-hairstreak/

https://guides.nynhp.org/pine-barrens-bluet/

Cover photo: A group of piping plovers on the beach. Credit: AllAboutBirds.org

Earth Day: Its Origin and Significance

Every year, the world celebrates Earth Day, a day that demonstrates support for the protection of our amazing planet and raises awareness of environmental issues.  Earth Day is the most widely-celebrated non-religious annual event held worldwide.

Its origin dates back six decades.  During the 1960s, the American public was starting to realize how pollution was negatively affecting the environment.  A big part of that newfound awareness was attributed to Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, which was published in 1962 and documented the harmful effects of the pesticide DDT (dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane) on nature and human health.  Carson’s bestselling book is credited as initiating the modern environmental movement in the United States.  Another major event that led to an increase in environmental activism was the Cuyahoga River fire in Cleveland, Ohio in 1969 due to decades of industrial pollution.  That caught the attention of many Americans and encouraged them to join the fight to save the planet.

One of the leaders of this fight, Democratic Senator Gaylord Nelson from Wisconsin, came up with the idea for Earth Day in 1969.  His goal was to force the federal government to address the environmental problems that were plaguing the country.  What was his inspiration?  Anti-Vietnam War “teach-ins” that were being held on college campuses.  Nelson hoped to mirror these teach-ins through a large-scale, grassroots environmental demonstration to raise public and government awareness of pollution.

The first Earth Day on Long Island, 1970.
Credit: Newsday

And who was tasked with organizing this national effort, you might ask?  A young activist named Denis Hayes dropped out of Harvard to become the national coordinator of the first Earth Day.  On April 22, 1970, rallies were held all over the country to help focus national attention on environmental issues.  In New York City, a section of Fifth Avenue was closed off, and Mayor John Lindsay gave a speech at a rally in Union Square.

So, did it work?  Of course!  The first Earth Day transformed the American public’s attitude toward the environment.  Only a few years before, the majority of the country’s population wasn’t concerned with the state of the planet.  However, after April 22, 1970, the U.S. public was much more interested in protecting nature.  And, in the decade after Earth Day, the federal government went on to establish several crucial pieces of environmental legislation, such as the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the National Forest Management Act to name a few.  In December 1970, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was formed.

President Richard Nixon signing the Clean Air Act.
Credit: Associated Press

And the Long Island Pine Barrens Society was not that far behind in the environmental movement.  Founded in 1977 by three environmental science students, our non-profit organization has grown from a small group focused on educational awareness to a team continuing to build an active preservation campaign.  We created the Pine Barrens Preservation Initiative in November 1989, five months before the 20th anniversary of Earth Day.  Our hard work paid off four years later when the Long Island Pine Barrens Protection Act was passed, preserving more than 100,000 acres of land.

LIPBS Founders with former New York State Governor George Pataki. Order from left: John Turner, Bob McGrath, John Cryan, George Pataki.
Credit: Long Island Pine Barrens Society

Today, Earth Day is celebrated by more than 180 countries around the world.  And although there has been a lot of progress made in the last 50 years, there is still more to be done in order to protect our planet’s natural resources.  This April 22, think about ways you can help make a difference for the environment, such as limiting your water usage, using environmentally friendly cleaning products, recycling, using less paper, or composting.  Check out this list of tips from EarthDay.org and start incorporating these simple actions in your daily life to help the planet.  Need help knowing what and where to recycle?  Visit this website to search for recycling facilities in your area and what materials they accept.  Want to know how much you are contributing to greenhouse gas emissions?  Calculate your carbon footprint with EPA’s Household Carbon Footprint Calculator.

As you can see, there are many ways you can help support the protection of our environment.  Earth Day is an important day that reminds us to celebrate the planet that does so much for us and inspires us to safeguard it for the next 100 years and thereafter.  Start making a difference for our environment today!


By: Kaitlyn Sherman, Long Island Pine Barrens Society

Sources:

https://www.history.com/topics/holidays/earth-day

https://awesomeearthkind.com/podcasts/from-earth-day-everywhere-to-proving-the-possible/

https://www.earthday.org/earth-day-tips/

 

Cover Photo: Shoreham-Wading River Coastal Forest

How do flowers know to bloom in the spring?

As the weather gets warmer and the sun starts shining, you may be starting to see some flower buds opening up to greet you this spring season.  Have you ever wondered how flowers know when to bloom?  The answer lies in their genes.

Spring buds

The blooming process is initiated by just one protein!  As the days start getting longer, and the number of daylight hours begins to increase, a plant protein called “CONSTANS” (“CO”) is activated within the plant.  Next, CO triggers another protein known as “Flowering Locus T”, or simply “FT.”  Plants produce more FT with warmer temperatures.  FT causes the plant to start producing a gene called “APETALA1,” which in turn produces the APETALA1 protein.  This protein then activates more than 1,000 other genes involved in the flowering process.  For example, it signals genes that are responsible for leaf growth to stop producing leaves, and instead start producing flowers.

Wow!  Who knew how much was involved in the flower blooming process?  There are even more plant components that participate in this system – we’ve only discussed the primary ones!

Native wildflower Eastern Purple Bladderwort

So, now that we figured out the general process for how plants bloom, you may be thinking to yourself, “Well, not all plants flower at the same time.”  And, you would be right!

Different plants blossom at different times in order to further their survival.  Once a flower blooms, it is pollinated by insects, such as bees or butterflies.  These pollinators help transfer pollen from one flower to another, which fertilizes the plants and leads to seed production.  The seeds are then dispersed from the plants by forces like wind or birds, and they eventually germinate and grow into other plants.

If all flowers bloomed at the same time, the bees and butterflies would not be able to pollinate all of them, which would mean that many flowers would not produce seeds.  This would pose a problem because the growth of new plants would stop, and ultimately, you would not see as many different types of plants.  Thus, different plants bloom at different times of the year in order to give themselves the best chance of survival.  We are lucky that this is the case because we get to see a large variety of flowers throughout the spring, summer, and even fall seasons!

Native plant Butterfly Milkweed
Image: Wildflower.org

So, the next time you find yourself enjoying the weather on your front porch or in your backyard, take a moment to appreciate the hidden complexity of the flowers blooming in your garden, and be grateful for the variety of plants that exist in our natural world!


By: Kaitlyn Sherman, Long Island Pine Barrens Society

Sources:

https://www.livescience.com/32529-how-do-flowers-know-when-to-bloom.html

https://www.phipps.conservatory.org/blog/detail/biopgh-blog-how-do-buds-know-when-to-bloom

https://jakesnatureblog.com/2015/06/01/why-do-flowers-bloom-at-different-times-of-the-year/

Resolutions to Start in 2022

It’s that time of year again when we all reflect on the past year and start planning for the year ahead.  The new year is always a great time to start out fresh and think about adopting some new habits.  In this blog, we’ll outline some New Year resolutions for you to consider!

Take more walks

The mental and physical benefits of moving your body and getting out into nature are well-documented.  The Long Island Pine Barrens is filled with beautiful natural spaces for you to explore.  Whether you’re looking for a quick 30-minute power walk or an extensive several miles-long hike, the Pine Barrens has you covered! Check out our recreation guides to help you get started.  Or check out one of our past blog posts that outlines our Top 5 Favorite Pine Barrens Hiking Spots.

Make the switch to reusable products          

It’s no secret that we have a global waste issue that is greatly impacting our environment.  Making the switch to reusable products can greatly reduce your waste and save you some money! Here are some great, easy switches to make: reusable water bottles (instead of individual plastic bottles); hand towels (instead of paper towels); rechargeable batteries; reusable grocery bags; reusable straws; reusable k-cups or tea strainers; or glass storage containers (instead of plastic wrap or sandwich bags).  The possibilities are endless!

Learn more about Long Island’s natural environment

Long Island’s natural environment is a fascinating subject to study, filled with geology, ecology and history lessons! How was Long Island formed? What kind of plants and animals can you find on Long Island? Did you know we have a globally-rare ecosystem on Long Island? Why can wildfire be a good thing? These are just some of the questions that you can work to find the answers to!

Here is some suggested reading from our website to help you get started in your learning quest:

Learn more about Long Island’s water and how you can help protect it

When you turn on your faucet in the morning to brush your teeth, where does that water come from?  Long Island is a very special place in that it is a Federally-designated Sole Source Aquifer Region.  This means that 100% of the drinking water for 2.8 million Long Islanders comes from a series of aquifers right beneath our feet! This also means that we have to take special care to make sure our water supply is protected.  Everything we do on land has the potential to impact our water quality.

Learn more about our water supply and how you can protect it at home by checking out these resources:

Whether it’s January 1st or sometime later in the year, the time is always right to work to protect and enjoy Long Island’s environment!


By: Katie Muether Brown, Long Island Pine Barrens Society

Spooky Creatures in the Pine Barrens

Spooky Creatures in the Pine Barrens

If you’re like me, you look forward to the Fall all year. The temperature finally drops, you can find pumpkin spice treats everywhere, and the best part…Halloween! By now, porches and lawns are decorated with fake spider webs, bats or other “scary” critters. Many of these typical scary Halloween critters are actually not scary at all! In fact, many of these creatures inhabit the Pine Barrens. In fact, they carry out vital functions to maintain a healthy ecosystem! Once you get to know these spooky creatures, you’ll look at them in a different light.

 

Big Brown Bats

Big Brown Bat
pc: Fyn Kynd

Arguably one of the most well known symbols of Halloween is a bat. Often associated with vampires, bats gained the unfortunate reputation of being a blood-sucking monster. According to a study conducted by Brookhaven National Lab, Big Brown bats are the dominant bat species on Long Island. These bats mostly feed on pests like beetles, moths and, best of all, mosquitoes (the real blood-sucking monsters!). 

 

Black and Yellow Spider 

Black & Yellow Spider
pc: F Delventhal

Another creepy creature that not only represents Halloween, but is a worst fear for many is a spider. The list of spider species found on Long Island goes on and on. However, it only felt right to hone in on the physically largest native spider species. If you’ve ever had the pleasure to host a black and yellow garden spider in your yard, you’ll know how massive and beautiful its webs can become. (Although it’s all fun and games until you accidentally run through one.) These circular webs act as traps for flying insects. The spider will usually hang from a web until the vibration of successful trapping signals the spider that dinner is ready.

 

Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owl
pc: J.N. Stuart

This next spooky critter can give someone the creeps just by making eye contact. Great Horned owls live in many areas across the country, including Long Island. Their intimidating appearance, along with their stealth and precision makes them a top predator. In fact they’re so powerful that they sometimes even harm smaller endangered birds. Their impact on other bird populations is the scariest thing about them…at least from a human standpoint.

Hopefully these creatures haven’t given you too much of a spook. Maybe you’ll even take on the challenge of spotting one in nature! In the past we’ve even covered more spooky sights to look out for in our Pine Barrens! So, start your exploration and have a very fun Halloween season!

 

By Miranda Gonzales, Long Island Pine Barrens Society


Sources:

http://www.nebwg.org/AnnualMeetings/2013/2013presentations/FishmanBatLongIsland.pdf

https://www.nwf.org/Educational-Resources/Wildlife-Guide/Invertebrates/Yellow-Garden-Spider

https://www.fireislandandbeyond.com/long-island-wildlife-bird-of-the-week-great-horned-owl/

Cover Photo: Tristian Chambers, Flickr CC

Where are all the Fireflies?

Where are all the Fireflies?

Firefly
pc: Judy Gallaghar – Flickr cc

Who can deny their love for the little beetles that light up our nighttime skies?  Perhaps you call them fireflies, moon bugs, or lightning bugs. These insects earned their names from their bioluminescence. Bioluminescence results from a chemical reaction — when oxygen combines with the chemical compound, luciferin, and creates light. As a child, I was infatuated by these critters. I used to catch them in my hands, name them, and release them. However, recently I’ve noticed the lack of these glowing bugs in the sky. So I’m left with one question: Where are all the fireflies?

Poor habitat conditions

Firefly beetles consist of over 2,000 species. You can find these species in eight different geographic locations: North America, Central America, Mexico, Europe, South Asia, East Asia and Southeast Asia. Of the 2,000 species, 125 species can be found in the United States. Fireflies favor humid climate regions, swamps or wetlands. Some species even live in microhabitats found in deserts.  Fireflies rely on their habitats to survive.  Unfortunately, poor habitat conditions threatens the survival our fireflies. Habitats are destroyed through urbanization or for agricultural purposes. They also face threats when people spray pesticides in hopes of eradicating mosquitos.

Interference in Mating 

Fireflies don’t just light up for our enjoyment! Their bioluminescence plays a crucial part in the mating process. Fireflies light up to attract a mate, but with increased light pollution, potential mates can miss mating signals. Light pollution comes from street lights, commercial signs, sports arenas and more. As land development continues, the risk of light pollution only increases. When fireflies struggle to find mates, they cannot produce enough offspring to sustain their population. We cannot fix the light pollution problem overnight, but after becoming aware of this issue we can make changes in our own homes to help our firefly populations. Some of these changes include turning off outdoor lights when unnecessary, choosing outdoor lighting fixtures that point toward the ground rather than lighting up the general area, and installing motion sensor lights that only turn on when needed. While these efforts may not completely solve the issue of declining firefly populations, it’s a great way to start!

 

By Miranda Gonzales, Long Island Pine Barrens Society


Sources:

https://www.nationalgeographic.com

https://www.pbs.org/

https://xerces.org

Rainwater: The Good and The Bad

Rainwater: The Good and The Bad

 

Here at the Pine Barrens Society, we prioritize clean water. Perhaps you’ve seen our work protesting the development of “The Hills” luxury golf resort that would hinder our water quality, or our advocacy work to vote in favor of the Drinking Water Protection during this last election. But, sometimes our water quality can face issues that are not direct human impacts. While typically beneficial, rainwater can also have many negative effects on our water quality. So, what does this mean during a summer that has broken precipitation records on the east coast? 

Aquifer Visual Source:USGS

First, The Bad News…

 

If you don’t already know, Long Island gets its drinking water from an underground aquifer system. Rainwater has both positive and negative effects on our aquifers. The greatest risk posed by rainwater is that it carries pollutants into our water supply. Rain cannot travel through paved surfaces, so it flows over these surfaces and picks up debris, bacteria, pesticides, and other pollutants. Eventually this runoff reaches a body of water or open space which does allow water to percolate through to the aquifer. Thus, runoff leads to contamination of our clean water. Other detrimental side effects of heavy rainfall include: risk of flood, soil erosion, and destruction to crops. 

 

The Bright Side of Heavy Rainfall 

Heavy precipitation is not all bad! In fact, we rely on precipitation to replenish our groundwater. As individuals, we can also take advantage of the rainfall by rain harvesting. Rain harvesting is the practice of capturing rainwater for later use. Certain parts of the world, such as the Caribbean islands, depend on rainwater harvesting for everyday use. Many homes have limestone roofs that drain rainwater to tanks stored in their basements which they use to shower, brush their teeth and more. However, Long Island homes do not come with these systems, so what can we do? We can take advantage of rainwater by leaving barrels outside to capture the rain and use the collected rainwater in our gardens and to wash our cars, thus conserving water and energy. Staying aware of weather forecasts to avoid watering our lawns on days with expected rain will also help conserve water.

Bermuda Rainwater Harvesting Roof    pc: Craig Stanfill

 

 

By Miranda Gonzales, Long Island Pine Barrens Society


Sources:

https://www.usgs.gov/special-topic/water-science-school/science/runoff-surface-and-overland-water-runoff?qt-science_center_objects=0#qt-science_center_objects 

https://www.nature.org/

https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-38222271

 

Monarchs & Milkweed: The Tale of Two Declining Species

Monarchs & Milkweed: The Tale of Two Declining Species

With its bright orange wing color and thick black outline, it’s hard to miss a monarch butterfly when it flutters by. The monarch butterfly, a busy pollinator, is a welcome sign of its annual migration in late summer. Unfortunately, the eastern monarch butterfly populations continue to decline thanks to climate change, habitat fragmentation, and pesticide use.

Monarch butterflies are more than a pretty sight; they play a huge role in ecosystem functions. The eastern monarch population typically spends late summer to earlier fall pollinating in the northeast. When the temperature drops, the butterflies migrate to forests in Mexico. During their journey back north, monarchs will lay anywhere between 200-500 eggs. While this number may seem high, we must consider that most monarchs have a lifespan of only a few weeks. It’s critical that we provide a safe habitat of the surviving eastern monarch butterflies.

Eastern Monarch Population by The Center For Biological Diversity

But how does milkweed tie into all of this? 

Milkweed is a perennial plant that monarch caterpillars depend on to survive. Like the monarch species, this plant species is on the decline. Researchers from the National Wildlife Federation predict that if everyone adds a little milkweed to their gardens, we will see an increase in monarchs shortly thereafter. But be careful when handling milkweed. Milkweed contains poisonous chemicals to humans and animals that consume it or come in contact with its sap. The monarch caterpillar, however, has evolved to withstand its toxicity. In fact, the toxic chemicals the caterpillars consume act as a defense mechanism to deter predators.

Monarch Caterpillar on Milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa).

Don’t let milkweed scare you though! As long as you take the proper precautions when handling milkweed you will not have an issue. These precautions include, wearing gloves, or covering your skin, washing your hands after handling, and making sure you, and children especially, can differentiate milkweed from other plants. Luckily, Milkweed has some unique identifiers. From June to August Milkweed produces dome-like clusters of little flowers with 5 petals, typically peeled back. Surrounded by the petals, you’ll also see a pod of seeds covered by another 5 hoods. By the fall, Milkweed will begin to release their seeds which get carried by the wind.

Milkweed with Petals Peeling Back

So, will you add some milkweed to your garden to help protect our monarch butterflies?

Check out Milkweed for eastern US for some tips!

By Miranda Gonzales, Long Island Pine Barrens Society


Sources:

https://biologicaldiversity.org/

https://medium.com/usfws/spreading-milkweed-not-myths-5df8c480912d

www.nwf.org

 

Dealing with Eco-Anxiety

Dealing with Eco-Anxiety

Climate change certainly affects our weather patterns, biological diversity, and landscape composition, but climate change can also take a toll on our mental well-being. According to a survey by the American Psychological Association in 2020, 2 out of 3 (or 68%) of American adults struggle with eco-anxiety. If you’re like me, you fall into that 68 percentile. In this blog, I’ll define eco-anxiety, how to determine if you struggle with it and provide you with ways to cope when all else seems hopeless.

 

What is eco-anxiety?

 

The term eco-anxiety, coined by Glen Albrechht, an Australian environmental philosopher, is the feeling of doom or worry brought about by climate change and its impacts. While eco-anxiety is not a clinical diagnosis, many people fear the foreseeable future due to current devastating environmental changes.

 

Do I have eco-anxiety?

 

Personally speaking, it feels like eco-anxiety consumes me most days. I constantly ask myself if I am doing enough for the environment; if my youngest sister or future children will reap terrible consequences of climate change as they grow; is it ethical to have children during a climate crisis, or most importantly, why is our government not doing enough? Sometimes, when I forget my reusable water bottle at home, it feels like the end of the world when I need to purchase a plastic bottle of water. Eco-anxiety can cause a range of emotions like helplessness, sadness, grief, or restlessness. If you resonate with any of this, you likely struggle with eco-anxiety yourself.

Eco-anxiety often is worse for those whose livelihoods or cultures depend on a healthy, thriving ecosystem. For example, people with careers that may affected by environmental degradation, such as fisheries and farms, often worry more than the general population. Indigenous communities often face more intense effects of climate change.

 

How can I cope with eco-anxiety?

 

With the current state of the world, it can seem impossible to relieve ourselves of eco-anxiety. Reading environmental news about inclement weather events such as flooding in Germany, ice storms in Texas, or the constant wildfires along the west coast of the US certainly make overcoming this fear difficult. But we cannot successfully fight a climate crisis in a weakened mental state, so here are some tips to help you overcome your eco-anxiety.

:

  • Spend more time outdoors

Enjoying the great outdoors will not only relieve some of our eco-anxiety but it will also help our overall mental health. In the high technology era, we tend to spend more time indoors. Perhaps you recall our past blogs about the detrimental effects of Nature Deficit Disorder or about the benefits of Forest Bathing.  Enjoying the outdoors can connect us with nature, and if you can’t find the time to get outside perhaps bring nature indoors with you with a house plant or two.

 

  • Look on the bright side

You cannot avoid negative environmental news, it’s practically inevitable, but don’t let the negative news outweigh the breakthroughs happening every day. Surrounding yourself with positive environmental news is just as important as informing yourself of the negative news. Personally, I enjoy listening to environmental podcasts like Sustainability Defined or Sustainababble for a lighthearted twist on environmental news!

 

  • Take action

Ease your eco-anxiety by getting involved with your local environmental groups or making personal changes in your life! Taking part in environmental activities such as a beach cleanup can connect you with others in your community that likely also deal with eco-anxiety. Perhaps you don’t have time to attend environmental events. If that’s the case, consider funding local environmental groups, such as The Long Island Pine Barrens Society!  Also, making personal changes in your life such as using a bike instead of a car (when possible), or taking shorter showers can help you feel better about your overall environmental impact!

 

By Miranda Gonzales, Long Island Pine Barrens Society


Sources:
https://www.climatepsychologyalliance.org/handbook/451-eco-anxiety#:~:text=The%20notion%20of%20solastalgia%20is,is%20subject%20to%20environmental%20degradation.

 

https://sustainabilitydefined.com/ecoanxiety

Shark Week in the Pine Barrens

Shark Week in the Pine Barrens

 

Perhaps one of the most anticipated weeks of the summer is finally here. July 11th marked the start of the 33rd annual Shark Week. What began as an effort to raise awareness for shark conservation and repudiate misconceptions about sharks, now serves as a source of entertainment for many. Since Long Island is surrounded by salt water, the likelihood of our running into one of these marine animals is especially high. While you may not run into a Great White on your hike through Prosser Pines Nature Preserve, it’s not impossible to see a shark visit when you visit other Pine Barrens parks with or adjacent to waterways.

 

Shark Sighting in the Pine Barrens

On July 25, 2011, a fisherman reported that a Bull Shark made its way into the Peconic Bay. As you may know, two of our beloved Pine Barrens parks in the Riverhead area have access to the Peconic Bay. Indian Island County Park and Hubbard County Park both border this body of water. The fisherman found the Bull Shark tangled in pound traps and assumed the shark had been hunting for fish. 

 

Great White Found Around the Long Island Sound Credit: Ocearch

Wildwood State Park is another known spot for shark visits as it runs along the Long Island Sound. A recent report in Newsday states that at least three different Great White sharks lurked around the Long Island Sound in the last month. Since Long Island hosts an abundance of fish in the sound, it attracts juvenile sharks looking for their next feeding. However, shark attacks on humans remain extremely low, so do not let this keep you out of the water!

Shark Safety

So, you’ve decided to take a swim in the water, but you’ve come face to face with one of these apex predators, now what? The first thing to remember: don’t panic. You may find it difficult to think logically in this situation, but the calmer you react the less likely the shark will bother you. Kicking and splashing the water around can create an illusion of fish and this can lure the shark in your direction. Safely and calmly make your way out of the water while alerting others around you. When the shark finally swims away, quickly exit the water and seek help for any injuries. 

Map of Shark related injuries in the US
Credit: Florida Museum

Remember, your chance of becoming a victim of a shark attack is minimal. The chances are especially low in Long Island waters (although we can’t say the same for Florida, which has the highest recorded number of shark attacks in the country!). In fact, of the 129 alleged worldwide shark attacks recorded in 2020, not a single one occurred in New York. Hopefully, this gives you peace of mind when diving into our beloved Long Island Sound this summer!

 

By Miranda Gonzales, Long Island Pine Barrens Society

 

Sources:

https://riverheadnewsreview.timesreview.com/2011/08/19765/big-shark-spotted-in-orient-but-what-kind-was-it/

https://www.newsday.com/long-island/great-white-sharks-long-island-1.50277983

https://www.cnn.com/travel/article/tips-to-avoid-shark-attacks-trnd/index.html