Thanks to fantastic weather, the Littoral Society enjoyed a great turn out for our annual New Year's Day walks on Sandy Hook, NJ and Breezy Point, NY.
Buoyed by temperatures in the 50s, more than 200 folks gathered for the trek to the tip of Sandy Hook and about 50 joined us for the walk through New York's Fort Tilden.
The annual ritual to ring in the new year, which has been occurring for more than 30 years, included attempts by both parties to signal the other. While we failed in that effort (once again), we hope everyone will join us for another try on January 1, 2024.
The New York group also celebrated some very important milestones for one of the youngest naturalists on the walk … with cake of course!
On Sandy Hook, the event culminated with hot dogs and hot chocolate at Littoral Society headquarters.
Thanks to everyone who joined us for these events and we look forward to making the walk again with you next year.
Littoral Society Kicks Off Environmental Stewardship Program
with Students at South Jersey High School
Over the past 5 months, students in Agriculture Research and Development and Animal Science classes at Cumberland Regional High School (CRHS) explored the impacts of climate change and habitat loss on pollinators while getting their hands dirty in an environmental stewardship project led by the American Littoral Society.
The project, called Helping Pollinators Help Us: Creating Habitat for Climate Change Resilience, was launched in the Fall of 2022 with funding from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Planet Stewards program (NOAA). The pollinator project at CRHS is led by Nicole Smith, the school's Agriculture Teacher and FFA Assistant Advisor, and Michelle Rebilas, Littoral Society’s Delaware Bay Education Coordinator.
For the two-year project, students will be engaged in hands-on conservation and stewardship experiences that build skills and confidence in their individual and collective ability to make a difference in their community. As part of that they learned about the threats to pollinators like bees and butterflies in the face of climate change and developed a strategy to increase pollinator habitat availability and connectivity on their school campus.
The initial semester of work included three phases: Pollinator Study & Monarch Conservation, Habitat Planning & Design, and Growing Pollinator Plants in a Greenhouse. The project will culminate with the creation of a 1-acre pollinator habitat on the campus of Cumberland Regional High School in Spring 2023.
The Littoral Society remains in the holiday spirit thanks to the ongoing collection of used Christmas trees for the Slade Dale restoration project.
Point Pleasant Borough's department of public works (DPW) continues to collect residents' natural trees that have been left by the curb and anyone can drop theirs off at the town's Good Shepherd Lutheran Church through the end of January. In addition to those from the local DPW and individuals, we've also received trees from the Brielle Environmental Commission.
The trees will be collected for use in an ongoing living shoreline project at the Slade Dale Sanctuary, a 15-acre municipal property on Sea Point Drive.
In the spring, trees that have been collected will be put into into branchbox breakwaters, which are wooden structures set in Beaverdam Creek that are designed to control erosion by using trees and brush to slow currents and waves, as well as capture the sediment being carried in the water. The breakwaters to help reduce wave energy which can erode the shoreline and allow the salt marsh at the sanctuary to build back up.
Over the past two months, work has been underway in Neptune Township, NJ to build a living shoreline that will help protect the surrounding community from storms and waves, reduce flooding impacts, and create habitat for wildlife.
The project along South Riverside Drive in the Shark River Hills section of the township, will include placement of special "mattresses" and coir logs to stabilize the shoreline, raising the beach and building a dune to provide added resiliency during storm or high-tide events, adding native plants, and long-term monitoring of the site.
The initial phase of the project is nearing completion. It has involved creating a marsh sill with Tensar mattresses - large, mesh polymer bags that are filled with rock and shell that have been placed in the Shark River just beyond a dilapidated wooden bulkhead; lining nearly 2,000 feet of shoreline with coir "logs" made from coconut husks; pouring tons of sand onto the beach; and building a small dune with walkways for the public to access the beach.
With the start of the new year, the Littoral Society began a series of eco-cruises in partnership with the Seatstreak Ferry. While the 3-hour excursions - which will continue out of Highlands, NJ every Saturday through the end of March - are predominantly for seeing seals and birds, we saw some unexpected visitors during the inaugural voyage.
Unfortunately, we didn't see huge numbers of seals - likely due to high tides covering their preferred haul-out spots. However, we were very fortunate to encounter two or three juvenile humpback whales! While whales are becoming increasingly common in this area, they are more typically seen in the spring. For many of the more than 60 people onboard, this was their first time spotting a whale.
During the trips, Littoral Society staff and trained naturalists guide participants in spotting and identifying various wildlife, while also discussing the lives and habitats of what we see. Depending on the days route, we may sail by landmarks such as the Verrazzano Bridge, Roamers Shoal Light, Coney Island, Sandy Hook Light and others spots around Sandy Hook.
The American Littoral Society has been named one of the initial recipients of a New Jersey grant program designed to fund projects that use nature-based techniques to combat the effects of climate change.
As part of this program, the Littoral Society's project for restoring marshlands at the mouth of the Maurice River will receive funding through the new Natural Climate Solutions Grant Program. This innovative program, one of the first of its kind in the nation, is funding $24.3 million in projects to mitigate climate change by creating, restoring, and enhancing New Jersey’s green spaces and tree canopies in urban areas, as well as natural carbon sinks, such as salt marshes, seagrass beds, forests, and parks.
Grant recipients were congratulated by NJ Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Shawn M. LaTourette during an event in Trenton on Wednesday, Jan. 18.
“We appreciate the confidence of the Commissioner and the Department in awarding us this grant to undertake this necessary work," said Tim Dillingham, Executive Director of the American Littoral Society. "New Jersey is Ground Zero for the impacts of climate change and harnessing the power of nature is the most effective response available to us. Our project takes place in one of the most vulnerable communities along the Delaware Bayshore and we thank the Murphy Administration for bringing attention and resources to partner with this community as it faces the impact of climate change."
Christmas trees can keep on giving, even after the holiday season has come to an end. The American Littoral Society will be using recycled trees for an ongoing living shoreline project in Point Pleasant Borough, NJ. Residents of the borough can simply leave their trees - with all decorations removed - at the curb for collection by the Department of Public Works.
If you aren't a resident of the borough, you can still donate trees. The drop off site is at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, 708 NJ-88 in Point Pleasant.
Donated trees will be used in what are known as branchbox breakwaters - wooden structures set in Beaverdam Creek that are designed to control erosion by using trees and brush to slow currents and waves, as well as capture the sediment being carried in the water.
Just before Christmas, the American Littoral Society was recognized as one of the winners of New Jersey's 23rd Annual Governor’s Environmental Excellence Awards. The Society was honored for work on Healthy Ecosystems and Habitats, specifically for constructing oyster reefs to help improve the resiliency of beaches and shorelines.
As noted in the award announcement from NJ Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) Commissioner Shawn M. LaTourette, the oyster reefs provide multiple benefits to the ecology such as new habitat, improved water quality, and an area that promotes re-establishment of submerged aquatic vegetation. In addition to reef construction, the work includes post-restoration monitoring and a community science program, seeding reefs with live oysters, and the use of recycled shell from local restaurants for constructing the reefs.
The Littoral Society has been building oyster reefs along Delaware Bay and Barnegat Bay beaches since shortly after Hurricane Sandy in 2012. The Society also runs the "Shuck It, Don't Chuck It!" shell-recycling program, which collects shells from restaurants in Monmouth County for eventual use as part of reef and living shoreline projects. Learn more about this restoration work through our website.
The Society was recognized along with 10 other organizations and individuals that demonstrated commitment and leadership on a variety of environmental issues, including environmental justice, climate change, sustainability, education, and protection of natural resources.
Historically, Barnegat Bay had over 12,000 acres of eastern oyster beds. Today, nearly the entire natural oyster population is gone. With their elimination, Barnegat Bay not only lost the oysters themselves, but the ecosystem services they provided such as water filtration, wave energy mitigation, and habitat for other marine life.
Forked River Beach, in Lacey Township, NJ, is one place where the disappearance of oysters - and the reefs they build - has hit home, as high tides now bring bay water into some nearby homes. The site has lost over a hundred and fifty feet of shoreline since 1995 and erosion there has been accelerating since Superstorm Sandy in 2012. Increased sediment in water from shoreline erosion has also impacted the water quality of Barnegat Bay.
A coalition led by the American Littoral Society began work in 2021 to restore Forked River Beach by constructing reefs using large wire baskets called HESCOs. Those baskets will eventually become home to full grown oysters that will help to stabilize the shoreline and clean surrounding waters. It’s an effort the local community has rallied around.
Project partners and funders include: New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, New Jersey Corporate Wetlands Restoration Partnership, Lacey Township, Bayside Beach Club, Stockton University, Albert Marine, US Fish & Wildlife Service, ReClam the Bay, Parsons Seafood, and Wildlife Restoration Partnerships.
As the season gets colder and the temperatures shift in our local ocean waters, marine animal strandings become more common on our beaches. In the past, Littoral Staff have encountered stranded sea turtles on Sandy Hook and even a stranded whale near Rockaway Beach in New York.
Many animals are sensitive to abrupt changes in ocean water temperatures that can occur at this time of year. Human activities such as construction, boating and fishing can also play a role.
If you see stranded, injured, sick or deceased marine mammals or sea turtles on the beach, please do not attempt to help the animals. Warming cold stunned creatures can send them into shock. If the animal may still be alive, call the stranding hotline for New York at 631-369-9829.
If you find a stunned or injured marine mammal in New Jersey, contact the Marine Mammal Stranding Center at 609-266-0538 or via their website: https://mmsc.org/. For turtles, contact Sea Turtle Recover at 609-667-4076. The stranding hotline numbers are active 24 hours/7 days per week.