Upper Elementary Partners With the Hudson River Eel Project
The project is a collection of students, scientists, and volunteers who catch and inspect young American eels using eel mops, a piece of equipment that simulates an ideal juvenile eel habitat. They also use specialized nets and temporary habitats in various places along the Hudson River.
The Upper Elementary class obtained a special permit from the New Jersey Department of Wildlife and Conservation’s Marine Fisheries Administration—a feat within itself. To achieve the permit, the school requested and received recommendations from local scientists. Once the permit was approved, they designed and installed their own eel mop.
Juvenile American eels, or “glass eels” are only about the size of your pinkie finger. The name “glass eels” comes from the see-through appearance they have at birth. The eels migrate to many North American estuaries after leaving their Atlantic Ocean hatching grounds. The eggs float around the Sargasso Sea, 2 million miles of warm water in the North Atlantic between the Azores and the West Indies. Soon after hatching, the migration toward North American fresh-water systems begins. They grow up to 20 inches long, weigh about 8 pounds, and gain their dark pigment once they reach the Hudson River and other estuaries.
Our students developed the scientific design and field methodology of this project. Our citizen scientists experience the local ecosystem firsthand by doing weekly eel mop checks. They count and weigh juvenile fish and log environmental data. Then, they are released back into the water to continue their migration. The students also log migration patterns over time and convert the distance the eels travel from statute miles to nautical miles.
While at the waterfront, students often find trash scattered in the water and along the shore. The students joined a second initiative, the Clean Ocean Action Project, to combat the negative impact pollution has on the ecosystem. They use data cards and the Marine Debris Tracker app to count how much trash they collected. Then, the data is uploaded and submitted to help monitor ocean health.
The Hudson River Eel Project is coordinated by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s Hudson River Estuary Program and the Hudson River National Estuarine Research Reserve. The study is also a partnership with NEIWPCC, a regional commission that helps the Northeast states preserve and advance water quality, and the Water Resources Institute at Cornell University.