I have taught in a few outdoor education programs over the years and recognize the power of those experiences for young people. As part of my science program in my school, I began and currently coordinate an outdoor education day at Tallman Mountain State Park for all 650 students. We invite local scientists and environmental groups to run activities for our students and we rotate the students through those activities. My goal is to learn more about the environment that we live around so that I can be more effective when I teach my students and plan our environmental education day.
I teach elementary school science and computer technology in a public school system in Rockland County. In addition, I am a Peer Leader with a program called Planet Stewards Education Program run by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. I have a Master’s in Elementary Education and a Bachelor’s Degree in Anthropology and Psychology. I am also a former NOAA Teacher At Sea.
To be better prepared for time spent outdoors, there were several things I didn't know. I did not know that cotton actually causes you to lose heat in winter. I did not know that opossums eat ticks and permethrin is new to me. I did not know crushing ticks could release disease. I was also amazed at the level of human fingerprint visible in the increasing tick population. We have decreased population of top-end predators, like wolves, which in turn favors deer, which in turn favors ticks.
"Encompassing that mission are the following commitments:
- A Commitment to People: To serving and protecting the public to the best of our ability, with courtesy and respect. We are committed to our employees and volunteers, encouraging teamwork, self-improvement and mutual support.
- A Commitment to Preservation: State Parks and Historic Sites are unique and irreplaceable public assets. We are committed to wise acquisition, planning, and, where appropriate, development; timely and professional care and maintenance; and a responsibility to future generations in whose trust we manage our resources. We are committed to providing encouragement to all agencies and individuals to identify, evaluate and protect recreational, natural, historic and cultural resources.
- A Commitment to Service: The availability of recreational, educational and cultural opportunities to all is vital in today's society. We are committed to equal access and outreach to all segments of our society, recognizing individual needs and interests. We are committed to safety, security, creativity and accountability in providing our programs and services.
- A Commitment to Leadership: We recognize the preeminence of the New York State Park and Historic Site System. We are committed to excellence, innovation and professionalism. We are committed to forging partnerships with others who are responsible for providing recreational, natural, historic and cultural services.”
The Hudson River flows on the other side of the Marsh from Tallman Mountain. The main delineations between habitat are determined mostly by height above sea level. Tallman is part of the Palisades, which are a line of basalt cliffs stretching from about the George Washington Bridge, up as far as Haverstraw, New York - roughly 20 miles north. The cliffs are right up against the shore of the Hudson in much of this area. There is a long flat top to the cliffs, forming a forested table.
Much of Tallman Park occupies this flat surface. That section of the park is primarily deciduous forest with assorted ponds and streams occupying small pockets that dot the area. Those are drained by streams leading to the Marsh and the Hudson. Forest also dots the cliffs, themselves, which are not as steep as they are in other sections of the Palisades. This area supports soil and a forest community.
Below the cliffs there is a long mudflat stretching out towards the river forming the 1017 acre Piermont Marsh. This is populated almost entirely by the invasive Phragmites. The boundary between the forest and the marsh is very sharp and well defined. Much of it is formed by marsh channels, which have cut the boundary along the edge of the forest. It is common to see trees down across those channels, indicating that the erosion is still going on, though the boundaries have been stable for as long as I have lived in the area.
The northern section of the Park is formed along a natural break in the Palisades Cliffs. This area, by Piermont, New York, was once possibly cut and used as a channel by the Hudson River before the last ice age created the River’s current path. At present, the 8 mile long Sparkill Creek, uses this natural break in the area to reach the Piermont Marsh and the Hudson River.
The creek passes through a small portion of Tallman Park before heading into the Marsh and the River, beyond. Here, again, the delineations between habitats are mostly a reflection of the height over sea level of the area. The boundary between the Marsh and forest can be seen, here.
For field training, I attended a 1.5 hour webinar from the Department of Environmental Conservation for NYS and the National Estuarine Research Reserve on Sustainable Shorelines along the Hudson River. This webinar focused on replacing constructed sea walls and similar man-made shoreline features with nature-based shoreline with native plants plants. And I attended a 1.5 hour naturalist-led butterfly walk at Edith Read Wildlife Sanctuary in Rye, NY.
This group stops or directs traffic around the slow-moving animals. Due to this group’s efforts, most of the females now survive the migration, however the raccoons eat most of the eggs. The raccoon population is very high, in the area, much like the deer population. That is directly due to humans killing off apex predators like big cats and wolves, which kept the raccoon population in check in years past. The combination of a lack of predation, along with the fact that raccoons have adapted fairly well to the presence of humans - and, in particular, their garbage, has left the turtle population in distress.
Normally I advocate for leaving nature alone, but in this case, would it make sense to rescue some of the turtle eggs before the raccoons get to them? Turtle eggs can be hatched simply by leaving them in potting soil for a couple of months, then the babies could be released into the wetland their mothers intended to be their home.