When you’re getting your first taste of New Orleans, you want it to taste like New Orleans. Which is why the first-timers on our water quality team – director of water quality Peter Linderoth, laboratory manager Elena Colon, and clean water advocate Sam Marquand – were so excited to sample the local flavor during their inaugural visit to the Crescent City earlier this month.
There was muffaletta on the menu, frog legs and fried oyster po’ boys, too. And all the variations of alligator received chef’s-kiss reviews.
There also was architecture and history, live music and live oaks. But it was neither the tastes nor the sights that brought our team to New Orleans. It was the Sound.
Our Save the Sound contingent – which also included our president, Leah Lopez Schmalz, and our regional directors of ecological restoration (Laura Wildman) and water protection (David Ansel) – was in town for the Restore America’s Estuaries summit, a regular gathering of organizations reinvigorating 11 different waterbodies nationwide. This year’s theme was Resilient Coasts. Resilient Communities, focusing the five days in the Big Easy on the hard work already at the heart of the Save the Sound mission.
“Having the chance to present at a national conference with our partners, sharing our experiences, putting Long Island Sound on the national stage as it should be, obviously is quite an honor,” said Peter, who presented on the Unified Water Study in “Long Island Sound: Science, Reporting, and Outreach Tools for Estuarine Management,” and moderated another panel. “It was great to see all of these other like-minded groups – and not just NGOs – who care deeply about all these other estuaries, all fighting for clean water in their local waterways. I found that really encouraging and rejuvenating.”
That’s the real benefit of attending an event like the RAE summit – exchanging new ideas and best practices from other groups working on projects similar to your own.
“We all get so focused on our piece of the world, but you see so many presentations from people just as passionate about where they live, whether it’s Texas or San Francisco or some barrier island in the Chesapeake,” said David.
The water quality team even attended a presentation by Dr. Dianne Greenfield from CUNY, who during a presentation on “Characterizing Ecological (phytoplankton/bacteria) and Biogeochemical Processes within an Urban Estuary (Long Island, USA): Implications for Nitrogen Management” showed a slide featuring our 2022 Long Island Sound Report. That drew some thumbs up from the back of the Ascot-Newbury room.
The thread that ran through many presentations and resonated most with our team was an emphasis on environmental justice. Sam was struck by the discussion of an inclusive scientific process – supplementing the institutional approach with tribal knowledge and community input – by the National Estuarine Research Reserve. And a single slide in a presentation on watershed collaboration stuck with Elena:
“There was a map showing where all of the projects were in the Blackstone Watershed in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, and there was a glaring bald spot in an urbanized area, which has a large amount of impervious surfaces and a disadvantaged, underserved population,” she said. “It was a good reminder of the inequities of where the focus and dollars go for restoration and preservation projects. We – people and communities with the technical resources and capacity to build – need to do better.”