05/18/15 2:30pm
05/18/2015 2:30 PM
A view of Flanders Bay Saturday afternoon. (Credit: Rachel Young)

A view of Flanders Bay Saturday afternoon. (Credit: Rachel Young)

Update Monday 2:30 p.m.: A state pathology lab investigating the die-off of dozens of turtles in Peconic Bay has found marine biotoxins are likely the cause.

Though findings from a necropsy were “nonspecific” — meaning the turtle’s death could not be directly cited to the presence of the red tide byproduct saxitoxin — testing on the contents of the turtle’s intestines was inconclusive but revealed that saxitoxin may have been present, the state Department of Environmental Conservation said.

“Circumstantial evidence is consistent with the terrapins being poisoned with saxitoxin,” said state spokesperson Lori Severino. “If additional terrapin carcasses are found, [the] DEC will test them as well in an effort to confirm the cause of deaths in this terrapin die-off.”

Turtle Rescue of the Hamptons executive director Karen Testa had told the News-Review the group was hoping the turtles had been killed because of the harsh winter and not the toxin. She said the poisoned turtles may have been just coming out of hibernation when they ate the toxic shellfish.

“What that does is it paralyzes them and they would just drown. It’s a horrible death, “she said. “They get their first meal and its poison. It’s horrible.”

Original story: Flanders Bay and western Shinnecock Bay have been added to the list of local waterbodies where the harvesting of shellfish is temporarily prohibited due to unusually high toxin levels, the New York Department of Environmental Conservation announced Saturday.

Three area creeks were also shut down by the state in the last two weeks.  (more…)

05/07/15 9:58am
05/07/2015 9:58 AM
Meetinghouse Creek on Thursday morning. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

Meetinghouse Creek on Thursday morning. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

State Department of Environmental Conservation officials have closed two Riverhead water bodies to shellfishing after finding dangerous levels of marine biotoxins in shellfish and carnivorous gastropods, such as conchs and moon snails, which feed on shellfish. (more…)

05/05/15 8:00am
05/05/2015 8:00 AM
Southern Pine Beetles, which are devastating forests across the Northeast, have arrived on Long Island. (Credit: Courtesy photo)

Southern Pine Beetles, which are devastating forests across the Northeast, have arrived on Long Island. (Credit: Courtesy photo)

The Suffolk County Legislature may create a commission of state and local authorities to deal with the southern pine beetle, a rice-grain-sized insect devastating nearby woodlands, before the problem gets “too out of hand,” according to one legislator. (more…)

05/04/15 8:00am
05/04/2015 8:00 AM
Southern pine beetles have been confirmed in the above locations so far, officials say. (Eric Hod illustration)

Southern pine beetles have been confirmed in the above locations so far, officials say. (Eric Hod illustration)

The southern pine beetle, as it turns out, isn’t all that southern anymore.

The voracious and highly destructive insect — which decimates millions of cubic feet of timber across the country each year — has been making a slow expansion north over the past couple of decades. The beetle arrived in New Jersey in 2001, crossed the Great Egg Harbor River south of Atlantic City in 2008 and arrived on Long Island this past fall.

Now, authorities are trying to figure out how to contain the spread of the pest in the Pine Barrens and beyond. So far, it has infected trees at least a dozen state and county parks across Suffolk County (see map, above), not to mention on private land.

“We assume that all in all, we’ve lost a good thousand acres,” said John Wernet, regional forester with the Department of Environmental Conservation. The DEC, in conjunction with other agencies, is conducting aerial and ground surveys to determine the full extent of the damage. Results are expected in the next couple of months.


THE THREE STAGES OF A SOUTHERN PINE BEETLE INFESTATION


The levels of infestation are bound to affect the health of the Pine Barrens for years to come.

“It’s not possible to eliminate,” said Kevin Dodds, an entomologist with the U.S. Forest Service. “I hear a lot of people use the word ‘control,’ but ‘control’ implies you have the ability to knock things back. It’s better to look at this as managing it.”

CLIMBING NORTH

A few years ago, Rob Corcory, who had retired from a 37-year career with the New Jersey State Forestry Services Department, was asked to return as the state’s southern pine beetle project manager.

By then, however, scientists estimated that it was just too late to stymie the insect’s northward march.

“We tried to keep it in the southern half of the state, but it started creeping north. Everything was below the Mullica River [in New Jersey] until a year or two,” Mr. Corcory said.

R0430_beetle_C.jpgScientists have attributed the beetle’s northern migration to climate change. The coldest night of winter in New Jersey is now seven to eight degrees warmer, on average, than it was 50 years ago, said Matthew Ayres, professor of biological sciences at Dartmouth College. And warmer temperatures at night have allowed the beetle to survive the farther north it goes.

On Long Island, temperatures recorded this past winter at the National Weather Service in Upton dropped to -4 degrees on three nights in February, which helped suppress the beetle’s spread this spring and “bought us some time” to fight this year’s infestation, said Mr. Wernet of the DEC.

It remains unclear exactly how the beetle arrived on Long Island, but its presence has now been confirmed as far north as Hartford, Conn.

It’s been speculated the beetles washed ashore on Long Island during Superstorm Sandy, Mr. Dodds said. Or it “could have just spread in smaller infestations,” he said.

What is clear is that they’re here.

Caption: Researchers from Dartmouth College and the New Jersey Forest Service discuss southern pine beetle management in the New Jersey Pinelands. (Courtesy: Matt Ayres/Dartmouth College)

05/01/15 8:00am
05/01/2015 8:00 AM
BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO  |  Southold trustee and bayman Jim King harvests oysters and clams in Mattituck Inlet last year.

Southold trustee and bayman Jim King harvests oysters and clams in Mattituck Inlet last year. (Barbaraellen Koch file photo)

The East End’s baymen — at least what’s left of them — are getting a hand from local governments, which are trying to open up shellfish beds that were designated as polluted by the state but could actually be quite clean.

Due to a state regulatory agency that’s strapped for time and money, a new agreement from the Suffolk County Legislature and the Peconic Estuary Protection Committee will set up standard practices for the county and East End towns to test their own water under the state’s strict guidelines. (more…)

04/28/15 9:00am
04/28/2015 9:00 AM
Baykeeper_Web

Brady Wilkins in September 2014, after it was announced he’d be taking over as the face of the Peconic Baykeeper nonprofit advocacy group.

The search for the next Peconic Baykeeper is once again on.

Seven months after he signed on as the public face of the nonprofit water protection advocacy group, Brady Wilkins resigned from the Baykeeper position last Monday, said Brendan McCurdy, the organization’s chairman.

Mr. McCurdy said the split was amicable and that Mr. Wilkins plans to return to his teaching career.  (more…)

04/11/15 12:00pm
04/11/2015 12:00 PM
Audubon Society Conservation Data Manager Tom Auer will try to rally support to save birds. (Credit: Katharine Schroeder)

Audubon Society Conservation Data Manager Tom Auer will try to rally support to save birds. (Credit: Katharine Schroeder)

Birds aren’t political.That’s why the National Audubon Society’s Conservation Data Manager Tom Auer hopes he’ll be able to engage his audience at Mashomack Preserve today in taking steps to protect the feathered population from becoming extinct.  (more…)