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CURB Launches the 2023 EELS Team Internship Program

by Sarah Lawrence College EELS Intern Fiona Goodman

This fall CURB launched the first phase of the EELS Team Internship Program. The EELS Team (Evaluating Estuarine Lateral Species) is an after school program consisting of 10 students from Yonkers high schools, conducting environmental research along with CURB through seining, eDNA, and other research practices. The program is paid but students also have the opportunity to complete it for community service credit. The EELS Team seines in the river for 5 weeks to evaluate Hudson River species and collect data, and ends the fall portion of the program by spending two weeks collecting and processing environmental DNA along with CURB staff. The students return once again in the spring with research focused around the American Eel Migration Project.

On top of their environmental research and collection, students on the EELS Team are also being given the opportunity to learn practical academic research skills, such as seminars on the HRECOS database system and the finer points of entering data in Excel. As paid employees of Sarah Lawrence College, the students participating in the program are an ambitious and driven group making use of the resources at their disposal from CURB and from the college to get experience not just with environmental science and research, but also with the ins and outs of a formal, paying job.

Seining this season has been exciting and bountiful! In the space of just a few weeks the EELS team has caught large numbers of specimens, learned how to handle and identify the various species that live in the Hudson River Estuary, and even made some historic catches. These include the rare lyre goby, a fish species that has only been caught in the Hudson on a few occasions; and a 20-inch channel catfish, a species that has never been caught during CURB’s eighteen years of seining. On top of these exciting catches, they are also collecting and processing environmental DNA (eDNA), working with CURB staff in a laboratory environment to extract and process information from the river itself before sending it to Sarah Lawrence College for the final stage of PCR testing.

The EELS Team program also features a paid college intern from Sarah Lawrence College. As a first-time CURB assistant and employee with a strong interest in environmental science and education, I have been helping the team with their seining research, sitting in and assisting with the team’s career and data processing workshops and helping to collect and input seining data. I will be returning in the spring with the EELS Team for the second half of the program. Overall, the EELS team has had an eventful and educational start to their research, which is sure to carry on through the rest of the program.