Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Weekly highlights for the week ending December 20th

Christmas celebration at Fishermen’s Peninsula in Piñones and Casa Taft:
Our AmeriCorps VISTA volunteers participated in the community of Piñones’ Christmas celebration on December 19th. They set up a San Juan Bay Estuary informative table, which featured estuary-themed coloring book for children. Our ongoing participation with Piñones is part of our VISTA’s project for the identification of opportunities for economic growth within the community.


Meanwhile, our sister initiative Casa Taft in Santurce celebrated their Christmas brunch and held a garage sale.


“Christmas would be better with a dredged channel!”:
Commissioned by our education manager Javier Cardona, 13 students between grades 3rd-5th created conceptual drawings of how they imagine christmas would be in their community if the Martín Peña Channel was dredged. The drawings have been posted in our Visitor Center’s exhibition gallery.


Preservation of the oral history of communities within the watershed of the San Juan Estuary:
Our Estuarine Oral History Project continues. We thank professor Mario Roche for dedicating his seminar “Portraits: creative and in-depth interviewing” (COPU 6725 of the University of Puerto Rico in Río Piedras) to interviewing our community leaders. From Piñones to the east to Las Cucharillas Wetlands to the west, from Caimito deep upland to Capetillo in the urban center, Roche’s students interviewed many residents who have taken part in the transformation of our watershed. We plan to publish these and other interviews -documented since 2007- in a volume to be released next year. We thank the Puerto Rican Foundation for the Humanities, the Environmental Protection Agency, AmeriCorps VISTA, the Interamerican University and Proyecto Enlace of the Martín Peña Channel, who helped ideate this initiative back in 2006. Ten years of hard work have passed, but the Oral History Volume is coming soon. Let’s consider this an act of history to our memory, our people and the watershed we inhabit.

Houses in the Martín Peña Channel, c.1940
The Axtmayer Hotel in Miramar, PR, c. 1920

Copy of (Little africa Boca de Cangrejo) Edwin Rosskam 1946.tif
Woman with children in Boca de Cangrejos, Piñones, 1946

Our highlights for the week of December 13th

We were in COP-21, Paris!: 
Our Executive Director, Dr. Javier E. Laureano, represented the San Juan Bay Estuary Program in the Paris Climate Conference, from December 7, 2015 to December 11th. The various events and exhibitions were covered widely in our Facebook page. Laureano conducted several interviews for Radio San JUan, most notably with Ramón Cruz, ex-Vice President of the Environmental Quality Board of Puerto Rico.  As part of the participation of the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources in the event, the agency distributed our Citizen Science to Climate Change Guide.


El Programa del Estuario en COP-París. Los países africanos se unen para proteger sus manglares y ecosistemas costeros para protegerse y adaptarse al cambio climático.
Posted by Estuario: ciudad de las aguas on martes, 8 de diciembre de 2015

En la Cumbre Climática de París, hoy en un foro sobre las migraciones debidas al cambio climático-los migrantes climáticos-. Los representantes de los campesinos migrantes reclaman a las Naciones Unidas instrumentos legales que los protejan.
Posted by Estuario: ciudad de las aguas on jueves, 10 de diciembre de 2015

Hoy un migrante climático que fue ilegal por años ofrece el ejemplo de Fiji, donde están comprando tierras en otras zonas porque ya es inevitable que el impacto del cambio climático hará inhabitable a su país. ¿Qué tipo de ciudadanía van a tener estas personas en las nuevas tierras? ¿Qué derechos?
Posted by Estuario: ciudad de las aguas on jueves, 10 de diciembre de 2015

Aunque en el resto de París prohibieron las marchas y demostraciones en la COP-21 los ánimos están cada vez más caldeados en parte por lo general de los acuerdos a los que se están llegando.
Posted by Estuario: ciudad de las aguas on viernes, 11 de diciembre de 2015

AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer and Special Assistant to the Executive Director recruitment announcement: 
This week we released a call for three volunteer positions for our AmeriCorps VISTA initiative. The positions include Flora/Fauna Researcher, Site Organizer for our allied initiative Casa Taft in Santurce, and a Community Environmental Improvement Organizer. The calls have been published through social media.  We also announced the vacant position left by Dr. Ricardo Colón as Special Assistant of the Executive Director.  Now Dr. Colón is the new manager of the North Eastern Ecological Corridor.

Community-based adaptations to floodings: 
On Wednesday 9th of December, our contractor, Dr. Katia Avilés, offered a workshop in the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources offices about her research.  Avilés is investigating how communities prone to floods and other climate change phenomenons, are adapting to their new reality.  As part of this research, we will publish an inventory of the actions taken by the communities of the watershed to adapt to climate change.


Cleanup of Sábana Llana creek:  
On Sunday 13th, volunteers led by Roberto Morales conducted a cleanup of the aforementioned creek in the Hill Brothers community, in San Juan.  In addition to the cleanup, Roberto accompanied by a grassroots movement named The Tribe, identified the possible sources of illegal dumps in the area, as well as raw sewage discharges.

Oral History Project of the SJBE:  
This week the students of the recognized reporter and university professor Mario Roche, finished their semester of the “In-Depth Interviews” class at the University of Puerto Rico.  The professor dedicated this year his class to the Oral History Project of our entity.  The students will deliver to our organization several interviews conducted in the communities of the watershed, as well as the audio archives. We expect to publish a book of our Oral History Project during 2016.     

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Highlights for the week of December 6th

ANEP San Juan 2015 Conference: 
After one intensive year of coordination and planning, we hosted this year’s ANEP Conference during the 1st- 4th of December. The presentations were centered in citizen science, climate change, community adaptation to climate change, trash free waters, national programs update, and estuarine hybridity. The Municipality of San Juan provided us with a historic venue for our conferences during December 2-3, the Tapia Theater in Old San Juan, and the PR Tourism Company sponsored a welcoming reception on December 2, where we signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Vieques History and Land Trust.  


At the opening of the conference, three Estuary Guardians from high schools of the watershed offered very emotional messages about the impact of climate change in their generation, as well as their work in our entity.  EPA Administrator, Gina McCarthy, sent welcoming remarks to the National Estuary Program, and the EPA Regional Administrator Judith Enck had an active role during the conference, where she delivered the keynote speech.  


The NEP community visit the Martín Peña Channel: 
As part of this tech-transfer opportunity, on December 3, 2015, we organized a trip to the Martín Peña Channel for our NEP colleagues. The trip was facilitated by ENLACE Project, our Urban Waters Ambassador, Ingrid Vila, and the G-8 Community Group.


The experience was eye-opening to the NEP community as to the amount of work that lies ahead for the San Juan Bay Estuary Program, even prompting ANEP chairman Stan Hales to call for a unified effort from other NEPs towards helping the San Juan Bay Estuary’s special needs. It was a call for unity we greatly appreciated.


After 20 years a dream comes true: the Visitor Center of the San Juan Bay Estuary: 
Also on December 3, 2015 we launched our new Visitor Center, home of an exhibition dedicated to the Martín Peña Channel.  We received over 100 guests, including our NEP colleagues, the President of the G-8 community group, Carmen Febres, the President and board members of the Titin Foundation, as well as members of our Management Conference and the Corporation for the Conservation of the SJBE.

This exhibit, as well as the Visitor Center were possible thanks to a contribution and matching funds made by the Titín Foundation.  During the inauguration we recognized one of the our Estuary Keepers Award recipient, Claudia Gutiérrez, who wasn’t able to travel from NY for the September ceremony.  This was a very moving activity where our entity celebrated what we have dreamed for 20 years, having a Visitor Center of the San Juan Bay Estuary.      


Field visits:  
The ANEP 2015 San Juan Conference concluded with a bird watching event at 6:00am sponsored by our partners of the Pr Ornithological Society (SOPI) on Friday, December 4, 2015 and a guided tour offered by our environmental interpreter, Melba Ayala.  Both events took place in Old San Juan.


Special message of gratitude from the Executive Director, Javier E. Laureano Pérez, MPA, PhD:  
As the Executive Director of the San Juan Bay Estuary Program, I want to make public my appreciation and deep gratitude to the SJBEP’s community, especially our staff, contractors, and VISTA members for their leadership and support during the ANEP Conference.  These were days of 12-15 working hours, with very little time to rest or even sleep.  Thanks to your commitment and hard work we were able to have a very productive and successful ANEP Conference, that highlighted our entity in the national landscape, as expressed by several members of this program, and the Regional Administrator Judith Enck.

Highlights for the week of November 22nd

The Puerto Rico Climate Change Conference:
The San Juan Bay Estuary Program said “present” in the Call to Action led in the PRCCC celebrated in November 17th through the 20th. We also distributed our newly-printed Citizen’s Guides to Climate Change in Puerto Rico, and received a shout-out from EPA Region 2 administrator Judith Enck while she was giving her keynote.

Ahora: La Administradora Regional de la EPA, Judith Enck, distingue la guía ciudadana de cambio climático del Programa del Estuario de la Bahía de San Juan en la conferencia de cambio climático de PR.
Posted by Estuario: ciudad de las aguas on martes, 17 de noviembre de 2015


VISTA meeting with community leader in Capetillo:
Our VISTA Volunteers began their arrangements with community leader Ángel “Gelo” Gevárez to find economic opportunities based on the ecological resources available to the community of Capetillo. The meeting took place Monday, November 17th and it’s part of the group's initiative to eradicate poverty in communities located within the estuary watershed.
Gelo and the community have built an urban garden near the Juan Méndez creek, which has been channeled and flows through the community.


Highlights for the week ending November 15th

Interactive music concerts in the schools of Caño Martín Peña:
We facilitated four workshops/concerts, titled “Con Vivaldi y Handel en el Caño… Las cuatro estaciones y la música acuática” (With Vivaldi and Handel in the [Martín Peña] Channel… The seasons and water-music). These were conducted in November 9th, 10th, 12th and 13th in elementary schools Jaime Rosario Benítez, Emilio del Toro Cuevas, Juanita García Peraza and Santiago Iglesias Pantín, respectively. The concerts featured water-themed music, mainly excerpts from Vivaldi’s “The Seasons” and Handel’s “Water Music.” The musicians engaged the students in short conversations about the importance of keeping nearby bodies of water clean, how many entities are working toward cleaning their nearby channel, and how the wood and materials used to make their instruments came from nature. The students responded amazingly to the concerts, especially to the parts where familiar tunes were played, and when they got to touch and play the musicians’ instruments at the end of each concert.

Música caño4.jpg
Música caño3.jpg

Photography and footage recorded in each concert will be part of a short documentary that will be produced by our communications team and released in may 2016.

Meeting with visual artist in Piñones:
Our AmeriCorps VISTA volunteers met with visual artist Edna Santiago in November 13th. Edna works in her own home-gallery in the heart of the Piñones community as a painter and craftswoman, utilizing elements taken from the palmtrees and other species of Piñones. Our VISTA group has identified the sale of art and handmade crafts as a potential opportunity for economic growth in this community, and this artist presents the perfect example of using the natural resources available to her as prime materials for her art.


Monday, December 21, 2015

Highlights for the week ending November 8th

Joffre Street Climate Change Adaptation:
On November 5th the San Juan Bay Estuary Project met with local residents and personnel from the US Army Corp of Engineers to discuss a recurring but increasingly frequent problem of tidal inundation in the Joffre Street area of Condado. Although this is not a new problem, it has become more serious in the last 5 years, making this a case study of climate change and sea level rise adaptation in the urban areas of the San Juan Bay Estuary.

San Juan Harbor Navigation Project:
We participated in the recent meeting of the San Juan Harbor Navigation Project that was held in the Conventions Center of Puerto Rico last week. We offered ourselves as point of contact and mediators of talks with the communities surrounding the San Juan Bay, to promote sensible planning and the protection of the many important species and ecosystems that shape the San Juan Bay.

The San Juan Harbor is the most active of the Caribbean and the 10th most active of the US.

Our highlights for the month of October 2015

Informative table at Calle Loíza Festival:

On October 4th 2015 we had the opportunity of once again connecting with the citizens of the estuary through an informative table at the Calle Loiza Festival. Along other organizations such as ENLACE and Casta Taft 169, we shared our educational materials and volunteer opportunities with the presents.

Guardians of the Estuary:
As part of their Guardians of the Estuary program, the students of the Onofre Carballeira intermediate school conducted a study of the storm water drains close to their school in Cataño. Integrating the technological tools they had available, they used their mobile phones to locate and tag any drain or sewer in their proximity. In the process they learned about the use and processes of each type of drainage. The activity concluded with the tagging of the sewers using the Estuary tags that read “Llega a tu playa!” (This drains to your beach!”.

New office at Old San Juan:
We were very busy last week working making sure everything went smoothly with the relocation of our office to the Old San Juan. This new location will have a visitor center and will put us in direct with the public, the San Juan Bay and the opportunity to create visual exhibitions about different topics of importance to the Estuary. This year the Visitor Center exhibition is dedicated to the Martín Peña Channel and the history of their struggle.

Tampa Bay Estuary Program-sponsored BASIS Symposium:
San Juan Bay Estuary Program long time volunteer and AmeriCorps Vista Leader Diana Ferro participated last week from the Bay Area Scientific Information (BASIS) Symposium sponsored by our colleagues at the Tampa Bay Estuary Program in Florida. Way to go Diana!

The Isla Verde Reef Natural Reserve celebrates its 3rd anniversary:
During the night of September 26th, under the light of the “supermoon”, our science director, Dr. Jorge Bauzá talked about the SJBEP to the attending the ceremony. We are very proud of Paco López, community leader at Isla Verde and recipient of this year “Sentinel of the Estuary” award.

50 anniversary of the AmeriCorps VISTA Program:
Today, our  AmeriCorps VISTA attended the 50 anniversary of the Program in Puerto Rico.
They were part of the conference that discussed several topics including poverty in the island and their efforts to eradicate it.

Shoreline tour with VISTA Ivangs Rivera:
Today our AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer y great friend of the Estuary, Ivangs Rivera, offered an educational tour along the north shore of the estuary -from Loiza to Toa Baja- to tens of middle and high school students from the La Milagrosa school in Ponce.
Days like today reveal our most important mission: volunteers educating and generating more volunteers to create change in our environment.
Thank you Ivangs!

Birds of the Estuary workshop:
Not all birds are pigeons and “changos”!
Our AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer and bird expert offered a shore bird workshops at Fair View School in Trujillo Alto.

2015 Sentinel of the Estuary:
During our last Board of Director Meeting held on October 8, 2015, a very important event concurrently took place. We celebrated 16 of our most important community, municipal and agencies leaders in the effort to conserve the SJBE. We called the award “Sentinel of the Estuary” because of the groundbreaking work these colleagues have performed throughout the years. The 2015 Sentinels of the Estuary are:
  • Alberto Lázaro, PRASA
  • Ernesto Díaz, CZMP
  • Capítulo Estudiantil de la Sociedad Ambiente Marino
  • Pedro Carrión, Corredor del Yaguazo
  • G-8, Martín Peña communities
  • Grupo 7 Quillas
  • Noelia Rosa
  • Maylene Pérez
  • Nilsa Medina
  • Paco López, Arrecife de Isla Verde
  • Laura Roldán
  • Luis Crespo, Lago Las Curias
  • Juan Cruz, Chiclana Creek
  • Ariel Lugo, IITF
  • Jimmy Nieves, MillerCoors
  • Claudia Gutiérrez

PEW Trust Meeting and Field Trip:
During the past Saturday afternoon we hosted a field trip for a group of world class scientists that were visiting the Island as part of the PEW Fellows Symposium held in Rio Grande during the weekend. The group had requested a field trip to visit the SJBE and continuing with our tradition of support to local enterprises, we hired Melba Ayala and her ecotourism company Excursiones Eco to take the group of 12 scientist that came from Brazil, Philippines, Canada, China and the US to learn about the Martín Peña Channel and the ecosystems of the SJBE.
By the end of the day we discussed the history of the Martín Peña Channel, the ecology of local mangroves and other species, the fisheries of the San José lagoon and the importance of the dredging of the channel for the overall health of the system. The group left very satisfied with the trip, we hope to see them soon again!

Guardians of the Estuary in Carolina:
Led by their Earth Sciences teacher, Yamila Meléndez, the Guardians of the Estuary from the Dr. Gilberto Concepción de Gracia high school, in Carolina, receive a training before the water quality monitoring of the waters of the Suárez Channel.
We warmly welcome these new citizen scientists who study and work voluntarily for the Estuary and the quality of its waters.

Trash Free Waters Project Video:
Our communications team put together a short documentary highlighting our Trash Free Waters initiative. It's part of our ongoing effort to educate the citizens of Puerto Rico about the presence of bodies of water in their urban environments, and highlights the efforts of many organizations who have worked with us in this project.  The video has been published in our new YouTube Channel as of Monday, October 19th, 2015. Here's the video:

Classical Music Workshops:
We have chosen the proposal brought forth by a small music academy named Kids & Musik, located in Santurce, to bring classical music interactive workshops to the children of 8 schools located within the communities of the Martín Peña Channel.  This project is part of our AmeriCorps VISTA strategy implementation and is funded by the Titín Foundation. We are currently in the process of setting up dates for the workshops.

Make a difference day:  
On saturday october 24th teamed up with volunteers from Banco Popular to plant sea grapes and study beach erosion in Piñones as part of their “Make a difference day”. During the half a day event adult and children volunteers performed beach profiles, explored the wildlife of the sandy beach and planted sea grapes to help stabilize the sand dunes.

Lionfish removal training:
On October 25th, SJBEP’s marine biologists Carmen Valentín and Ivangs Rivera recieved training on the removal and management of the invasive species, the Lionfish. The training covered theoretical aspects of the removal and ended up with a practice in the artificial reefs in Escambrón where 3 lionfishes were safely removed from the environment.

School trip to the Piñones natural reserve forest:  
On October 30th, Javier Cardona also took the students of the Piñones’ community elementary school to the Piñones forest and lagoon. The activity was supported by our AmeriCorps VISTA volunteers, who are working  on resource-based economic opportunities with this community.


Educative trip through our estuary watershed:
Our education manager Javier Cardona took a group of students in an adventure through our watershed.  The students, from the University Gardens specialized school in sciences and mathematics, started in the southernmost part of the watershed, in Las Curías Lake and the Caimito community of Chiclana, within San Juan. They met community leader Juan Cruz who spoke to them about the community's commitment to their natural resources. The students continued their trip northwards, where they ended in the beautiful beaches of Piñones, easternmost part of our watershed. 26th October 2015.


Trash Free Waters Conference:
On Monday, 26th of October, we were part of the TFW and the Puerto Rico Recycling Partnership Conferences, which we facilitated, in Cantera, next to the San José Lagoon. This conference served as the premiere of our TFW initiative short documentary, shot and edited by our communications team of AmeriCorps VISTA volunteers.


Mass death of fish in San José Lagoon:
The effects of the water in the San José Lagoon running out of oxygen were first apparent during the weekend. By Monday, the lagoon’s condition was at its worst. Our executive director, Dr. Javier E. Laureano and scientific director, Dr. Jorge Bauzá, addressed the media several times in the following days, educating the population on the cause of this occurrence, as well as one of the solutions to insure this won’t happen again: dredging the Martín Peña Channel. The state of the Lagoon served as a poignant backdrop to our TFW and  PRRP conferences.

Dr. Javier Laureano interviews for Telemundo Puerto Rico
Dr. Jorge Bauzá interviewing for WAPA TV Puerto Rico