Estuario Highlights: June 2019

RESILIENT COMMUNITIES

Community Meetup in Caimito

With the beginning of 2019’s hurricane season, one of Estuario’s current goals is to increase its’ communities’ capacity and sense of self-management in the event of a disastrous hurricane. The Community Resilience Team at Estuario organized a get-together with members of Caimito, to be celebrated at their Cultural Center—also one of Estuario’s Community Resilience Hubs. There were educational workshops for activity-goers, including Water Quality Monitoring and Making Reusable Bags From T-shirts. Estuario’s Resident Artists presented the results of their Plato Ilustre project, where Chef Eliel—member of the community of Caimito—unveiled the culinary treat Pom, found through oral history interviews as an ancestral plate created and perfected within the community of Caimito for generations. Estuario handed out Hurricane Preparedness Guides for all attendees.

Estuario Resident Artists: El Plato Ilustre

El Plato Ilustre is a quarter-year-long research project aimed at increasing Caimito’s environmental self-awareness through oral history and a display of visual and culinary artistry. Artists Omar Torres and Samantha López produced and manage the project. It started with a series of interviews between community elders and students from Caimito’s Inés María Mendoza School. Through the interviews, the artists and students determined the most-remembered, community resources-based dish to be Pom, a pudding made with pumpkin, sweet yams, and several other local ingredients. The artists and students are painting a mural at the school, which ties-up the culinary dish to the project’s message of environmental resources management. The dish was presented by community member Chef Eliel at an encounter in Caimito’s Cultural Center, where attendees were able to taste the dish and reminisce on how their elders cooked it.

Renewable Energy Workshop

Having recently installed a solar-powered system, Estuario offered a renewable energy workshop for residents at the Resilient Community Hub in Centro Comunal de Puente Blanco in Cataño. The workshop focused on solar energy systems management and electricity consumption. Participants got to calculate the consumption amount of various everyday electrical appliances— blow-dryers, fans, lamps and chargers. The hub’s functioning solar energy system provided for a hands-on and interactive experience.

Composting Workshop at Vivero Estuario

The Green Infrastructure (GI) and Community Resilience teams at Estuario coordinated a Composting Workshop given at Vivero Estuario, a GI and Community Economic Development project at the site of El Antiguo Ancón in Loíza. The workshop concentrated on the creation of compost, with the purpose of increasing soil health and agricultural output. It was facilitated by Estuario’s Agronomer Gabriel Agosto.

Seedbed Workshop at Vivero Estuario

Residents hailing from over a half-dozen communities surrounding Loíza Pueblo congregated at Vivero Estuario for a Seedbed Workshop— provided by Estuario’s Green Infrastructure team. The Community Resiliency Hub served as the site for fishing and Bomba workshops, brought by community members.

Open House at Old San Juan

Keeping up with audience education and informational efforts, Estuario held another Open House this month in its Visitor Center in Old San Juan. The current theme is Resilience. Estuario educated attendees on the individual roles in disaster mitigation of community members. Marking the beginning of 2019’s hurricane season, Estuario handed out copies of its Hurricane Preparedness Guide.

Water Quality Monitoring at Caimito

Water Quality Monitoring Coordinator Harold Manrique held a WQM workshop with community kids at Caimito. The kids helped extract water samples from Caimito’s Quebrada Chiclana, then headed to Estuario’s Resilient Community Hub at the Caimito Cultural Center to learn how to process/test the samples.

Septic Systems Cleanup EPA Region 2 Briefing

Estuario held a discussion on its Septic Tank Cleanup and Evaluation Project for partners, collaborators and stakeholders at its Visitor Center in Old San Juan. Attendees included representatives from the San Juan Bay Estuary Watershed communities, NGOs and Federal and PR State agencies. Estuario’s Executive Director, Brenda Torres, hosted and moderated the discussion. It included a detailed report of the project in Cataño—provided by Grant Writing Specialist & Compliance Officer Katia Avilés. Additional remarks were given by University of Puerto Rico’s Experimental Agricultural Station’s Gustavo A. Martínez, Juana Matos community leader Pedro Carrión, USEPA Region 2 Director Pete Lopez, and USEPA Caribbean Region Director Carmen Guerrero. The Septic Tank Cleanup and Evaluation Project results serve as a springboard for players who want to deal with illicit discharges in other points of Puerto Rico and elsewhere. Determined next steps stemming from the discussion include: creating a sustained support strategy for the communities, considering funding ideas for alternative septic system designs, kick-starting economic development campaigns, and strengthening the workgroup by incorporating key members/entities.

EDUCATION ACTIVITIES

Oceanography Merit Badge

For the first time in Puerto Rico, a group of Boy Scouts earned their Oceanography Merit Badges: provided by Estuario. The Scouts attended a series of workshops given in Estuario’s Visitor Center in Old San Juan, on Thursdays, through the month of June 2019—the result of close coordination between Estuario’s Education, Science & Technology, and Water Quality Volunteer Monitoring teams.

Saving The Estuary: A Play by the Abraham Lincoln School

Third-graders from the Abraham Lincoln School in Old San Juan dedicated their Project Based Learning final project to the San Juan Bay Estuary’s ecosystems. The students produced a theatrical work titled Saving the Estuary. The play centered around endemic species of the San Juan Bay Estuary Watershed, and the students’ commitment to keep its water bodies’ clean. The students incorporated knowledge acquired through Estuario’s workshops throughout the school year into the play.

Citizen Scientists: Water Quality Monitoring Module

Estuario took fifth and sixth grade students from Daskalos School on a trip through the San Juan Bay to show them how the Estuary watershed’s bodies of water are interconnected and related to the Bay. There, Estuario facilitated a workshop on Water Quality Monitoring and actions towards water quality management.

Bird Census at El Antiguo Ancón

Estuario’s Education and Community Resilience teams performed a bird census in the community of Loíza Pueblo, beginning at the site of El Antiguo Ancón de Loíza. The census was attended by members of the American Geographic Society.

Microplastics Educational Activity

Estuario performed an activity on microplastics with CREARTE pre-kinder students. The activity consisted in story reading and a microplastics monitoring workshop. The students conversed and explored the topic of plastic pollution.

Estuario Staff Receive NAI Interpretation Certification

Throughout the month of June, Estuario Staff took a series of workshops, facilitated by Certified Instructor Eliezer Nieves. The workshops, administered by the National Association for Interpretation (NAI), were provided in four weekly workshops. Participating staff members became certified on Friday, June 28 2019.

SUMMER CAMP COLLABORATIONS

Water Quality Monitoring

Estuario held a Water Quality Monitoring Workshop with kids from La Perla. During this workshop Estuario conveyed Water Quality Monitoring in two different locations with the purpose of comparing both ecosystems and their results. The two locations were the San Juan Bay and La Perla beach. It was a great opportunity to converse with the children about the conservation of our waters.

Microplastics Exploration

The Education and Science & Technology teams at Estuario collaborated in the creation of an interactive story about the problematic of microplastics for preschoolers of the Montessori Aldea school. They combined the story with a demonstration of a small scale microplastics collection protocol. The students were able to understand the problems behind microplastics and how to mitigate the effects.

SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY

Finalization: Stormwater Filters Project

As part of the Aquatic Debris Project, Estuario developed an alternative to protect and improve the quality of the stormwater sewer system—through installing filters in several stormwater drains along Calle Luisa in Condado. This project integrated students from Condado’s Saint John’s School, who helped install and oversee the state of the filters. The students visited and documented the state of the filters through writing and photography on a bi-weekly basis.

WORLD OCEANS DAY

Conservation Conference: CIAPR

Estuario brought its informative table to the Professional College of Engineers and Land Surveyors of Puerto Rico (CIAPR) conference, on World Oceans Day. This conference consisted of a series of talks to raise awareness about ocean conservation. Dr. Jorge Bauzá, Estuario’s Science Director, gave a talk about Oceanic Bio-Engineering. Water Quality Coordinator Harold Manrique gave a talk about the Estuario’s Water Quality Volunteer Monitoring Program.

Coastal Cleanup: Somos Superhéroes

With the tagline: We’re super heroes—Estuario collaborated with the 7 Quillas Tortuguero group in a solid waste clean-up at the Ocean Park beach in Santurce. The purpose was to keep coasts clean for the new tinglar nesting season, as well as maintain water quality in the area. About 60 people participated. Hurricane Preparedness Guides were distributed.

Cine del Estuario: Aquaman

Estuario also organized a special edition of Cine del Estuario at the Jaime Benitez Park in Condado Lagoon for Oceans Day: showing the movie Aquaman and partnering with Warner Brothers Puerto Rico to display life-sized statues of characters Aquaman and Mera. Moviegoers took photos with the statues. Estuario also had a sign-up table where prospective volunteers were able to register for future activities, and receive information on our Citizen Science projects.

AWARDS & PUBLICITY

Urban Waters Learning Network: Environmental Justice & Equity Expert Award

Estuario Executive Director, Brenda Torres, received the Urban Waters Learning Network’s Expert Award in Environmental Justice & Equity. The award highlights Estuario’s multi-sectoral coordination of efforts, empowerment of citizens—through development and capacity-building—and ensuring the well-being of residents of Puerto Rico’s Metropolitan Area in the aftermath of hurricane Maria.

Communications Efforts

Estuario’s Communications team organized several publications about projects and activities throughout the month—part of educational and informational efforts through broadcast media. Here are the publications/appearances:

• Estuario’s Stakeholder & Aquatic Debris Coordinator, Cristina Ramírez, appears in Pegasus Online Radio.
• Press release results in several print & online news media covering the UWLN Expert Award in Environmental Justice & Equity:
• Metro PR (print & digital):
https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.metro.pr/pr/metroamp/dimealgobueno/2019/06/21/estuario-gana-premio-por-trabajo-de-alivio-y-recuperacion-tras-maria.html
• Noticel (digital):
https://www.noticel.com/vida/estuario-de-la-bahia-de-san-juan-recibe-prestigioso-reconocimiento/1088181143
• WIPR (digital):
https://www.wipr.pr/prestigioso-reconocimiento-al-estuario-de-la-bahia-de-san-juan-por-esfuerzos-tras-maria/

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