Whales of New York

Originally appeared on Sierra Club, November 14, 2016

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Sightings of humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) in New York City have increased tenfold over the last five years. Paul Sieswerda, who eschewed retirement to create the nonprofit whale-watching advocacy group Gotham Whale in 2011, chalks up their resurgence to a combination of factors, including cleaner waters and growing fish populations. He even knows exactly when the whales arrived.

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These Tiny Wood-Eating Creatures Want To Sink Brooklyn Bridge Park

Originally appeared on Gothamist, September 20, 2016

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A cleaner New York Harbor has been a boon to boaters, fishermen, and waterfront-goers of all stripes. Unfortunately, it’s also made life easier for rapacious and destructive creatures that have tormented New York from time immemorial. The harbor’s detox has revived marine borers, tiny but persistent pests that dine on wood and have a particular taste for the load-bearing timber piles that fortify the city’s shoreline. Left unchecked, they pose an existential threat to structures supported by piles.

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The Boogie Down Beavers

Originally appeared on Untapped Cities, July 8, 2016Astor Place Beaver

New York City’s iconography is full of beavers. Two tiny beavers adorn the City’s flag. Beaver Street is one of the city’s oldest thoroughfares. At the Astor Place station on the 6 line, dozens of beavers can be seen carved into the walls. City College’s mascot is Bennie the Beaver. The lumpy little beaver is even the official state animal of New York. What’s probably most surprising however, is that real-life beavers can actually be seen in New York City – specifically on the Bronx River and usually around sunset – busily paddling around, doing their dam thing.

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The Mastodon Uptown

Originally appeared on Untapped Cities, April 20, 2016

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New York City has a notoriously hard time holding on to its past. But it’s not just classic architecture and cool dive bars that disappear without a trace. Fossils, too, are easily lost beneath the city streets. Still, thousands of years ago, prehistoric animals roamed the area, including the mighty mastodon (Mammut americanum), an ancient animal with an outsized presence and huge historical significance.

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Aw Shucks, The Tragic History of New York City Oysters

Originally appeared on Untapped Cities, February 9, 2016

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Oysters are one of New York Harbor’s best shots at clean water, as well as one of its best chances at protection from future storm surges. These are the same oysters New Yorkers have done their best to decimate with centuries of pollution and overconsumption. The oysters hold no grudges, however, and have returned to help restore the harbor, even if New York probably doesn’t deserve it.

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The Monk Parrots of Green-Wood Cemetery

Originally appeared on Untapped Cities, December3, 2015

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The most unlikely attraction at Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery is the group of loud, colorful, possibly illegal immigrants: the monk parrots of Argentina.

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Uncovering NYC’s Sewer Alligator Legend

Originally appeared on Untapped Cities, March 10, 2015

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The NYC Department of Environmental Protection oversees the city’s massive sewer system, employing about 6,000 people. This small army is in charge of the nearly 7,400 miles of sewer pipe that flush a staggering 1.3 billion gallons of water every day. The department is quite friendly and responsive, as far as city services go. Recently, we wrote them to see if we could speak to someone on record. Quickly, a real person responded inviting me to ask away.

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