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Community Science on the Hudson: Lamont-Doherty Observatory’s Field Station Invites Us in on the Quest for Earthly Insights

Community Science on the Hudson: Lamont-Doherty Observatory’s Field Station Invites Us in on the Quest for Earthly Insights

What secrets does our Earth hold? And what are the implications to society and the future of humanity?   

Atop the Hudson River Palisades at Rockland County’s southern border with New Jersey, researchers at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory methodically probe the environment for answers to these questions. Locals interested in learning alongside these great minds have a unique opportunity to participate in community science projects, especially in the summer months.

Decades of Discovery 

From our understanding of ice ages to the collapse of ancient civilizations, Lamont-Doherty scientists have unearthed mysteries spanning the globe — or even reshaping it. A recent Google Doodle honored Marie Tharp, an oceanographic cartographer at the facility who helped map the ocean floor and prove the theory of continental drift. Tharp resided in Nyack prior to her death in 2006, and was recognized in 1998 by The Library of Congress for being one of the greatest cartographers of the 20th century. 

And since 1949, Columbia-affiliated scientists have published thousands of research papers that have often transformed popular knowledge of our planet. Among them is a 1975 study by Wallace Broecker, a renowned researcher who resided in Closter, New Jersey, until his death in 2019. His research warned that an exponential rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide would become a significant factor by the early 21st century in “driving the mean planetary temperature beyond the limits experienced during the last 1,000 years.” His paper introduced the term “global warming” into the popular zeitgeist.   

Opening Research to All 

Locally, the research institution maintains a Hudson River Field Station at the end of the Piermont Pier, which offers community learning opportunities, including an after-school program and field work for high school students. Budding scientists and hobbyists have the chance to quite literally jump into the Hudson to get involved in community science as well. 

“We love sharing the Hudson and our research with the community,” says Margie Turrin, Director of Educational Field Programs. “Teaching about the critical role of our stretch of the Hudson as a nursery for young of the year fish is so important to its long-term protection.”

Marine scientist Joaquim Goes (left) collects water in New York Harbor

While there are many opportunities for schools to interact with the field station, students particularly looking to get involved can check out the Secondary School for Field Research, run from their Lamont campus in summer. Turing says this field research experience program focuses on “expanding the opportunities in science to a more diverse cohort,” working primarily out of Piermont Marsh, and studying its ecological systems. 

Ongoing projects open to the community include counting fish over migration periods, surveying microplastics in river samples, and monitoring glass eels. If those projects are up your alley, you are not alone. The field station’s Science Saturdays program attracts up to 1,100 people over the summer. 

“The community has really embraced our presence and always stops to see what we are doing and ask questions,” says Turrin. “No matter what the age, when people pull on some waders and drag a net through the water with us, the excitement is visible in their faces when the net comes to shore and they can see what is hidden beneath the surface of our estuary.” 

Tom Clancey is an independent musician and community journalist. Find him at >  

Photos courtesy of Columbia Climate School and Michelle Giuliante

To learn more about the Hudson River Field Station, visit: 


Ready to Join In? Try Out These Community Programs This Summer: 

Science Saturday: “June through September, we run free public programs for the community from 11am-3pm. Our most popular is public seining where we have people help us seine to see what is in the net we pull through the water,” Turrin says. “This is also a critical part of building our ongoing database of Hudson River fish information for the Piermont site.” 

Community Science: “We have several community science projects including our fish abundance and diversity data, microplastic work, and oyster cage monitoring.” This program is being rebuilt after Covid, and more information can be found online. 

World Fish Migration Day & Fish Counts: “Each summer we host several fish counts for the community. Early June we look at fish migration and young of the year fish in the estuary, and then in August we host a second count to see how the fish species have changed over the warm summer months.” 

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