Mount students monitor eel population for ongoing DEC project

April 21, 2017

Mount Saint Mary College students take part in the DEC eel-monitoring project in the Quassaick Creek. 


Just in time for Earth Day, Mount Saint Mary College science students aided the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) eel-monitoring project in Newburgh’s Quassaick Creek.

The project entails students heading to the creek and counting eels that have been caught in nets.

The tiny, nearly transparent American eels are born in the ocean and migrate upstream to live, eventually returning to the ocean to spawn. According to the DEC, the species is in decline and baseline studies of their populations are “crucial for management decisions.”


The tiny, nearly transparent American eels are born in the ocean and head upstream to live in Newburgh’s Quassaick Creek. 


Associate biology professor Suparna Bhalla and the Mount’s students have participated in the DEC’s Citizen Science: American Eel Research project for several years. But it’s not the only way the Mount’s Natural Sciences division has worked to protect our environment.

As part of an ongoing study, associate biology professor Douglas Robinson and biology student Dominick DeCaterina of Newburgh, N.Y. marked nestling American and Fish Crows, examining the timing of incubation and climate change. Robinson donned protective gear and climbed up to the nests, located in City of Newburgh trees, to mark the birds. According to Robinson, animals, particularly those living in close association with humans, can provide tremendous insight into the wellbeing of the natural environment.

Last year, ten Mount students enjoyed hands-on lessons in conservation nearly 9,000 miles away from home.

Through a collaboration with the Mount’s Office of International Programs, Robinson immersed the students in experiential learning during 24 days in New Zealand, from rescuing fish to clearing out nonindigenous plants. The course focused on conservation biology.