The Fishers Island Conservancy in February awarded Fishers Island School senior Nicolas Hall, The Edwin Horning Research Grant for Environmental Conservation to study the effect of acidifying sea water on the soft shells of oysters.

The grant enabled Nicolas to purchase equipment to acidify seawater and subject developing oysters to the acidic solution. His goal is to determine the potential future of shelled organisms living in acidifying sea water.

Nicolas is fortunate to live on Fishers Island where he sought the counsel of Steve Malinowski, owner of the nationally-recognized Fishers Island Oyster Farm. “Steve is supplying my oysters,” Nicolas said. “He walked me through feeding and caring for oysters, as well as how I can quantify my results.”

Nicolas, 17, the son of Stephanie and James Hall, grew up on Fishers Island attending Fishers Island School. His love of the ocean developed through the years, but it was a 10th grade oceanography class with science teacher Carol Giles that sparked his intense interest.

“I had a lot of fun in that class. Being around water all my life, it was natural that I would go into a field based on it,” Nicolas said. He will attend Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia this fall, where he will study oceanography.

seagrass video

Underwater video by Marc Rosenberg, FIConservancy Island Sentinel.

Marc Rosenberg, 14, was the youngest Island Sentinel this summer, but he volunteered like a pro. His particular assignment was monitoring eelgrass beds around Fishers Island, and he produced an underwater video about the critical importance of eelgrass.

Nearly all of the seagrass left in Long Island Sound’s New York waters is located around Fishers Island. Unfortunately, however, it makes up less than 10 percent of seagrass’s historic acreage. Seagrass meadows were once abundant throughout the bays and harbors of the Sound, providing food, shelter and nurseries for thousands of ocean animals.

Marc quickly understood the risks to healthy eelgrass from nitrogen pollution (septic systems and fertilizer use), physical damage (vessel anchors, moorings, propeller scars, and fishing gear), and warming seas.

Chantal E. Collier, director of The Nature Conservancy’s Long Island Sound program, impressed with Marc’s observations this summer, has invited him to present his film at a future seagrass coalition meeting on Fishers Island.

Wildlife biologist Mike Bottini says that, since 2008, the river otter’s range has doubled in size on Long Island. “I expect to see them on the South Shore [of Fishers Island] within the next couple of years,” he said.

From Mar. 21-23, 2013, Bottini surveyed 57 sites on Fishers Island by foot and kayak. Otter sign was noted at 24 sites, with scent stations (scat) found at 23 sites and otter tracks at one site. Two scent stations also had a den nearby. His survey was funded by a grant from FIConservancy.

These photos from Southold show typical river otter couches excavated amongst cattail reeds, usually in marshy areas. Please remark if you happen upon one this Autumn here on Fishers Island!

From the Field, Field Note by Justine Kibbe, Aug. 29, 2018.


Non-native Eurasian oleander aphids (Aphis nerii) coat pod of milkweed plant. Dianne Crary Photo

Dianne Crary observed this infestation of oleander aphids on her sister Jane Crary’s milkweed plants. Although spiders and ladybugs eat these aphids, there was no time to wait, because milkweed is the preferred food of monarch butterfly caterpillars.

“How can I control aphids on my milkweed?” is one of the most common questions posed by butterfly gardeners.

Dianne removed them by hand, squishing them or spraying them with soapy water. Check your milkweed plants often for aphids to remove them before an infestation gets a foothold.


“So creative!” “So well done!” “What a wonderful afternoon!” These were just a few of the comments heard as people left FIConservancy’s first-ever “Conservation on Parade” Sat. Aug. 11 at the Parade Grounds.


This August, Island Sentinels assist me in monitoring Hay Harbor.
Here, Marc Rosenberg documents scarring within seagrass beds.

This stewardship helps to further support & establish a Fishers Island Seagrass Management Coalition along with Henry L. Ferguson Museum and The Nature Conservancy, Long Island.

Way to go Sentinels!”


Video Snippet, From the Field, Justine Kibbe, Aug. 10, 2018

nature days

Conservation on Parade

FIConservancy’s Nature Days is back! This year, enjoy a Free Family Event Sat. Aug. 11, 3-6 p.m. at the Parade Grounds. Enter through the Demonstration Garden.

Learn about local wildlife through hands-on discovery. Have an up-close visit with a bird of prey, touch turtles and snakes, meet frogs, see and touch feathers, furs and many other natural items.

Don’t miss the ice cream truck, and stop by for wine, beer and lemonade.



Olivia Backhaus

Olivia Backhaus, 21, lives in Stonington, CT. She first came to Fishers Island School in seventh grade and graduated in 2014. 2017 was her fifth summer working as a Sentinel for FIConservancy. Her interest in biology was sparked by the experiential nature of the science curriculum at FI School, which used the Island as a living laboratory for learning biology.

Olivia assumed a leadership position in 2016, training and overseeing members of the Sentinel team and assisting with other FIConservancy programs, such as Nature Days. She also spent the summer collating and analyzing daily data collected by the Sentinels and by Justine. Working as a Sentinel has inspired Olivia to major in Biology and minor in Environmental Studies at Sewanee: The University of the South. In the future, she plans to practice environmental law.

Gardner Thors

Gardner Thors, 15, lives in New York City and is a sophomore at Groton School in Massachusetts. He has been a Sentinel for three years, after first volunteering for one summer. As a city kid, he doesn’t get to experience nature and wildlife except for the landscaped Central Park and the infamous pigeons and squirrels of the city. Fishers Island is his wildlife sanctuary. Gardner has been summering here for as long as he can remember, and Fishers holds a special place in his heart. That is why he chose to play a part in the preservation of this environment. Gardner looks forward to learning more about the Island’s ecosystems and sharing what he learns with the Island community. His brother, Wilson, is also a passionate Sentinel.

Wilson Thors

Wilson Thors lives in New York City and is a freshman at Groton School in Massachusetts. 2017 was his first summer as a Sentinel, although he volunteered to monitor for FIConservancy last year. He joined the Sentinel program, because he was curious about his brother’s experiences as a Sentinel. Wilson has always appreciated the natural beauty of Fishers Island, but now he has a deeper love of the Island since learning more about animals and learning that we share this great place with the wildlife.

Kain Upson

Kain Upson grew up summering on Fishers Island, surrounded by the wildlife he now has the privilege of monitoring. 2017 was his first summer as an Island Sentinel. His special interest in biology, and eventually environmental biology, began during his senior year in high school, when a “fantastic” biology teacher was able to steer him in the right scientific direction. He is looking forward to sharing many more summers with the returning migratory and resident animals, who call Fishers Island home.

Conner Wakeman

Conor Wakeman

Conor Wakeman, 19, of Greenwich, Conn., grew up summering on Fishers Island and is a sophomore at University of Pennsylvania studying economics. Conor spent three years as an Island Sentinel and was an emeritus Sentinel in 2017. After seeing an article about Justine Kibbe’s conservation efforts on the Island, he decided to use his love for the environment and wildlife science to help improve the ecological wellbeing of Fishers Island.

Since he loves spending time with nature and watching animals, Conor thought it was a great opportunity to collect data that would help understand this unique environment. During his time as a Sentinel, he worked on improving the efficiency of data collection and helped facilitate research about organizations such as Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. With his expanding knowledge of the local ecosystem and shifting animal populations, he hopes to raise awareness of FIConservancy and help preserve the Island’s pristine environment.