Tag Archives: New Jersey

Eric Schrading and Katie Conrad at Gandy's Beach

People Behind a Stronger Coast: Eric Schrading and Katie Conrad

It’s a windy day at Gandy’s Beach, on the Delaware Bay side of the New Jersey coast, and everyone is having a hard time keeping their hats on. The waves are choppy, kicking up plenty of surf – the perfect weather for witnessing the benefits of the living shoreline oyster reef recently built here.

“When a wave hits, there are a lot of nooks and crannies in the reef that dissipate the wave throughout the whole structure or deflect it to the sides or down,” explains Eric Schrading, supervisory biologist at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s field office in New Jersey. “But none of that energy is forced into one particular direction, and that’s what the key is behind these – there’s a variety of directions that the wave energy can be dissipated.”

Schrading is standing on the shore with fellow FWS biologist Katie Conrad and Nature Conservancy partner Moses Katkowski. They are some of the key players behind the living shoreline project at Gandy’s Beach to repair and build coastal resiliency in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. The project is funded with $880,000 from the Hurricane Sandy Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013.

The living shoreline oyster reef, located just offshore, creates a natural defense system against the ongoing erosion and flooding that plague this coastline and community. Historical records indicate the Gandy’s Beach shoreline has eroded by 500 feet since the 1930s – and, with climate change bringing more frequent and intense storms and rising seas, the rate of erosion is likely to pick up.

“All the wave energy goes up on the beach or, where there’s little beach, it hits the marsh mostly at the roots,” explains Schrading. “So it just keeps hitting over and over again, and creates this scalloping effect where it takes away the soil underneath the vegetation, the vegetation then slumps in and you have continued erosion.”

Since 2014, the partners – along with help from dozens of volunteers – have built more than 3,000 feet of living shoreline oyster reefs along the coast at Gandy’s. Once in place, the structures recruit new oysters and eventually build up to be a self-sustaining reef system.

“We’ve been surprised at how many oysters have been recruited since we started this project,” says Conrad. “We put out pilot reefs in the summer of 2014 and they accumulated a lot of oysters.”

Hurricane Sandy dealt a massive blow to Gandy’s Beach and surrounding areas, so making this coastline more resilient to future storms is crucial. The living shoreline protects about one mile of sandy beach and adjacent salt marsh and is projected to reduce incoming wave energy by up to 40 percent.

“Maybe with major hurricanes these structures themselves won’t do much, because everything’s going to be under water, the structures will be 12 feet underwater,” acknowledges Schrading.

“But on days like today you see their value because you have a strong fetch that comes across the bay, and the first thing that it hits is the sandy beach or the marsh areas. But if you have these living structures in place, it basically takes that energy out of the wave before it hits the beach – it reduces a lot of wave force, which causes erosion in the first place.”

This is the fourth in a series of photo slideshows highlighting the people who have been working to defend their coastal ecosystems against storms in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. In previous weeks we have looked at Matt Whitbeck and Miles Simmons, combating climate change in the Chesapeake BayJulie Devers, assessing fish barriers and culverts in Maryland, and Kevin Holcomb and Amy Ferguson building living shorelines at Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge.

You can view the continuation of this series and other news regarding our restoration and recovery projects on our website.

NJ biologist recognized for efforts to save endangered wildlife


Biologist Wendy Walsh (holding a red knot here) of our New Jersey Field Office is receiving the Women and Wildlife Leadership Award from one of our partner organizations. She was recognized by our director earlier this year as an endangered species recovery champion too! Photo courtesy of Wendy.

One of our very own biologists, Wendy Walsh, will be among the three individuals honored tonight by the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey at the 11th annual Women & Wildlife Awards.

The awards recognize the recipients’ achievements, the advances they have made for women in their professions, their efforts to increase awareness of rare species and the habitats they depend on, and their contributions to New Jersey’s wildlife.

Mara Cige of CWF writes: As a senior fish and wildlife biologist at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 2016 Women & Wildlife Leadership Award Winner Wendy Walsh has proven herself invaluable in the endangered species field for her work with wildlife such as the piping plover, swamp pink, and seabeach amaranth.

Her most notable work is with the red knot. Ms. Walsh took the species lead in the middle of the federal listing process. Her tireless efforts coordinating, analyzing and interpreting data, particularly detailing the effects of changing climate on these long-distance migrant shorebirds has made her work widely acclaimed as the final rule.

From biology to policy, she has an uncanny ability to grasp important information and translate it for any species she finds herself working with. She has created partnerships with additional organizations to accelerate conservation efforts. In such collaborations, Ms. Walsh’s open-mindedness to others’ expertise makes for effective planning and implementation of the vision she has to one day recover all threatened and endangered species.

By acknowledging these special individuals, we hope to encourage more young women to strive to make a positive impact on species and habitat protection, especially through the biological sciences.

Check out this Q&A between Mara and Wendy.

What is your favorite thing about your job?
“I love that I’m constantly learning something new. Over the years, I’ve had the chance to learn about and observe so many species, and I’ve had the chance to really get to know a few in particular — piping plovers, seabeach amaranth, bog turtles, swamp pink, and red knots. And I’ve had the opportunity to work on such a wide range of issues — utility lines, transportation, mitigation, stormwater, beach nourishment, bird collision, volunteer programs, restoration, fishery management, listing, and most recently aquaculture. I’m very fortunate to have a job where there is always a new learning opportunity on the horizon.”

Do you have a New Jersey wildlife species that you like best? Why?
“From a non-scientific point of view, I love watching dragonflies and wading birds with my kids, and taking the family to count and tag horseshoe crabs. But professionally, I’m partial to the beach species I’ve worked on — piping plovers, red knots, seabeach amaranth. I enjoy the beach ecosystem, and I feel a responsibility to these beach-dependent species that face so many challenges along New Jersey’s human-dominated coast.”

What interests you the most about New Jersey’s wildlife?
“I’m fascinated at the contrast between New Jersey’s really remarkable habitats and ecosystems in the context of our equally remarkable human population density. Generations of pioneering conservationists from past decades have allowed our State’s wildlife to persist even with so many people. I view our generation — and my kids’ — as stewards of that conservation legacy.”

What is your favorite thing to do when you aren’t working?
“I love spending time with my family, such as taking trips with my husband, Mac, and two daughters, as well as time with extended family — Mom, brothers, cousins. I enjoy working with my kids’ Girls Scout troops and helping at their schools.”

Join us in congratulating Wendy!

Cops and Bobbers: Partnering with police for community and fishing!

Chelsea DiAntonio is a wildlife refuge specialist at the Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge. Photo credit: USFWS

Chelsea DiAntonio is a wildlife refuge specialist at the Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge in New Jersey. Photo credit: USFWS

It’s National Fishing and Boating week, and today we are showcasing a partnership that merges cops, communities and fishing. Chelsea DiAntonio of the Wallkill National Wildlife Refuge in New Jersey shares with us this inspiring story of how one city police department is taking an active role in making positive connections with its young citizens through fishing and connecting families with the natural world around them.  


When a city police department decides to hold a youth fishing derby, you can expect a great time and a fun play on words. The “Cops and Bobbers” fishing event was organized by the City of Garfield Police Department in Garfield, New Jersey, with the intent to foster positive relationships with families and young people throughout their community. One important goal of holding these community events is to deter kids from turning to the streets, getting involved with gangs, or partaking in illegal activities.

Members from the City of Garfield Police Department manage a busy registration tent. Photo Credit: USFWS

Members of the City of Garfield Police Department manage a busy registration tent. Photo Credit: USFWS

And what better way for a community to come together in a positive way then through fishing! Thus, the creation of the “Cops and Bobbers” family fishing event!

The city of Garfield is located within a mosaic of urban communities in northern New Jersey, just a few miles from Manhattan. The number of outdoor recreational areas available for families to use is minimal. But one of the few remaining community parks happens to be located just next to the police headquarters. In the middle of Dahnerts Lake Park is a nice size lake with trout stocked by the New Jersey Department of Fish and Wildlife. While many residents take advantage of the park to play, the lake is under-utilized.

Dave Miller from The Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge outfits a young angler with a bobber. Photo credit: USFWS

Dave Miller from The Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge hands a young angler a bobber. Photo credit: USFWS

Since the Garfield Police Department had never run a fishing derby before they turned to the knowledgeable employees from the Great Swamp and Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuges for assistance. Refuge staff were well equipped for the event, bringing along hooks, bobbers, and other fishing supplies to help the young anglers. And as an added bonus, the police department brought fishing poles to be given away to the first 150 participants. The grand prize of the day was a kayak that went to one lucky angler who landed the largest trout.

A popular spot to fish was from the gazebo in the middle of Danhert's Lake. Photo credit: USFWS

A popular spot to fish was from the gazebo in the middle of Danhert’s Lake. Photo credit: USFWS

There’s no doubt that Garfield Police Department went above and beyond to outfit their young community members with all of the tools needed to get fishing!  Now, thanks to the Cops and Bobbers program, maybe more residents will use the lake for fishing.

George Molnar of Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge helps unhook a catfish. Photo credit: USFWS

George Molnar of Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge helps unhook a catfish. Photo credit: USFWS

All the refuge staff look forward to growing the partnership with the Garfield Police Department and helping with future events.  Travelling to these communities and working with urban audiences and partners such as the Garfield Police Department, present a good foundation to build new connections. Adding a fun, interactive activity such as fishing helps the cause all the better, with hopes that the younger generation fosters a stronger appreciation of the natural world.

Learn more about National Fishing and Boating Week.

Find a place to fish and boat near you.

Visit Wallkill River and Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuges

Take Me Fishing

Learn more about the Cops and Kids Foundation.