Tracking Plants in NYC


Staff & Wire Reports



In this July 27, 2018 photo, Susan Hewitt photographs a daisy-like weed known as 'shaggy soldier' and adds it to iNaturalist, the app she uses to participate in the New York City EcoFlora project. "If people could just take a few minutes to look at nature closely, I think they would be blown away," Hewitt said.  Hundreds of New Yorkers are working with researchers to find and catalog wild plants in their city. They’re taking pictures with their smartphones as they walk the streets. Participants have already found invasive species, plants never documented before in New York City, and endangered native weeds. (AP Photo/Emiliano Rodriguez Mega)

In this July 27, 2018 photo, Susan Hewitt photographs a daisy-like weed known as 'shaggy soldier' and adds it to iNaturalist, the app she uses to participate in the New York City EcoFlora project. "If people could just take a few minutes to look at nature closely, I think they would be blown away," Hewitt said. Hundreds of New Yorkers are working with researchers to find and catalog wild plants in their city. They’re taking pictures with their smartphones as they walk the streets. Participants have already found invasive species, plants never documented before in New York City, and endangered native weeds. (AP Photo/Emiliano Rodriguez Mega)


In this July 27, 2018 photo, Susan Hewitt poses for a picture showing her profile on iNaturalist, the app where she records all the plants and animals she finds in New York City. With 7,379 observations and 736 species identified, Hewitt is the most active member of the EcoFlora project. .(AP Photo/Emiliano Rodriguez Mega)


In this July 26, 2018 photo, Daniel Atha, left, and Brian Boom, right, look at two New York Botanical Garden specimens of a hardy plant called Italian arum in New York. The plant has the potential to take over and displace native species. Atha said new populations of this invasor were discovered in New York City with the help of citizen scientists. (AP Photo/Emiliano Rodriguez Mega)


The Green Big Apple: New Yorkers document the city’s plants

By EMILIANO RODRIGUEZ MEGA

Associated Press

Friday, August 3

NEW YORK (AP) — Susan Hewitt found a special prize recently while wandering the streets of New York.

The 70-year-old spotted a mysterious patch of bright green leaves with tiny white flowers in a raised flower bed. It turned out to be tropical Mexican clover, a weed common in South America and Florida’s orange groves, but never recorded before in the state.

“I get a tremendous kick out of identifying things,” she said. “There’s nothing more exciting.”

Hewitt volunteers for an ambitious project to photograph all the wild plants that dwell in New York City. On Friday, the organizers announced that citizen scientists had catalogued more than 26,000 sightings, and documented new populations of invasive species and native weeds that seem to be disappearing, like the green comet milkweed.

Started last year by scientists at the New York Botanical Garden, the effort makes up for the lack of manpower to survey the entire city.

“There are just not enough of us,” said Regina Alvarez, a professor at Dominican College in New York who isn’t part of the effort. “What we’re studying requires a lot of data and it’s really hard for the number of scientists that are out there to do all that work.”

The project so far has attracted 730 volunteers armed with smartphones who’ve hit the streets for the quest, called New York City EcoFlora.

Hewitt, a self-described naturalist who grew up near the English village where Charles Darwin lived, made her discovery last month in front of a massive apartment building in Manhattan’s Upper East Side. She fires up her iPhone X every time she spots something new or interesting. A fragile tree seedling sticking out of a manhole cover? Click. A white petunia hidden among weeds? Click.

Botanist Brian Boom, who heads the project, said the scientific community wasn’t really thinking about the need to engage with regular folks when he was a graduate student in the early 1980s.

“There was a sense of, ‘This is what we do. And you can go out and look at the birds and that’s great. But, you know, we’ll do the science,’” he said.

Not anymore. Scientists have become increasingly aware of how citizens can contribute to their research.

Digital platforms like iNaturalist, a mobile app where citizens share their observations of plants and animals, estimate that people have made dozens of noteworthy discoveries around the world. And a 2017 study found that more than half the material in the Global Biodiversity Information Facility —an open-access database with information about all types of life on Earth— comes from volunteers.

“Many citizens are experts in their own way,” said Mark Chandler, a field biologist at Earthwatch Institute in Boston who isn’t part of the project. “If we can get them to start recording the (biodiversity) in their backyards, they can really make a huge contribution.”

Citizen scientists in the EcoFlora effort have documented at least six plants never recorded before in New York state and two new plants for North America. The observations already are helping prepare for future threats. In July, the project challenged its volunteers to locate every tree of heaven in the city. These rapidly growing trees with pale gray bark and a stinky smell are the preferred host of an Asian moth that can harm crops and forests. Mapping the host plant will allow researchers know where to look for the insect once it shows up.

“It hasn’t been found in New York (state) yet. But it’ll come,” said botanist Daniel Atha. “For sure, it’ll come.”

Volunteers have their own reasons for participating.

Zihao Wang, 29, used to look for plants on his own, exploring the green patches he found on Google Maps. Now, he’s one of the most active members with 538 species identified so far. When he’s not hunting for plants as a hobby, he works for the city’s parks department.

“I want to see a version of New York City that’s different from everybody else’s,” Wang said. “I’m always surprised by how much nature still exists here.”

Follow Emiliano Rodriguez Mega on Twitter: mapache_rm

The Associated Press Health & Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

‘Sailing Museums’ Nina and Pinta to Dock for Tours at Point Park Sept. 20-25

PARKERSBURG, W.Va. (Aug. 1, 2018) – The Columbus Foundation and their two Columbus replica ships of the Niña, the most historically accurate replica of a Columbus Ship ever built, and Pinta, are set to dock for tours at Point Park in downtown Parkersburg, W.Va. on Sept. 20-25.

Both the Niña and Pinta will be touring together as a new and enhanced ‘sailing museum’, for the purpose of educating the public and school children on the ‘caravel’, a Portuguese ship used by Columbus and many early explorers to discover the world.

The Niña is a replica of the ship on which Columbus sailed across the Atlantic on his three voyages of discovery to the new world beginning in 1492. Columbus sailed the tiny ship over 25,000 miles. That ship was last heard of in 1501, but the new Niña has a different mission. The new ship serves as a floating museum and visits ports all over the Western Hemisphere.

The Pinta was recently built in Brazil to accompany the Nina on all of her travels. She is a larger version of the archetypal caravel and offers larger deck space for walk-aboard tours and has a 40 ft. air conditioned main cabin down below with seating. The Pinta is available for private parties and charters.

Two types of tours are available, self-guided and guided. The self-guided tours are for individuals who arrive during open hours and pay to go aboard and experience the ships. The guided tours are only for groups of 15 or more paying guests, and are a true educational event, ideal for students.

Admission is Adults $8.50; Seniors (60 years +) $7.50; Children (ages 5-16) $5; and Children 4 years and younger are free. Groups of 15 or more will have an admission of $5.

For more information about the boats, visit http://www.thenina.com/.

To learn more about Greater Parkersburg and these events, visit www.GreaterParkersburg.com or call the Greater Parkersburg Convention & Visitors Bureau office at 304-428-1130.

First of its kind art installation blowing minds

August 2, 2018 Office: (614) 848-8380

TOLEDO, Ohio – The only permanent outdoor installation of its kind in the U.S. was just unveiled at Renaissance Toledo Downtown Hotel. The dazzling 6,000-square-foot digital mural is a project of the hotel’s owner, First Hospitality Group, Integrated Visions Productions and ProMedica. The work, titled “MindBlown Toledo,” will now be displayed nightly on the hotel’s façade as part of the 90-foot-tall projection mapped video installation. This monumental public art piece is the nation’s first-ever projection mapping installation to cover a hotel façade. It showcases fiery digital images of works being created by local glass artists splashed across the hotel’s exterior.

Elements of the installation will be visible every night until 11 p.m., with the five-minute main show starting half an hour after sunset Wednesday-Saturday and replaying at the top of each hour. Using state-of-the-art projection mapping technology, including video interwoven with animation, dazzling imagery, stunning sound and visual effects and spellbinding illusions, “MindBlown” explores the beautiful fiery mystery of the glass-making process. Future works will evolve and will include different area glass artists, with fresh images added to the hotel’s public art installation in the future.

The project was the brainchild of Renaissance Toledo’s ownership and management group industry leader First Hospitality Group (FHG) and ProMedica President and CEO Randy Oostra. Led by FHG Chairman Stephen Schwartz and Chief-of-Staff Sam Schwartz, the work was inspired to create a one-of-a-kind artistic installation on the company’s newest property, the Renaissance Toledo Downtown Hotel. Using the cutting-edge medium of video projection mapping, FHG engaged artists at Atlanta-based Integrated Visions to design, photograph and implement the groundbreaking work.

“We didn’t want to just build a beautiful hotel for Downtown Toledo, we wanted to create a place that truly immerses our guests into the beauty of this community, is part of the fabric of the city and is reflective of its rich art glass history,” said Sam Schwartz, who spearheaded the project for FHG. “Through the artistry of our partners at Integrated Vision, ‘MindBlown’ tells the story of a city on the move.”

The team formed an inclusive coalition from across the Toledo community, including Toledo Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz’s Office, The Arts Commission of Toledo, Toledo Museum of Art, local artists and sponsors whose in-kind donations helped to create the project’s infrastructure. In addition, one of the largest investors in the Toledo area, not-for-profit, medical system ProMedica provided major support for the project.

“We understand that the well-being of the people we serve is clearly linked to the health of their community,” said ProMedica President and CEO Randy Oostra. “And we know the dramatically positive impact public hart has on the development of healthy cities. So it was important to us support this stunning public art project.”

In order to complete this ambitious public art project, Integrated Visions used state-of-the-art projection mapping technology to seamlessly merge and blend six high-powered projectors. As a result, the work has turned Renaissance Toledo Downtown Hotel façade into a massive digital canvas. One of the first permanent outdoor projection mapped installations in the U.S., “MindBlown Toledo” was made possible by contributions from ProMedica, First Hospitality Group, GEM Construction, Lathrop Construction and VM Systems. Integrated Visions partnered with Atlanta Soundworks, Inc. and projector manufacturer Christie Digital for engineering, systems integration and installation support on this uniquely challenging project.

Complete information about “MindBlown Toledo,” including show schedules, is available at mindblowntoledo.com, (#MindBlownToledo) and Renaissance Toledo Downtown information, including accommodations, dining and events is available at renaissance-hotels.marriott.com/renaissance-toledo-downtown-hotel.

Jeepfest at Toledo Renaissance

TOLEDO – Renaissance Toledo Downtown Hotel is proud to serve as the official host hotel for the Toledo Jeep Fest 2018. The weekend-long event boasts a jam-packed schedule of free family-fun activities just steps away from the hotel in downtown Toledo at the SeaGate Convention Centre.

Leading up to the festival, Renaissance Toledo will be hosting giveaways, scavenger hunts and surprises on social media. The event is returning to Toledo after a very successful festival in 2016, celebrating deeply-rooted ties between Jeep and the city of Toledo.

The glass city has been integral in the production of Jeep automobiles for nearly 80 years, and Renaissance Toledo is excited to take part in the celebration of the rich history between Toledo and Jeep.

The festival kicks off on Friday, August 10th at 1:00 p.m. with a Jeep Off-Road Course Welcome Party followed by a kick-off concert in the evening with special guests Oliver Hazard and KC and the Sunshine Band.

Saturday, August 11th starts with an All-Jeep Parade at 11:00 a.m. that leads to an All-Jeep Festival and Car Show. Renaissance Toledo guests will have a front row seats for the parade, enjoying and up-close view of thousands of Jeeps caravanning through the downtown streets.

Perfectly located the heart of the festivities, Toledo Renaissance is right next door to the Imagination Station and Kid’s Zone that youngsters can enjoy on both Saturday and Sunday of the festival. Steps away, at Promenade Park, visitors can enjoy live entertainment on Saturday starting at 12:30 p.m. and enjoy delicious food from a variety of food trucks on-site.

The final day of the festival starts with the Jeep 4-Miler. Starting at 8:30 a.m. on Sunday, August 12th participants will race through downtown, passing the hotel. Guests can create a cheering section as they watch hundreds participate in the four-mile run or one-mile walk hosted by Run Toledo.

The community festival is organized by the Destination Toledo CVB, UAW Local 12, the Lucas County Board of Commissioners and the City of Toledo and it presented by ProMedica and Dana Incorporated.

About First Hospitality Group, Inc.:

First Hospitality Group, Inc. (FHG) was recognized as #1 in Travel in Forbes America’s Best Midsize Employers 2016. FHG received a #28 ranking out of the 250 best midsize employers in the country and #3 amongst all of America’s best travel companies. For more information about FHG, visit www.fhginc.com or follow them on Facebook at @FHGinc and Twitter at @FHGroup_Inc.

First Hospitality Group, Inc. (FHG) is a leading hotel management, acquisition and development company with more than 30 years of award-winning experience. FHG’s unique people-driven professional culture fosters a team of highly skilled and motivated hospitality experts who consistently deliver outstanding property level performance, as well as memorable and engaging guest experiences. Headquartered in Chicago, FHG’s portfolio features 21 brands and 42 properties throughout the Midwest. Recognized as #1 in Travel in Forbes America’s Best Midsize Employers 2016, FHG received a #28 ranking out of the 250 best midsize employers in the country and #3 amongst all of America’s best travel companies. For more information, visit, www.fhginc.com.

Renaissance Hotels

At Renaissance Hotels, It’s Business Unusual. Each of our 170 hotels, located in nearly 35 countries around the world, is unique and every stay offers unconventional programs that help business travelers discover rich, local experiences. We promise to feed the curiosity, fuel the imagination and excite the senses of our guests, who see their business trip as an exciting opportunity for new, interesting and sharable moments. We offer signature events in our lobbies, bars and lounges designed to showcase emerging talent in music, the arts, mixology, gastronomy and more. Renaissance Navigators are neighborhood experts who are ready to assist guests in discovering true local flavors and activities. R.E.N. Meetings offers groups an experience beyond a traditional meeting, rooted in creative sensory meeting design and custom-curated local Navigator excursions and networking events. At Renaissance Hotels, we strive to ensure that every trip is transformed into an eye-opening, unforgettable journey. To discover more visit www.renhotels.com. For upcoming events visit www.renhotels.com/events.

Dead fish, red tide, plague Florida tourists, beaches

VENICE BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Tourists weren’t scattered on beaches in southwest Florida on Thursday, but hundreds of dead fish were.

The Herald-Tribune reports that visitors piled into the parking lot of Venice Beach, got out of their cars, started hacking, coughing and sneezing and then quickly left.

A bloom of red tide algae has swept in from Naples to Tampa, killing marine life and tourism in its path. Respiratory irritation and murky clumps of red drift algae have been reported from Collier to Sarasota counties.

“We came for the shark teeth, but we’re going to have to move somewhere else,” said Sol Whitten, who came from a county north of Tampa with his wife, six grandchildren and his daughter-in-law.

Respiratory irritation and murky clumps of red drift algae have been reported from Collier to Sarasota counties on Florida’s west coast, which is usually known for its stunning beaches.

Also this week, a manatee in distress from exposure to red tide in southwest Florida was taken to SeaWorld Orlando for rehabilitation. Officials documented 287 sea turtle deaths in Gulf of Mexico waters coast since the toxic bloom started in October.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission reports that dead fish have been found in Pinellas, Manatee, Sarasota, Charlotte, Lee, Collier and Monroe counties and include such species as grouper, trout, eel, snook, tarpon, hardhead catfish and assorted baitfish.

Algal blooms can start about 40 miles offshore and come to the surface with rising water. Their movement is dependent upon currents and winds, said Tracy Fanara, a staff scientist and program manager at Mote Marine Labratory & Aquarium in Sarasota. Currents may push the blooms to shore and chemical conditions on the shoreline can help the algae sustain itself.

The toxin in red tide is dispersed into the air when bubbles in sea foam pop, Fanara said. The toxin affects marine life and causes respiratory irritation in humans and animals.

This is not the first time red tide has been so intense. Fanara said there was an 18-month bloom that spanned the state from 2004-2006. The FWC reports that this recent bloom has been monitored since November.

7 members of Virginia family pulled from North Carolina surf

EMERALD ISLE, N.C. (AP) — Officials in a North Carolina beach town say seven members of a Virginia family were pulled from the surf on the first day warnings had been lifted for swimmers.

News outlets report the rescue at Emerald Isle was one of six during low tide on Thursday. The family was vacationing from Edinburgh, Virginia, and authorities said no injuries were reported.

Officials in Emerald Isle said that during an 11-day span ending Wednesday, fire and lifeguard crews rescued 84 people. Last week, a Virginia man died trying to rescue a 12-year-old girl from the rip currents.

Town Manager Frank Rush and Mayor Eddie Barber told The News & Observer of Raleigh the town was implementing an ordinance to make sure swimmers heed red flags which warn them of dangerous conditions. If a swimmer ignores red flags and lifeguard or police warnings to stay out of the ocean, they could fined $100, Rush said.

Rush didn’t know how many people the six ocean rescues involved. He said an exact number might be available when reports are completed on Friday.

The rip current warning was moderate Friday, indicating swimmers should use caution when entering the water.

Black flags were flying Friday at Pine Knoll Shores, while red flags are up at Atlantic Beach and Fort Macon, warning swimmers to stay out of the ocean.

In this July 27, 2018 photo, Susan Hewitt photographs a daisy-like weed known as ‘shaggy soldier’ and adds it to iNaturalist, the app she uses to participate in the New York City EcoFlora project. "If people could just take a few minutes to look at nature closely, I think they would be blown away," Hewitt said. Hundreds of New Yorkers are working with researchers to find and catalog wild plants in their city. They’re taking pictures with their smartphones as they walk the streets. Participants have already found invasive species, plants never documented before in New York City, and endangered native weeds. (AP Photo/Emiliano Rodriguez Mega)
https://www.sunburynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/48/2018/08/web1_121073847-652cd76a16af4360b49d7d4dfafcf214.jpgIn this July 27, 2018 photo, Susan Hewitt photographs a daisy-like weed known as ‘shaggy soldier’ and adds it to iNaturalist, the app she uses to participate in the New York City EcoFlora project. "If people could just take a few minutes to look at nature closely, I think they would be blown away," Hewitt said. Hundreds of New Yorkers are working with researchers to find and catalog wild plants in their city. They’re taking pictures with their smartphones as they walk the streets. Participants have already found invasive species, plants never documented before in New York City, and endangered native weeds. (AP Photo/Emiliano Rodriguez Mega)

In this July 27, 2018 photo, Susan Hewitt poses for a picture showing her profile on iNaturalist, the app where she records all the plants and animals she finds in New York City. With 7,379 observations and 736 species identified, Hewitt is the most active member of the EcoFlora project. .(AP Photo/Emiliano Rodriguez Mega)
https://www.sunburynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/48/2018/08/web1_121073847-c98fd91f63254511a9677cc583071d03.jpgIn this July 27, 2018 photo, Susan Hewitt poses for a picture showing her profile on iNaturalist, the app where she records all the plants and animals she finds in New York City. With 7,379 observations and 736 species identified, Hewitt is the most active member of the EcoFlora project. .(AP Photo/Emiliano Rodriguez Mega)

In this July 26, 2018 photo, Daniel Atha, left, and Brian Boom, right, look at two New York Botanical Garden specimens of a hardy plant called Italian arum in New York. The plant has the potential to take over and displace native species. Atha said new populations of this invasor were discovered in New York City with the help of citizen scientists. (AP Photo/Emiliano Rodriguez Mega)
https://www.sunburynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/48/2018/08/web1_121073847-5609130fbf7e45eda6933f2c889e6fad.jpgIn this July 26, 2018 photo, Daniel Atha, left, and Brian Boom, right, look at two New York Botanical Garden specimens of a hardy plant called Italian arum in New York. The plant has the potential to take over and displace native species. Atha said new populations of this invasor were discovered in New York City with the help of citizen scientists. (AP Photo/Emiliano Rodriguez Mega)

Staff & Wire Reports