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More action sought to understand, regulate pesticides

Monitoring shows aquatic life in urban streams to be particularly at risk

By Rona Kobell Bay Journal News Service D

uring the 30-year effort to clean up the Chesapeake Bay, pesticides and other toxic chemicals have ranked low on the list of problems. For years, the priority has been reducing nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment from wastewater treat- ment plants, and runoff from farms and city streets and construction sites. But pesticides and their haz- ardous cousins, endocrine disruptors, remained poorly understood and not well regulated.

New information has pushed for more action on the insecticides, herbicides and other chemicals that gardeners and farmers

spray on crops and that are sometimes embedded in seeds even before they’re planted. A recent U.S. Geological Survey study, “Pesticides in U.S. Streams and Riv- ers: Occurrence and Trends During 1992-2011,” found that half a billion pounds of pesticides are used annually in the United States. Urban streams are particularly sus- ceptible. The researchers have monitored the streams over the last two decades. They found pesticides at levels that could harm aquatic life twice as frequently during the period of 2002–11 than during the preceding de- cade.

“Five or six decades after “Silent Spring,” (Rachel Carson’s book that brought to public attention the toll DDT and other pesticides were taking on birds and other living things), we still

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thew Glandorf with guest tenor Aaron Sheehan as The Evangelist. Philadelphia Episcopal Cathedral, 38th and Chestnut. 267-240-2586 or › New Year’s Eve with

the Philadelphia Orches- tra and Maestro Yannick Nezet-Seguin will be at 7:30 p.m. in Verizon Hall and include festive seasonal music as well as classics from the Orchestra’s vast repertoire. Program details and tickets at 215-893-1999 or day Kimmel Center, Broad and Spruce. › Young pianist Claire Huangci returns to the Ger- man Society of Pennsylva- nia on Jan. 4 for a solo pro- gram including works by Scarlatti, Beethoven, Chopin and Liszt’s transcription of Wagner’s Overture to “Tannhauser”. Ms. Huangci studied at the Settlement School of Music and the Curtis Institute and is cur- rently in residence at the Hannover Hochschule fur Musik in Germany. 3 p.m., followed by a cake and cof- fee reception to meet the art- ist in the Society’s Ratskel- ler. 611 Spring Garden St. 215-627-2332 or info@

The Wilma Theater pres- ents Dan O’Brien’s award- winning play “The Body of an American” in-

spired by the book “Where War Lives” by Paul Watson. This story details the friend- ship between O’Brien and Watson, the latter winner of a Pultizer Prize for his devastating photo of a dead American soldier being dragged through the streets of Mogadishu. Michael John Garces stages this two-char- acter real life drama starring Ian Merrill Peakes as Paul and Harry Smith as Dan. Jan. 7 through Feb. 1. 215-546-7824 or wilma- for tickets and information on such related events as post show chats, free film screenings and others. All tickets are $25 as part of the new Wilma WynTix initiative, $10. for students. Broad and Spruce. ›

SAVE THE DATE! on Jan. 14 at 6:30 p.m., the Philadel- phia City Institute Library at 1905 Locust will be offer- ing a free program of oper- atic arias and songs by resi- dent artists of the Academy of Vocal Arts. Full program details and performers will be announced in our Jan. 14 issues. ›

have these issues in our lives,” said David Love, a microbiologist with the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future. Scientists are still investi- gating the hazards of chemi- cals on the flora and fauna of the Chesapeake Bay. “These pesticides are deliberately manufactured to kill things,” said Melissa Perry, chair of the Depart- ment of Environmental and Occupational Health at The George Washington Univer- sity. “By their very nature, they are biologically active.” Several Maryland policy- makers decided they had to attack the pesticide problem. There was no men- tion of pesticides or toxics in early drafts of the new Chesapeake Watershed Bay Agreement, a document that would guide the Bay states’ restoration programs. Those concerned about pesticides set about making sure pol- icy-makers included these topics. Through a campaign called Smart on Pesticides, the Maryland Pesticide Network and several other public-health organiza- tions called on federal and state officials to include an emphasis on reducing the harmful effects of pesticides. “It was not an easy ac- complishment,” said Greg Allen, a scientist with the EPA’s Chesapeake Bay Program Office. “It is a good news story. There was a time when it looked like [toxics and pesticides] wouldn’t be mentioned.”

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Ng hopes the Lea stu- dents will be inspired to explore science and technol- ogy careers in the future. He adds the interactive part is what makes the children’s discoveries more “sticky,” allowing the lessons to stay with them.

“They may not remember your name, but they re- member ‘the time we grew plants’ or ‘the time when we hatched butterflies,’” Ng says, adding that for kids these experiments are mem- orable because the things they learn from them have a direct connection to the real world.

“They might not have thought about why leaves change color, but after the trees unit they can explain these real-world phenom- enon to their parents,” Ng adds. “If these experiences inspire a handful of stu- dents to take up careers in science and technology, we have been successful.” The PSAA program ex- pands well beyond the day- light hours. Penn’s Netter Center for Community Partnerships operates the Lea Community School, which provides 100 stu- dents with activities week- days from 3:30 to 6 p.m. Nancylee Bergey from Penn’s Graduate School of Education, who donates her time to the group as its organizer, adds that PSAA provides the science content and activities for these ses- sions.

Penn students are also involved as fellows with the Science Leadership Acad- emy, a high school that is a partnership between the

School District of Phila- delphia and the Franklin Institute. Penn’s SLA Fellows lead science mini- courses for 15 students at a time on Wednesday after- noons. In conjunction with the Franklin Institute’s cur- rent exhibit, they’re focusing on the human brain. The organization’s work culminates during the spring Reading Days, when PSAA hosts an Environ- mental Festival at Lea El- ementary which allows the

school to focus on science all day. PSAA Fellows and other Penn volunteers are positioned at each station. PSAA is expanding in 2015 to include more tech- nology-centered volunteer- ing opportunities. In coop- eration with Penn’s Gener- al Robotics Automation, Sensing and Perception Lab, PSAA fellows will visit Philadelphia’s public high schools and serve as men- tors for their robotics teams.


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