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South High School’s Andy’s Attic

Monday, February 24th, 2014

By Edith Morgan

Come with me and take a most remarkable trip, into a huge storeroom, with what seem to me to be 15-foot high ceilings, lined with metal shelves from cement-block wall to wall – and every row filled with “gently-used” clothing of every kind. As I enter, to my right stands a giving tree, festooned with pictures of students who have put in at least 20 hours already, and whose continued work will earn them a star for every ten hours more, s they fulfill their community service duties.

The room is alive with busy students, filling “orders” from families who have sent in requests. Other students are folding, sorting newly arrived donations, straightening shelves or drawers full of new items (the socks and underwear are new, as most people really prefer to wear such items new), The students come willingly and on time, and when asked why they participate in “Andy’s Attic, they all told me how heartwarming it was to know that they are helping truly needy families to be properly and warmly clothed – some even had been recipients themselves, and now were “paying it forward”, so someone else could feel what they had felt when someone cared enough to help them.

Since October 2013, 190 bags full of complete outfits in the right sizes have already been sent out, and every day about 36 students show up to help.

Why the name ”Andy’s Attic”? The idea grew out of the tragic death of a 16-year old Shrewsbury student, Andrew Reese, whose parents and friends wanted to honor his memory. When the project outgrew its Shrewsbury quarters, after a couple of moves, Shrewsbury resident and South High teacher Christine Foley approached her Principal, Maureen Binienda, who provided the large basement room that used to be her supply closet. After a huge clean-up job and truckloads of moving, the “attic” was ready.

At first, South High students received the donations – many were needy themselves, but as the project grew, Christine and her volunteers found that behind every student in need was a family in need. And soon word spread, with “orders” coming in from other towns in Worcester County.

In the summer of 2013 the Reese family moved to Florida, and Christine Foley took over the project. She enlisted the help of several major Worcester organizations and got the project under way. Staff and students worked to get it started, and what I saw today would be the envy of any large business, with students performing the many tasks required to run such a great enterprise. We should all be very proud of the students who week after week see to it that Andy’s Attic takes care of those who are in need.

If any readers want to help, Andy’s Attic always needs: new socks and underwear, and “gently used” clothing of all sizes. Sometimes a special request has to go out for sizes not in stock, so Andy’s Attic can always use cash to purchase what is needed.

What would Martin Luther King, Jr. think?

Friday, February 14th, 2014

By Parlee Jones

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” – Dr. MLK, Jr.

Peace and Greetings Worcester People. I hope this issue of InCity Times finds you in the best of health, mentally, physically, spiritually, emotionally. We made it through the holidays and have come into a new year with new ideas and new plans to make this year better than the last.

One great source of inspiration in January is the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. I had the opportunity to attend the 29′th Annual Martin Luther King Breakfast “Honoring the Legend” in Worcester a few weeks ago. Congratulations to the committee for putting together an incredible event year after year.

This year I paid close attention to what the speakers were saying. When Rosalie asked me to write this article she asked me to write about what Dr. King would think about the state of America today. Coincidence, or not, this is the topic that President of Becker College, Keynote Speaker Robert E. Johnson, PhD. spoke about. Before he spoke, Mayor Joe Petty and City Manager Ed Augustus both spoke about the inequalities that existed in Worcester and vowed to change the playing field to make sure all Worcester residents had access to education, jobs, health care, etc. I can only hope they hold true to their words. I will be watching, but I have really written off the system as a way for people to make it. I feel we have to go the route of Dr. King and do it Grassroots. People helping people.

Congressman James P. McGovern also spoke. It is always a pleasure to see him, because he is one public official that fights the good fight. He reminded us that we are not all Nelsons (Mandela) or Martins (Luther King) but we can do something, quoting Mother Teresa, “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” Those small things are donating your gently used clothing and coats, volunteering in a soup kitchen or school. You can also tutor, spend time with children in homeless shelters or mentor a young person. We should also be teaching our children the importance of “giving back.”

Back to the question at hand. What would Dr. King think about the state of our fair country? We really have no way of knowing what he would think. But I think he would wonder what we are doing to continue his fight/dream. Are we adhering to the adage that we have a moral obligation to leave this world better than we found it? What would he think about the fact that we spend more money imprisoning a young person than we do on their education? Or the fact that the minimum wage cannot pay a rent or enable people to live this “American Dream”. What about the fact that there are homeless and hungry, both black and white, who the government has basically written off by cutting services needed by poor communities.

How would he feel about police brutality, black on black crime, sagging pants, stop and frisk, gangs? What would he think about the fact that in this day and time it is okay to shoot unarmed Black men? I am speaking about Trayvon Martin and Oscar Grant.

The fact that Marissa Alexander lingered in jail. The fact that we lost Haydia Pendleton to the streets and numerous other young people to the unnecessary violence. The fact that our children are stuck in front of the boob tube fighting fake wars and killing people in “video games”. The fact that the first African American president is the most disrespected president in the history of our country.

The fact that there are not enough jobs and companies are allowed to be based in our country, but outsource jobs to other countries without penalty. The fact that corporations are the ones benefitting from our government more than you and I. I could go on and on. Not sure what Dr. King would think about all of these things, but I think he would wonder what this world has come to.

We have seen progress since the 1960’s, but we have also seen a steady decline in humanity.

What is our dream for our world? I think that would be the question he would ask us. What are we fighting for?

“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” – Dr. MLK, Jr.

ICT book review by Woo City Councilor Mike Gaffney

Tuesday, February 11th, 2014

On the WALKABLE CITY

By Worcester City Councilor at Large Michael Gaffney

As a City Councilor, I receive constituent requests daily. Just prior to the Christmas Holiday, I received several requests from varying sources imploring me to read a book titled Walkable City.

I do not intend for this to be a book review. Nor does my opinion of the value of the book imply that I am against the walkable city concept. Rather, I provide this article as insight as to my thoughts on the book and my approach in review.

In sum, the writer is determined to sell the idea that cities should be made walkable to encourage development and growth, rather than requiring parking lots for commuting. The problem with the book is the very poor foundation the writer builds his premise upon. Click to continue »

Statue to be built in Green Island to honor Tobias Boland and Benjamin Wright. (And let’s not forget Eleanor Boland, a very cool lady!)

Tuesday, February 11th, 2014

By Sue Moynagh

There are plans for a statue in the Canal District honoring two virtually unknown but very influential men in Worcester history: Tobias Boland and Benjamin Wright. Both men played key roles in building the Blackstone Canal, moving Worcester from a tiny shire town in central Massachusetts to a major manufacturing city and transportation hub. While this in itself makes them worthy of honor, Tobias Boland especially deserves mention for the work he did for the Irish immigrants that came to work on the canal and eventually settle in Worcester. I would also like to mention someone else deserving of honor- Eleanor McCauley Boland, who also worked to improve conditions for immigrants.

The statue will be privately funded and situated in what will be a pocket park on Harding Street behind Union Station. This would be at the head of the proposed Blackstone Canal replica. It is hoped that CSX mitigation money will be obtained to improve this unsightly area and extend the streetscape/ beautification efforts along Harding Street. It is a fitting tribute to Benjamin Wright, the engineer who had worked on the Erie Canal and put together the surveys and specifications for this new canal project. He recruited Tobey Boland to get the crews together and construct the waterway connecting Providence to Worcester. The social and economic impacts on Worcester were tremendous.

In the census for 1820, Worcester had a population of 2,962. Only 19 immigrants were listed, an insignificant number for this small community. When Tobias Boland arrived in Worcester in June1826 with 30 Irish workers to begin the Worcester phase of the canal, Worcester residents were uneasy. They were assured that these Irish would “go away” when the canal work was finished. In time, hundreds arrived to do the work on the canal and then on the Boston and Worcester Railroad. At least 100 families remained to make Worcester their home. Irish were Catholic! Papists! They drank, smoked and had loose morals!

The newcomers were confined to a small settlement on the east side, Pine Meadows, near present- day Shrewsbury Street. They could not shop in local stores, socialize with the locals or even bury their dead in this city. They had no place to worship. This settlement was called Shanty Town and homes were built from whatever scraps could be found to make a shelter. The conditions were deplorable. No sanitation, streets, or medical care for these people. Disease was rampant.

Thanks to the Blackstone Canal, which opened in 1828, and the railroad, which was completed in 1835, Worcester began to thrive. Water power was available for mills. Population grew rapidly. In the 1830 census, there were over 4,000 citizens. By 1850, there were 17,049 people in residence, over 20% of them Irish.

Tobey Boland was a shrewd businessman as well as a renowned contractor. He had worked on canals in Ireland, and when he arrived in America, he worked on the Erie Canal in New York. He also worked on commercial buildings and the Long Wharf in Boston. In Worcester, he invested in land that was drained during the canal building and built tenement houses for the Irish families. He attempted to improve water and sanitation in Shanty Town. He made sure a doctor could come in to deal with illnesses that plagued this population. He assisted Father James Fitton, S.J. in building first Christ Church and then St. John’s Catholic Church on what is now Temple Street. He knew that these Irish people needed a permanent place to practice their faith.

There are plans for a statue in the Canal District honoring two virtually unknown but very influential men in Worcester history: Tobias Boland and Benjamin Wright. Both men played key roles in building the Blackstone Canal, moving Worcester from a tiny shire town in central Massachusetts to a major manufacturing city and transportation hub. While this in itself makes them worthy of honor, Tobias Boland especially deserves mention for the work he did for the Irish immigrants that came to work on the canal and eventually settle in Worcester. I would also like to mention someone else deserving of honor- Eleanor McCauley Boland, who also worked to improve conditions for immigrants.

The statue will be privately funded and situated in what will be a pocket park on Harding Street behind Union Station. This would be at the head of the proposed Blackstone Canal replica. It is hoped that CSX mitigation money will be obtained to improve this unsightly area and extend the streetscape/ beautification efforts along Harding Street. It is a fitting tribute to Benjamin Wright, the engineer who had worked on the Erie Canal and put together the surveys and specifications for this new canal project. He recruited Tobey Boland to get the crews together and construct the waterway connecting Providence to Worcester. The social and economic impacts on Worcester were tremendous.

In the census for 1820, Worcester had a population of 2,962. Only 19 immigrants were listed, an insignificant number for this small community. When Tobias Boland arrived in Worcester in June1826 with 30 Irish workers to begin the Worcester phase of the canal, Worcester residents were uneasy. They were assured that these Irish would “go away” when the canal work was finished. In time, hundreds arrived to do the work on the canal and then on the Boston and Worcester Railroad. At least 100 families remained to make Worcester their home. Irish were Catholic! Papists! They drank, smoked and had loose morals!

The newcomers were confined to a small settlement on the east side, Pine Meadows, near present- day Shrewsbury Street. They could not shop in local stores, socialize with the locals or even bury their dead in this city. They had no place to worship. This settlement was called Shanty Town and homes were built from whatever scraps could be found to make a shelter. The conditions were deplorable. No sanitation, streets, or medical care for these people. Disease was rampant.

Thanks to the Blackstone Canal, which opened in 1828, and the railroad, which was completed in 1835, Worcester began to thrive. Water power was available for mills. Population grew rapidly. In the 1830 census, there were over 4,000 citizens. By 1850, there were 17,049 people in residence, over 20% of them Irish.

Tobey Boland was a shrewd businessman as well as a renowned contractor. He had worked on canals in Ireland, and when he arrived in America, he worked on the Erie Canal in New York. He also worked on commercial buildings and the Long Wharf in Boston. In Worcester, he invested in land that was drained during the canal building and built tenement houses for the Irish families. He attempted to improve water and sanitation in Shanty Town. He made sure a doctor could come in to deal with illnesses that plagued this population. He assisted Father James Fitton, S.J. in building first Christ Church and then St. John’s Catholic Church on what is now Temple Street. He knew that these Irish people needed a permanent place to practice their faith. Both religion and education were priorities for Tobey.

I would now like to introduce Eleanor Boland, who was Tobias’ first wife. (In some sources, her name is given as Mary Ellen.) She was a generous woman who gave her time to open a school for the young children of the Irish workers, even though she had a family of her own. At the time, Irish children were not allowed to attend Worcester schools. Eleanor was concerned not only for her own children’s education, but for those of her neighbors. At first, she taught in her new home on Green Street. Later, a building on the corner of Temple and Green Streets was used as a schoolhouse. She worked closely with Father Fitton to open St. James Seminary School for the Irish Catholic youth. What is little known is the fact that many of the Irish workers came in the evenings to acquire an education. According to Charles Nutt in his “History of Worcester and Its People,” these workers brought a candle for light and paid no tuition. When the building was too small, land was purchased on Pakachoag Hill, home of the present Holy Cross College. Tobias Boland was responsible for building the first college building and donated generously to the building funds.

Benjamin Wright and Tobias Boland deserve recognition for their contribution to Worcester’s economic development. Thanks to their hard work, Worcester became a bustling city. A special thank you to Eleanor and Tobey for their work to educate and improve the quality of life for the Irish immigrants who helped build this city. For more information, I recommend reading “The Irish Pioneer,” by Margaret Boland and Thomas Rooney.

Both religion and education were priorities for Tobey.

I would now like to introduce Eleanor Boland, who was Tobias’ first wife. (In some sources, her name is given as Mary Ellen.) She was a generous woman who gave her time to open a school for the young children of the Irish workers, even though she had a family of her own. At the time, Irish children were not allowed to attend Worcester schools. Eleanor was concerned not only for her own children’s education, but for those of her neighbors. At first, she taught in her new home on Green Street. Later, a building on the corner of Temple and Green Streets was used as a schoolhouse. She worked closely with Father Fitton to open St. James Seminary School for the Irish Catholic youth. What is little known is the fact that many of the Irish workers came in the evenings to acquire an education. According to Charles Nutt in his “History of Worcester and Its People,” these workers brought a candle for light and paid no tuition. When the building was too small, land was purchased on Pakachoag Hill, home of the present Holy Cross College. Tobias Boland was responsible for building the first college building and donated generously to the building funds.

Benjamin Wright and Tobias Boland deserve recognition for their contribution to Worcester’s economic development. Thanks to their hard work, Worcester became a bustling city. A special thank you to Eleanor and Tobey for their work to educate and improve the quality of life for the Irish immigrants who helped build this city. For more information, I recommend reading “The Irish Pioneer,” by Margaret Boland and Thomas Rooney.

How to get back on track when your healthy resolutions flounder

Friday, February 7th, 2014

By Paula Moore

According to recent studies, just 8 percent of people who make New Year’s resolutions actually achieve their goals. A third of us don’t even make it to the beginning of February before losing our resolve. Sound familiar?

If you vowed to shed unwanted pounds in 2014 but now find yourself struggling, don’t give up. There’s a proven way to lose weight, keep it off and improve your overall health—and it doesn’t involve fad diets (which offer temporary results at best and often pose very real health risks) or deprivation. Just eat vegan.

The health benefits of going vegan have never been clearer. Research has shown that vegetarians weigh less and live longer than meat-eaters, and they are a third less likely to develop heart disease and about 40 percent less likely to get cancer than meat-eaters are.

By contrast, the way that most of us eat—with ample servings of meat, dairy products and processed foods—isn’t doing anyone any favors. Americans are plagued with heart disease, cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure and other ills, and more than one in three adults are obese. Nearly half of us take at least one prescription drug per day, while once-radical medical procedures such as open-heart and bypass surgery are now considered routine.

Dr. Dean Ornish, who has concluded that a low-fat vegan diet not only helps people lose weight but also can reverse heart disease, has said, “I don’t understand why asking people to eat a well-balanced vegetarian diet is considered drastic, while it’s medically conservative to cut people open or put them on powerful cholesterol-lowering drugs for the rest of their lives.”

The good news is that this is starting to change. In recent years, there’s been a huge shift in people’s attitudes toward animal welfare and protection—and by extension, the way that vegetarians and vegans are viewed.

Some of today’s biggest power players are trending vegan. Bill Gates and Twitter cofounders Evan Williams and Biz Stone are backing Beyond Meat, whose vegan mock meats taste like the real thing but don’t wreak havoc on the environment as meat production does. Recently, environmental advocate Al Gore made the switch to a plant-based diet. And Gore’s former boss, President Bill Clinton, praises plant foods as enthusiastically as he belts out jazz numbers on the saxophone.

Walk into any restaurant, and you can now order a meat-free meal. Supermarkets large and small carry mock meats, soy cheese, almond milk, coconut ice cream and other vegan foods once found only in health-food stores. But you don’t have to stock up on mock meats to eat vegan. Many of your favorite foods are probably already vegetarian or vegan. If some of your go-to dinners include pasta primavera and bean burritos, say, or if you enjoy stir-fried veggies and rice when you eat out at Asian restaurants, you’re on the right track. Vegan food is regular food, sometimes with a tiny tweak or two.

It’s little wonder that people want to stop eating meat after they learn that vegan foods are better for our health, the environment and animals. Animals raised for food are crammed by the thousands into filthy windowless sheds or wire cages, have their tails or a portion of their teeth or beaks cut off without any pain relief, are transported unprotected through frigid cold and sweltering heat, and are killed by being hung upside down and having their throats cut—usually while still conscious.

So this year, if your health goals include losing weight, don’t be “pound foolish.” Going vegan is a great way to fight the “battle of the bulge” and also one healthy habit that will pay off for years to come—for you and for all of the Earth’s inhabitants.

New Year’s resolutions for dogs, cats and wildlife

Monday, February 3rd, 2014

By Deb Young

As we ring in the New Year, many of us start the year off with resolutions –
from losing weight to exercising to a variety of other things. But what
about your pets?

Twenty-Fourteen is the year to let your pets make your resolutions for you.
After all, your pets life-long endeavor is to be your loving pet and loyal
companion – the least you can do this year is bring an extra wag or two to
his world. Besides, his resolutions will have you both feeling great, and
the best part is, none involve spandex, spinning classes, or low-fat butter.

For dogs

1. Resolve to take quality walks.

Chances are, your pup never says no to a walk, even if it’s the same old
stroll up the block and back. But know that your dog craves new scents and
sounds as much as you enjoy new scenery. So mix up your weekday walks with
new routes, unfamiliar trails, and uncharted side streets and explore new
neighborhoods and parks on the weekends. Better yet, research dog-friendly
hiking spots in your area and venture somewhere new once a month.

2. Resolve to give less hugs, play more tug.

Maybe you’ve noticed that squirmy, help-let-me-out wriggle your dog does
during what you consider to be a loving embrace. Unlike us primates, dogs
don’t feel all reassured and gooey inside after a nice long hug. In fact,
most likely they feel trapped – it’s just a canine thing. A hearty round of
tug however, played appropriately, can be a huge stress reliever and a nice
bit of exercise as well. Note: If you intend to make tug a permanent
activity in your repertoire, drop it and off are important commands to know. Click to continue »

Worcester’s graffiti problem: Shepard King Neighborhood Association meeting – 1/9/14‏

Saturday, January 11th, 2014
This meeting was attended by a rather large crowd, including Captain Saucier, Sergeant Campbell, Officer Salmon of the Worcester Police Department, Dan Cahill of the Code Department, William Breault of the Main South Alliance of Public Safety, Jini Henderson, Casey Starr, Councilor Rivera, Councilor Palmieri, Councilor Bergman, Jayde Campbell of SMOC, George Valeri, and half a dozen more, including myself.
The main focus of the meeting was the continuing problem of graffiti that has increased in frequency throughout the Beacon Street, Main Street area.
The letters that the City of Worcester sends to property owners that have had their buildings “tagged” with graffiti was one topic of discussion. It was alleged by some that they seem threatening in tone, and the onus of the costs associated with graffiti removal are all on the property owners. Even when they catch a graffiti artist in the act, the punishment that derives from it does little to abate the costs of graffiti removal for the property owner. It was suggested that more restitution should be ordered in those cases that come before a judge to try and recoup some of the losses from the guilty parties.
Billy Breault brought in some pictures of Castle Park from 20 years ago to show how it looked back then before the work was done to restore the park. He emphasized that we don’t want to allow it to get like that again with lack of effort at enforcement.
The 7-day time period the City allows property owners to rectify cases of graffiti was discussed, and it was noted that when property owners comply with the time limit, often the properties are re-vandalized within days of taking care of the problem.
Prostitution was mentioned with one particular hooker being mentioned as particularly troublesome.
I brought up the continuing problem of illegal drug activity centered around Compare Foods and was informed of an arrest that was made there in the doorway of the supermarket as a direct result of information passed along to the police at these meetings.
This type of activity works if people will only take the time to take notes of illegal activity, gathering as much information as they can about what is going on, and who is responsible. The police will act on that information and  help combat the problems that plague our neighborhoods.
Become involved. Stand up for what is right in our city. Do not let the scum rule our streets. The safety and security of our neighborhoods rest in good measure on the ability of the police to have solid sources of information flowing down to them so that they can allocate their resources more effectively to combat crime.
Attend the meetings, let your voice be heard.

 

South Shore fishermen partner with scientists to protect spawning cod‏

Wednesday, January 8th, 2014
SCITUATE — Local fishermen have always known that cod return to the waters off the South Shore to breed this time every year – clustering in large numbers, spawning and providing our best hope of a future for healthy cod populations.

Now, scientists and fishermen are working together to use an “E-Z Pass for fish” to gather data about fish behavior, to better protect this iconic species and the communities that depend upon it.

Concerned commercial fishermen from the South Shore sought out scientists from The Nature Conservancy, the Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game’s Division of Marine Fisheries (MADMF), the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, to help them map out exactly when and where spawning occurs, with the goal of protecting local cod during their spawning season.

“South Shore fishermen approached us to help protect these spawning cod with the future of the fishery in mind, and the collaborating researchers jumped at the chance to work closely with them,” said Chris McGuire of The Nature Conservancy in Massachusetts.

Over the next few weeks, local fishermen, working with scientists from MADMF and UMass Dartmouth’s School for Marine Science and Technology (SMAST), will hook spawning cod, implant electronic tags and then release the fish back into the sea. The project’s goal is to protect these local fish during spawning, as they are particularly vulnerable during this period.

Local fishermen are now seeing cod only during their spawning season in the late fall and early winter, whereas they used to be abundant for much of the year, explained Frank Mirarchi, who has fished from Scituate Harbor since 1962 and has personally witnessed a decline in cod abundance. Because such factors as warmer seawater and increased predation have made the fishing business on the South Shore ever more uncertain, his son has recently made the difficult choice to leave the fishery, Mirarchi said.

“We hope to provide these fish with protection while they’re vulnerable,” Mirarchi said. “The expectation is that we can provide discrete, small protected areas which will not be disruptive to fishing, while helping the cod stock to recover.”

Each electronic tag, once deployed, emits a coded sound roughly once a minute for up to six years, a signal that’s recorded whenever the fish passes within range of a network of receivers deployed on the sea floor by MADMF. Each tag has a unique acoustic signature, allowing scientists to track individual fish using the more than 3 million pings each tag will emit over its lifetime.

“It’s sort of like an E-ZPass for fish,” McGuire said.

This information allows researchers to visualize the behavior of each fish while on the spawning grounds, and exactly when they leave which is needed for defining a seasonal closure and also to better understand spawning behavior, he explained.

“The tagging technology has been an excellent tool for studying spawning cod in Massachusetts Bay and our improved understanding of their behavior will help to inform stock assessment and fishery management for rebuilding the resource and the fishery,” said Doug Zemeckis, SMAST collaborator and PhD student at UMass Dartmouth.

“Cooperative research like this effort involving fishermen, government agencies and environmental organizations is vital to improving fisheries management for species like Atlantic cod,” said Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game Commissioner Mary Griffin.

“Our work tagging and tracking Gulf of Maine cod in Massachusetts Bay over the past decade has greatly improved the understanding of cod behavior and movement patterns when spawning,” said Paul Diodati, Director of the Division of Marine Fisheries and Massachusetts Marine Fisheries Institute Co-Chair.

“The importance and biological significance of small discrete spawning groups to the overall health of the resource is much clearer today because of our past work and it has aided in refinement of fisheries management strategies. We look forward to making additional advances in research as result of this new collaborative effort in Massachusetts Bay,” Diodati said.

Researchers are also recording the grunting sounds that male cod make to defend their territories and to attract females. Underwater microphones, deployed by NOAA scientists from the Northeast Fisheries Science Center, will record fish vocalizations, which can be used to characterize the timing of the winter spawning period, as well as the relative abundance when compared to past data. Federal researchers from the Northeast Fisheries Science Center and the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary use this same equipment to monitor whales.

“Passive acoustics – or listening for cod sounds ­– is an ideal way to monitor the seasonal presence and persistence of cod spawning aggregations over long time periods,” explained Sophie Van Parjis, of the Passive Acoustic Research Group at NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center in Woods Hole, MA.

“Passive acoustic recorders can listen continuously for up to six months, regardless of weather conditions. We are currently looking at historical data for this area (2004-2014), to look at how the presence of cod has changed over time. In addition, our passive acoustic recordings will help define the start and end of the spawning season, so we can more accurately define the time period needed to protect these aggregations,” Van Parjis said.

Atlantic cod is central to Massachusetts history – fishing helped build the state’s economy and remains an important industry. However, the cod population has seen steep declines in the last 20 years and despite drastic measures to reduce fishing pressure, remains at historic lows. This year, local fishermen faced a devastating 78 percent cut in the Gulf of Maine cod annual catch limit, which has severely impacted fishermen across the Bay State.

Ultimately, the fishermen and scientists will bring the spawning data to the New England Fisheries Management Council to inform future management decisions designed to care for this valuable cod population.

“This groundbreaking, collaborative effort between commercial fishermen, Massachusetts’ scientists, and the environmental advocacy community is a perfect example of a forward-thinking partnership that is needed to bring critical answers to the groundfish industry,” said Congressman Bill Keating, who represents the South Shore, South Coast, and Cape and Islands.

“With this project, we will truly come to understand and better predict the natural habits of cod and advance our industry by better protecting spawning populations and further restoring this vital stock. I applaud The Nature Conservancy and its partners for this initiative.”

Video assets, including b-roll and brief field interviews are available at: https://vimeo.com/naturenewengland

High-resolution photos are available for download upon request, and a sampling of photos can be viewed at:http://www.nature.org/ourinitiatives/regions/northamerica/unitedstates/massachusetts/explore/ma-cod-tagging-slideshow.xml

Partners in this project include: South Shore commercial fishermen, The Nature Conservancy in MassachusettsMassachusetts Division of Marine FisheriesUniversity of Massachusetts Dartmouth School for Marine Science and Technology, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center, and the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary.

 

Cold enough for ya? It is for your dog!

Tuesday, December 31st, 2013

By Alisa Mullins

I like to joke that my rescued greyhound, Jasper, is like a canine Barbie doll. He has an outfit for every occasion: two fleece jackets, a lightweight winter coat, a heavyweight winter coat, a raincoat and even pajamas. I sometimes get ribbed by friends about Jasper’s extensive wardrobe, but greyhounds, like other short-coated dogs, are extremely sensitive to the cold.

Unfortunately, not all animals are as well-outfitted to withstand winter weather as Jasper is. PETA’s Community Animal Project fieldworkers encounter animals all winter long who are suffering outdoors. Dogs are often tied up outside 24 hours a day, sometimes with nothing more than a card table, a plastic carrier or an overturned trashcan for shelter. Some dogs have no shelter whatsoever, even in freezing temperatures and blinding snowstorms.

One example of the latter is Noel, a starving pit bull mix who was found by PETA fieldworkers tethered to the trunk of a holly bush and shivering violently in the December cold. Noel had no shelter, no water and no food unless you count the few pieces of kibble scattered on the ground, out of her reach. PETA rushed her to a vet, who estimated that she was roughly half her healthy weight.

Sadly, Noel’s case is not unique. In December, PETA assisted with the rescue of a dog in Nebraska who had been left outside during a snowstorm and had icicles dripping from his face.

That same month, two dogs froze to death after being dumped outside the Terre Haute, Ind., animal shelter after hours during a cold snap.

A stray cat named Trooper was found frozen to a driveway in Newfoundland after apparently being hit by a car and breaking his hip. His body temperature was so low that it didn’t register on a thermometer. His tail and one leg had to be amputated because of frostbite.

A kitten dubbed Rocky Balboa by Sioux City, Iowa, shelter staff because of his fighting spirit was found near death, frozen to a garbage can.

Two dead pit bulls were found frozen to the ground—one in Memphis, Tenn., and the other in Philadelphia, Pa.—after neighbors called police. ”It makes me want to cry. I hate animal cruelty. … [I]t hurts my heart,” said one neighbor.

Dogs may have fur coats, but they are not immune to the cold any more than a person wearing a coat would be if he or she were to sit outside on the frozen ground all day. Many dogs, including short-haired breeds such as pointers and pit bulls, young or elderly dogs and small dogs such as Chihuahuas, dachshunds and beagles, are even less able to handle the cold than humans are. As Indianapolis animal control staffer Dawn Contos says, if it’s too cold for a human to be comfortable outside, even with a coat on, ”It’s probably too cold for your dog to be outside.”

Stray, feral and “outside” cats are also at risk. One stray cat in Boston was found suffering from frostbite so severe that one of her ears fell off while she was being transported to the animal shelter.

Neglected and abandoned animals need our help in order to survive. Stray and feral cats should be captured and taken indoors. If a dog is being denied adequate food, water or shelter, please alert authorities right away.

In Noel’s case, a call from a concerned neighbor saved her life, and her abusive owner was charged and banned from ever owning animals again. Today, Noel is thriving in her new home. She may not have quite as many coats as Jasper has, but she never has to worry about being left out in the cold again.

 

Ring in 2014 with a promise to help someone in Worcester!

Monday, December 30th, 2013

By Laurie Tigan, Literacy Volunteers of Central Mass executive director

Happy New Year, it’s time again to make a resolution. If you are sitting on the fence, or on a couch or in a place of ennui Volunteering might just get you kick started for a wonderful new year. There are so many causes to think about, homelessness, hunger, domestic violence, animal cruelty, the environment, youth and social justice. What are you waiting for?

One of the greatest aspects of volunteerism is that there are so many different ways to get involved. And it’s not just Baby Boomers who are doing it, although they make up the largest percentage of volunteers. Coming from Worcester’s high schools and colleges thousands of students are doing community service. Some of the activities like cleaning up neighborhoods, planting community gardens and shoveling snow for homebound elderly prove that Worcester is a city with a heart. To get a gist of just how many opportunities there are to get involved in check out the volunteering options on Craigslist, The United Way or RSVP websites. It is surprising.

Volunteers feel good. Despite the fact that not only do they not get paid but it often costs them to participate in their nonprofit work. Volunteers pay for gas, parking, and food on the job. They often contribute monetarily to their organization as well. But it is rare to find a grumpy volunteer. Doing something that makes a difference is what compels most people to get involved. Putting boots on the ground rather than sitting on the sidelines is something that motivates overprivileged folks to give that extra effort to help others who might be underprivileged. Click to continue »