Local Projects

Lower Rahway River, New Jersey
Diamondback Terrapin Study, NJ
Lakehurst Naval Base, NJ
Avidiversity Studies in NJ
Biodiversity Studies in Suburban and Urban Habitats
                           A. The State of Biodiversity in the Rahway River Watershed
                           B. Moderate Number of Species Recorded in Metropolitan Area but Extinctions are Increasing
                           C. Non-point Pollution and Plastic Litter is a Problem in Developed Areas
                           D. Extinction Starts Locally

Lower Rahway River, New Jersey

The lower Rahway River is the longest, unbridged river mouth ecosystem in the northern half of New Jersey. This riparian corridor is pivotal to hundreds of thousands of resident and migrating insects, fish and birds twice a year, and therefore has regional importance. Tidal marsh areas are ecologically and economically important since the bioavailability of nutrients is 300% higher than terrestrial biomes.

Common to rare resident species are clinging to existence in this area, but the short-sighted continue to propose and implement disruptive roads, fill projects or development.

In 2011, NBP with its close partner Rahway River Watershed Association (RRWA), applied for and received seed monies to purchase some lands along the lower river mouth. NBP needs interested citizens to assist us in these important efforts. Please contact us below if you may be able to help.

Although this valuable open space is integral to all local and regional greenway plans that espouse healthy, sustainable, recreational development, it is not well understood or appreciated as a unique, sustainable economic and recreational asset by various politicians and governmental entities. Naturally we need to do a better job of getting the message out.

IMG_2629 copy2
The NY/NJ Harbor Estuary Program (HEP) lists the lower river as a restoration and acquisition priority. HEP is one of 28 National Estuary Programs established under Section 320 of the Clean Water Act. The goal of the program is to establish, restore and protect a healthy and productive harbor ecosystem with full beneficial uses. The following article titled Tidal Wetlands at the Mouth of the Rahway River written by NBP and RRWA directors explains the importance of the Lower Rahway River area further: Tidal Wetlands article:.


In 2013 NBP’s zoologist published the following article at the Journal, River of Biodiversity, which details the threats to the species on the lower Rahway River and the regulatory categories (Threatened, Endangered, etc.) of these species.


Also look at the various other articles about the terrapins and other animals of the lower Rahway River in the Journal, River of Biodiversity:


Please call or contact NBP if you would like to assist us on this project.

Contact Us

If you would like, please submit your observations, sightings and pictures directly to us to assist in the preservation of the Lower Rahway River. Here are some actual sightings and an acceptable format:
10/2/10 Lower Rahway River, along the east edge of the new Carteret Warehouse complex and on the river, 430-730 PM. Observer: NBP Zoologist

IMG_3957 copy - PHOTOSHOPCopy
  • American Egret 2
  • Great Blue Heron 2
  • Snowy Egret 15
  • Black-crowned Night-Heron 1
  • Green-winged Teal 16
  • Peregrine Falcon 1
  • Merlin 2 (hunting over Carteret bend/loop, Cytec)
  • Osprey 1 (perched in Carteret bend/loop, Cytec)
  • Northern Harrier (1 hunting over Carteret bend/loop, Cytec, 1 in Linden)
  • Semipalmated Sandpiper 3
  • Least Sandpipers 9
  • Killdeer 3
  • Lesser Yellowlegs 1
  • Greater Yellowlegs 7
  • Northern Flicker
  • Belted Kingfisher 1
  • Winter Wren 1
  • Carolina Wren 2
  • Savannah Sparrow 3
  • Lincoln’s Sparrow 1
  • Palm Warbler 4
website IMG_1762 copy

Diamondback Terrapin Study,  NJ

Diamondback Terrapins are clinging to existence on the lower Rahway River in NJ. Please see below for exciting ways you can help the terrapins.
The Rahway River is the longest unbridged, river mouth ecosystem in the northern half of NJ. Several years ago our scientists observed the ornately patterned terrapins in the river’s marshes. The turtles are wary which may be related to past, intense hunting pressure for the food markets. The word terrapin is an alteration of torope, from the Virginia Algonquian language and the terrapin was a sought after delicacy by various peoples.

From 2008 to 2015 we have organized surveys that concurrently visit all the feeder creeks and the main channel of the lower river to assess the ecology, population and spatial distribution of the turtles. Data collected indicates that although food is plentiful and water quality has improved over the last decades there are few hatch year or juvenile turtles in the area. Only a few, large, aging females and several males have been observed.

Copy of rahway river terra copy

Here is a link to one story on our terrapin studies; look for other articles at the Journal, River of Biodiversity:

Because of the intense development, including warehouses, railroads, highways and fill events that continue to encroach on the river and its supporting marshes and uplands, the nesting areas have been reduced. The terrapins’ reproductive ability to sustain the population has been permanently damaged and a species that has been here for tens of thousands of years is threatened on the river.

We believe one or more nesting areas may need to be created on the river. We shall continue to collect data as we strive towards a proposed solution to prevent the local extinction of this intriguing animal.
We are looking for schools, colleges, municipalities, companies, individuals and donators to assist in this project by contacting us for one of the following project needs:
Science-citizen surveyors to visit the river in small water craft.
Gabrielle exploring a creek near the Weldon Plant.
College or high school teachers/class to organize a team to study the terrapins.

Donations of boat or money to assist the study and implement the solutions.

Be ready to send support letters for actions as needed.

Please contact us if you would like to assist us and learn more.

Contact Us

IMG_2436 copy
IMG_2714 copy 2
P1010501 copy rriver 10 10 15 2

Lakehurst Naval Base, NJ
Some areas of the Naval Air Engineering Station Lakehurst (NJ) are managed via tree suppression to meet its main mission. This allows the early successional grassland habitat to artificially remain in stasis year after year. These grasslands may be similar to the ephemeral habitat type that existed in a mosaic pattern in pre-settlement times throughout the New Jersey Pine Barrens and elsewhere due to periodic fires. Natural fires are now largely suppressed in the Barrens and elsewhere; the Lakehurst grassland community is now a remnant of this endangered habitat.

In a small section of the 42,000 acre Joint Base the insect, herptile and avian grassland community is exceptional. NBP, as a Department of Defense approved biological contractor performed extensive formal surveying of breeding birds while leading various biodiversity-centric field trips for the public. Check our field trip section to get on our trip waiting list or see if we have a trip scheduled.

arenal, rahwat river, arthur killt, lakehurst, terrapins 235
arenal, rahwat river, arthur killt, lakehurst, terrapins 237
Birds found here, in state and regionally significant numbers, include Grasshopper Sparrows, Eastern Meadowlarks and Upland Sandpipers. No grassland complex in NJ has higher numbers of these species. Additional grassland species include Horned Lark, American Kestrel and occasionally Henslow’s Sparrow. Common Nighthawk, Whip-poor-will, Eastern Bluebird, various swallows, Brown Thrasher, Prairie Warbler, Pine Warbler, Eastern Towhee and many other species reach high densities while American Bittern, Bald Eagle, Blue Grosbeak and Northern Waterthrush are found in low numbers. Rare birds sighted by our surveyors include Mississippi Kite, Olive-sided Flycatchers and Summer Tanager.
The Upland Sandpiper may be making its last stand in New Jersey and possibly the Mid-Atlantic states at Lakehurst; we are quite concerned with this small but stable population. Please contact us if you would like to be placed on our call-back lists for formal surveys, studies or field trips. Please contact us to assist us in our studies.

Contact Us

arenal, rahwat river, arthur killt, lakehurst, terrapins 253


IMG_1780 copy
pileated image003 copy
Plunsted Bldings GSNWR 09 copy

Avidiversity Studies in NJ

Studying the most diverse taxon of vertebrates in the Eastern US, birds, provides broad ecological data and often insight into which niches and habitats are being degraded or lost. NBP, stakeholders, scientists and our volunteers have carefully reviewed contemporary location data for high avidiversity and exact species present, and converted this into action by proposing specific areas for preservation efforts.

_MG_3010 copy
Field data has directly confirmed which birds have suffered local extirpations or have declined to critically low population numbers. NBP is dedicated to assisting species that are locally rare and on the verge of extirpation. Many of these animals receive minimal conservation attention since they are not on any federal or state endangered species lists. The last individuals of their species need local citizens to get involved or they will disappear forever from our immediate areas, towns and counties. Local extirpations can lead to state-wide rarity or even state extinction.
We have developed a short list of small, pragmatic projects that can directly help the last individuals of select species in danger of extirpation. Please contact us if you would like to assist us in these important projects. Assistance may include field surveying (birding!), nest box erection, research, management and/or advocacy. Here is an abbreviated list of areas and local bird species that need field help from citizens or students:

Ramapo Mountains, Bergen and Passaic County, NJ

Lower Rahway River, Union and Middlesex County, NJ

Ash Brook Reservation, Union and Middlesex County, NJ

Watchung Reservation, Union County, NJ

Naval Weapons Station Earle, Monmouth County, NJ

Assunpink WMA, Monmouth County, NJ

Plumsted Township, Ocean County, NJ

Unpreserved areas containing high avidiversity, anywhere in NJ

Heron spp., Union, Bergen and Hudson County, NJ

Black Skimmer, Union County, NJ

Willet, Union and Middlesex County, NJ

Upland Sandpiper, Ocean and Sussex County, NJ

Ducks, Bergen County, NJ

Pileated Woodpecker, all of NJ

Northern Harrier, Union County, NJ and Staten Island, NY

Barred Owl, Bergen and Ocean County

Barn Owl, Bergen, Hudson, Union and Middlesex County, NJ

Hermit Thrush, Sussex, Passaic, Bergen and Monmouth County, NJ

Marsh Wren, Union, Hudson and Bergen County, NJ

Warblers, Bergen, Monmouth, Union and Sussex County, NJ

Willow Flycatcher, Union County, NJ

Grasshopper Sparrow, Union and Monmouth County, NJ

Seaside Sparrow, Union County, NJ

Please call or contact us if you would like to assist on some of these projects or suggest a project.

Contact us

pied bill IMG_6392 copy
plover image002

_MG_3418 copy

Biodiversity Studies in Suburban and Urban Habitats

Union, Bergen, and Hudson Counties in NJ and other metropolitan areas are heavily developed and populated. By studying and observing altered habitats and impacts on flora and fauna, we can develop corollaries to what spreading urbanization will do and recommend preemptive actions. The areas’ open spaces are inundated with invasive plant species and a significant portion of our plant, invertebrate and vertebrate animal diversity has been lost.
This reduces the quality of life for citizens and lessens the number of children that develop science skills since they have diminished and fewer experiences with nature. Research has shown that outdoor recreation helps children manage stress and increase coping ability. Natural areas stimulate children’s imaginations and foster creativity. Damaged natural communities are detrimental to human ecology and indirectly to local economies as we have less home grown scientists to supply the technical work force which helps drive innovation and economic productivity.

Separately migratory animals, especially birds, must pass through or over developed areas twice a year. Poor quality habitat that is not managed to decrease degradation increases mortality rates of migratory animals; this contributes to local, national and international extinction pressures. Natural resource damage such as erosion, habitat destruction and pollution negatively impacts our food chain in several ways.

Regardless, suburban and urban habitats show some resilience and recuperative abilities; they can retain recreational, educational, ecological and economic value if action is taken. Please read about our various projects below and at this site and contact us if you would like to join NBP in addressing some pragmatic needs. NBP has completed or designed the following projects/studies plus more not listed:

Attached Message Part copy
A) The State of Biodiversity in the Rahway River Watershed
We reviewed the results of several Union County, NJ Bioblitzes and documented the reduction of insect and bird biodiversity potentially caused by the destruction of forest understory due to white-tailed deer over population, habitat fragmentation and invasive plants.

The results were summarized in a presentation for the State of Biodiversity in the Rahway River Watershed conference.

This presentation or a custom version may be able to fulfill the program or presentation needs of your conference, group, class or meeting.
In 2011, NBP with its close partner Rahway River Watershed Association (RRWA), applied for and received seed monies to purchase some lands along the lower Rahway River mouth. NBP needs interested citizens to assist us in these important land preservation efforts. Please contact us if you may be able to help.

_MG_1408 copy
B) Moderate Number of Species
Recorded in Metropolitan Area but Extinctions are Increasing – In the last decade we examined the avidiversity of Union County, NJ with the Rahway River Watershed Association (RRWA). We carefully surveyed open spaces, parks, rivers and the Arthur Kill by foot, boat and canoe and located some of the key breeding bird and migratory stopover areas in the county. Collectively these areas have ecotourism potential and prove that urban areas are important regional, refueling areas for Neotropical migrants. Increasing open space acreage and quality of habitat is difficult but needed to preserve local biodiversity and insure that migrants can survive their passage through our area. Keeping local habitats intact and healthy is important in staving off local, regional and nation-wide extinctions.
Several species of declining, rare birds that may still be breeding in this area were located such as American Bittern, Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, Black-crowned Night-Heron, egret spp., Black Skimmer, Least Tern, Clapper Rail, Virginia Rail, Spotted Sandpiper, Killdeer, Willet, Osprey, Copper’s Hawk, Northern Harrier, Pileated Woodpecker, Barred Owl, Barn Owl, Marsh Wren, Willow Flycatcher, Louisiana Waterthrush, Worm-eating Warbler, Hooded Warbler, Seaside Sparrow and more.

_MG_2677 copy
The area’s importance as a conservation and recreational asset was emphasized when three scientists from NBP, RRWA and the USFWS established the all-time Union County record for most birds recorded in a single day, 137 species. The team ran, hiked, drove and boated throughout the county for 24 hours in May, 2010 taking top honors in the NJ Audubon’s World Series of Birding.
IMG_5461 copy
Here is more information on that effort.
Please contact us if you would like to assist us in our studies.

Contact us

C) Non-point Pollution and Plastic Litter
is a Problem in Developed Areas – Plastics concentrate in our wetlands, rivers, lakes and beaches; this litter draws the attention of many foraging animals decreasing their feeding efficiency; often it is ingested leading to sickness and sometimes death.

The problem has multiple causes such as the lack of a “bottle bill” in NJ, coupled with minimal enforcement of litter laws and ignorant litterers.

NBP does not believe that these yearly, organized cleanups that are common can even partially solve the problem. Treating the symptom, litter everywhere, is not the answer. Incentivizing and monetizing a solution when the plastic is still in someone’s hand via a “bottle bill” along with enforcement would reduce the litter.

Citizens have a finite amount of time they can volunteer to good causes. Using this valuable goodwill for yearly cleanups leaves other important initiatives understaffed. It would be more efficient to have these precious hours used towards a real solution rather than as a crew of lifetime, unpaid garbage collectors. The volunteers should be used to demand and lobby for a cleanup bill. After its passage our citizens’ goodwill can be utilized for more valuable initiatives like habitat restoration, invasive control, nest box erection, citizen science, etc.

An example of the failure of cleanups occurred in 2010. There was a tremendous concentrating of litter on one side of the Lower Rahway River after a Northeaster. NBP, RRWA, Kinder-Morgan Inc. and PA Associates applied significant manpower and materials to remove several dumpsters of recyclable litter.
If you are interested in assisting NBP in addressing non-point pollution, litter or a bottle bill in NJ please contact us.

Contact us

D. Extinction Starts Locally
Local extinctions, called extirpations, if not addressed can eventually lead to county, state or even complete, range-wide extinctions. NBP has studied fauna in several NJ counties and we are preparing Extinct and Endangered species lists for various areas. We feel these lists will bring some attention to the neglect of our open space and natural heritage. It may also serve to educate elected officials and government departments that these resources are valuable and once lost they cannot be easily restored.

Extinctions hurt suburban and urban areas by lowering our children’s exposure to the natural sciences, damaging our quality of life and lessening the interest and recreational value of these areas.
If you would like to assist NBP in addressing these issues or like assistance in developing and instituting plans to study your local natural assets please contact us.

A compilation of endangered and extinct species of NJ areas based on NBP fieldwork was begun in a presentation for the State of Biodiversity in the Rahway River Watershed conference.
This presentation on biodiversity and extinction or a custom version, may be able to fulfill the program or presentation needs of your conference, group, class or meeting.
See our presentation section or contact us if you would like to assist us in various ways.
Contact us

a black-crowned night heron IMG_5844 copy
a pied-billed grebe IMG_7070 copy