Fishers Island School Oceanography students use fluorometer donated by FIConservancy. Carol Giles Photo

FIConservancy has provided a grant to Fishers Island School to purchase a fluorometer, already in use by Oceanography students.

The meter will enable these students to measure phytoplankton population density. Quantifying seasonal changes in density will spark student discussion of how environmental factors such as temperature, fertilizer runoff and light intensity affect growth. This, in turn, will engage student learning and awaken their concern for the environment, said science teacher Carol Giles in a letter to FIConservancy.

“FIConservancy has supported the Fishers Island science program for many years,” Mrs. Giles said in her letter. “Your past purchase of binoculars has allowed our Oceanography class to enumerate the FI seal population and graph its variance throughout the year. The carbon dioxide and oxygen probes are again being utilized to further explore fauna carbon sequestering.”

The fluorometer grant comes from FIConservancy’s 25th Anniversary Grant Fund founded in celebration of 25 years of preserving and protecting our Island’s environment.

John Thatcher Native Garden (formerly Demonstration Garden) is a busy third stop during the Fall Migratory Bird Count.

Mark your calendars for the 2020 Fall Migratory Bird Count Saturday Sept. 19, 8 a.m.-10:30 a.m. Meet at the Island Community Center. Bring binoculars. Masks required.

Following Audubon bird count rules, birders will make 15 five-minute stops from West End to East End. At each timed stop, birders count birds and call out what they see.

The fall 2019 bird count began under overcast skies, with thick clouds and fog, but the weather this Saturday is predicted to be sunny, in the 60s!




Green stink bug (Chinavia hilaris), is a native species that feeds on a wide variety of fruits, vegetables and ornamental plants. Unfortunately, they like to spend the winter indoors. Dianne Crary Photo

Stink bugs are making their annual appearance on Fishers Island. They like to overwinter in houses as the weather cools and have an uncanny ability to slip into homes through torn screens and door cracks thanks to their flat body shape.

They are a threat to agriculture, not to humans. But they are a nuisance. Known to sometimes invade homes in massive numbers, they emit a stink (likened to rotting meat) when threatened or squashed. Stink bugs, however, do not sting, spread disease or damage structures.

The best defense against stink bugs is weather stripping, caulking and tape, and making your home a fortress. Seal up gaps and crevices around foundations and any area where doors, windows, chimneys and utility pipes are cut into the exterior. Any opening large enough for a stink bug to crawl through should be sealed.

The best thing to do if you find them inside is gently sweep them into a bucket, then fill it with a couple of inches of soapy water. You could vacuum them, but only as a last resort, because it will trigger the stink bug’s noxious odor and make your vacuum cleaner smell nasty.

The pests gravitate towards light and often gather on sunny exterior walls, particularly near gardens and ornamental plants. They frequently die in light fixtures, filling rooms with a bad smell. They also fly inside, and can crawl on walls and ceilings in large numbers.

Stink bugs are found in New York and 45 other states.

Monarch butterfly at Parade Grounds. Laurie Marshall Photo

Monarch butterflies are a sign of a healthy natural environment and have been seen in increasing numbers on the Parade Grounds and in backyards. They were featured on the cover of the 2020-2021 Fishers Island Telephone Directory, which marked the 35th anniversary of the founding of FIConservancy.

Red oak sapling. Dianne Crary Photo

This tree sapling shows how plants modify their leaves to draw as much sunlight as possible for photosynthesis. Overshadowed by other plants, one leaf of this tree sapling was able to reach sunlight. It is about two inches longer and much wider than any of the other leaves.

What plants do to survive!

2020 Island Sentinels (l-r): Caroline Toldo, Nicolas Hall, Izzie Reid, Wilson Thors, Gardner Thors, Betsy Conger and Alexa Rosenberg. (Marc Rosenberg missing from picture.) Stephanie Hall Photo

FIConservancy’s Island Sentinels program, established in 2014, provides environmentally passionate students from both Fishers Island School and the seasonal community the opportunity to observe and monitor flora, fauna, insects, marine life and birds across the Island. This experience, combined with discussion and guidance, is creating future stewards of our environment.

Betsy Conger, 18, lives in Stonington, Conn. She will be a freshman at Sewanee: The University of the South this fall and plans to major in Biology. She is an alumna of Fishers Island School, where she attended 6th-12th grade, commuting daily via ferry.

Betsy’s interest in environmental studies started in science classes, where teachers utilized the Island as a living laboratory. She was intrigued by the Island’s ecology and became an Island Sentinel to learn more about the environmental work taking place here. Betsy volunteered as a Sentinel in 2016 and 2017, before officially working as a Sentinel in 2018, helping to monitor ecological sites across the Island.

In the summer of 2018 and 2019, Betsy participated in the Sewanee Environmental Institute (SEI), where she learned about ecosystems, plant and animal species, archeological techniques, GPS and GIS technology and conservation strategies that she shared when she returned to the Island. She also learned the importance of caring for the environment, not just on Fishers Island, but globally, because all ecosystems are interconnected.

Betsy’s environmental stewardship extends beyond FIConservancy. As chair of the environmental committee for the East Lyme Leo Club chapter, an internationally recognized youth volunteer organization, she designed and organized the distribution of reusable grocery totes. Over 400 bags were distributed to shoreline residents. 

Nicolas Hall, 18, has lived on Fishers Island his whole life and is a sophomore at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where he is majoring in Oceanography. This is his third year as an Island Sentinel, including one winter of volunteering. Nick has a passion for the ocean whether sailing, fishing, spearfishing or simply going to the beach. He loves to monitor sites and immerse himself in Fishers flora and fauna. In addition to monitoring, Nick volunteers for the Fishers Island Seagrass Management Coalition helping them protect Fishers Island’s beautiful eelgrass meadows. Nick looks forward to furthering his knowledge and understanding of wildlife on and around the Island.


Isabelle “Izzie” Reid is a rising junior at Elon University majoring in Strategic Communications with a minor in Human Services. She is new to the Island Sentinels team this summer, but Fishers has been a part of her life for over 20 years. Isabelle went to Tabor Academy, where she studied Environmental Science, Oceanography, Fish & Fisheries. Her years by the sea instilled an appreciation for marine wildlife. Over the past couple months, Isabelle has enjoyed discovering more of our Island wildlife through the Island Sentinels and Seagrass Management Coalition programs and looks forward to exploring more of the Island!

Alexa Rosenberg, 15, is a sophomore at Hunter College High School in New York City. She started as an Island Sentinel in the summer of 2019 and is very grateful for all the wonderful experiences she has had with the team. She has been coming to Fishers Island for as long as she can remember and has enjoyed learning about the fascinating Island wildlife. Alexa appreciates that the program has helped her to take a more active role in the protection and preservation of the Island.


Marc Rosenberg, 16, lives in New York City and is a junior at Bronx High School of Science. 2018 was his “volunteer” year and first summer as an Island Sentinel. He joined the Sentinel program because he was interested in sea life and wildlife on Fishers Island.

Marc’s interest in sea life was sparked when he vacationed in Greece and observed a multitude of fish through his goggles. After that experience, Marc became increasingly curious about wildlife on and around Fishers Island. His trip to Costa Rica helped him experience more underwater life and renewed his passion for marine biology. This summer, Marc hopes to continue monitoring as well as working on monitoring water quality for the Fishers Island Seagrass Coalition.

Marc enjoys spending time under water and made a video of seagrass off the coast of Fishers Island. See Marc’s video.

Gardner Thors, 18, lives in New York City and is a freshman at Colgate University in Hamilton, New York. This is his seventh summer as an Island Sentinel, after volunteering for one summer. Throughout his childhood, growing up in the urban environment of Manhattan, Fishers Island has been his natural sanctuary. Gardner has been summering here for as long as he can remember, and Fishers holds a special place in his heart. That is why he chose to play a part in the preservation of this environment. With eight years of environmental preservation experience on the Island and schooling in ecology, conservation biology and other areas of environmental studies, Gardner looks forward to sharing his experiences and what he has learned with the Island community, as well as to continue to gather crucial data about the ever-changing ecology of Fishers Island. His brother, Wilson, is also a passionate Sentinel.

Wilson Thors lives in New York City and is a rising Junior at Groton School in Massachusetts. 2017 was his first summer as a Sentinel, although he volunteered to monitor for FIConservancy the year before. Initially, he joined the Island Sentinel program because he was curious about his brother’s experiences as a Sentinel and wanted to take an active role in supporting the environmental community of Fishers Island.

Through his two years as a Sentinel, Wilson has not only learned more about the ecological trajectory of Fishers Island, especially concerning the eelgrass meadows, but also how to direct it forward. Wilson has always appreciated the natural beauty of Fishers Island, but now he has a deeper love of the Island since learning more about the wildlife and learning that we share such a great Island with it.

Caroline Toldo is a third-year student at Loyola University Chicago, double majoring in Environmental Studies and Environmental Policy with a minor in Environmental Activism and Leadership. She lived on Fishers Island from the age of 12 and graduated from Fishers Island School in 2018. Caroline is looking to further educate herself on the humanitarian side of the ecological crisis, aiming to learn how to spread awareness. She is interested in furthering her education by getting a masters degree in Oceanographic Studies.


Tobacco hornworm caterpillar coated with parasitic wasp cocoons. Jane Crary Photo

Masters of camouflage, the tobacco hornworm caterpillar is a garden pest that can overnight devour entire leaves of their favored plants, including tomatoes, eggplant, peppers and tobacco.

The clusters of white silky pods covering the caterpillar are cocoons of tiny parasitic wasps. (Not the kind that bite.) The female wasp lays her eggs under the skin of the tobacco hornworm. As the eggs hatch, the larvae feed on the hornworm’s insides, eating their way out and spinning the cocoons.

When adult wasps emerge from the cocoons, the caterpillar dies. The above caterpillar will likely die in a week, according to entomologist Adam Mitchell, Ph.D.

“The parasitic moth is fairly common with these caterpillars, which used to feed exclusively on nightshade or tobacco, and the toxins in those plants helped the caterpillars reduce the likelihood of parasitism,” Dr. Mitchell said. “However, we’ve done a good job at removing plant defenses in tomatoes so we can improve fruit yield, and this has led to the caterpillars having no real defense against the wasps when they lay their eggs.”

Entomologists recommend leaving the cocooned caterpillar alone, because parasitic wasps control other garden pests including beetles, aphids, squash bugs, stink bugs and tent caterpillars.

The tobacco hornworm is also a “model organism” commonly used in neurobiology in a variety of biomedical and biological experiments, due to its easily accessible nervous system and short life cycle.

In lieu of our popular event, “Sunset on the Beach”, FIConservancy is asking the Island community to consider supporting the four initiatives listed below. Canceling “Sunset” has caused a shortfall in revenue raised for these projects.

Your generosity in supporting any one of them
is greatly appreciated.
NEW LAND RESTORATION: There are land parcels on both the west end and east end of the Island that have been earmarked for restoration. In order to promote native plant growth, the parcels require clearing and removal of invasive plants.
NATIVE TREE INSTALLATION: Native trees attract native insects that are a critical food source for birds. Planting trees in west end locations will help increase and strengthen the native bird population on Fishers Island.
ISLAND SENTINELS PROGRAM: This program provides environmentally passionate students from both FI School and the seasonal community the opportunity to observe and monitor flora, fauna, insects, marine life and birds across the Island. This experience, combined with discussion and guidance, is creating future stewards of our environment.
TRACTOR: A new or used midsize 20hp-30hp tractor, ideally with a front end loader, a mower deck and a brush hog, will greatly enhance our ability to clear land restoration areas.


Sent as eBlast July 30, 2020

Plastic bag hangs off Osprey nest on North Hill Road. Jim Reid Photo

This osprey nest on North Hill Road is emblematic of the threat posed by the ubiquitous use of plastic. FIConservancy Board Member Marina Caillaud noticed the plastic bag plus “quite a bit of plastic” in the nest and balloon strings hanging from the nest.

Ben Wurst, of the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey, noticed plastic in nests when he began working with ospreys in 2004. After years of work clearing plastic from osprey nests, he is seeing more plastic in nests than ever.

A recent Audubon web article reported that about 8.3 billion metric tons of virgin plastic has been produced since the 1950s, mostly to manufacture consumer products. Of that, 6.3 billion metric tons went unrecycled, with most of it ending up in landfills and the environment.