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The Hudson and the Huangpu Rivers: New York and Shanghai Waterways Bring Diverse Students Together

Science Exchange Students Compare Pollution Levels of Their Respective Megacities’ Historic Rivers

Jennifer Wai-Lan Huang
NEW YORK, N.Y.—Perhaps no city rivals New York, but lately Shanghai is making its bid. As the booming Chinese financial center races to emulate its Western counterpart, these two culturally disparate cities share increasing similarities. Now, thanks to an innovative grant to the Bard High School Early College (BHSEC), students from BHSEC and Shanghai’s pre- mier high schools, Affiliated High School of Fudan University and No. 2 High School of East Normal University, are examining their respective megacities through collaborative comparative environmental studies of New York’s Hudson River and Shanghai’s Huangpu River.

Almost 400 years ago, the mighty Hudson River led to the founding of modern-day Manhattan and remains a thriving American waterway. The Huangpu River holds a parallel role in Shanghai’s more than 1000-year-old history, today making Shanghai China’s busiest port. Yet over the decades, human and industrial waste has severely polluted the waters of both great rivers. This year, BHSEC won a Linking Individuals, Knowledge, and Culture (LINC) Youth Leadership Program grant from the U.S. State Department Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs to conduct a foreign reciprocal exchange program. This $95,000 federal grant, one of only five awarded for 2006–07, brings twelve high school sci- ence students from New York and Shanghai together to study the comparative heavy metal and biological pollutants found in the Hudson and Huangpu Rivers.

“The LINC program with Shanghai is exciting and important to Bard High School Early College for several reasons. It provides crucial support for our school’s growing Chinese lan- guage program while at the same time linking our science students’ ecological research here on the Hudson with parallel research being conducted by our academic partners in Shanghai. It also allows public school students from both cities to travel outside their home countries for the first time and to make last- ing friendships,” says Raymond Peterson, principal of BHSEC.

Even before meeting, the Chinese and New York students have been e-mailing and blogging each other— exchanging research protocol and examining data from their native rivers. BHSEC went through a competitive selection process, choosing students who had strong Chinese language skills, an aptitude for science, and had- n’t previously had the opportunity to travel abroad. The participating BHSEC students were divided into three working groups, each looking at one part of the Hudson’s ecological puzzle: soil and sediment analysis, water analysis, and biological diversity. They coordinated their research with matching student teams in Shanghai. Students broke their rivers into manageable sections—coring down for soil samples, analyzing water composi- tion, and studying biodiversity. The Hudson was studied in four regions from Albany to Kingston, Kingston to Poughkeepsie, Poughkeepsie to north Manhattan, and New York Harbor.

From January 24 to February 14, 2007, six Chinese students and two teachers, together with Fulbright scholar Dr. Xiangrong Wang, director of the Department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering at Fudan University and one of China’s leading experts in river pollution and restoration, are in New York City to con- duct scientific research on the Hudson River while experiencing cultural life in Manhattan with their BHSEC host families. The Chinese and American scholars will present their shared comparative conclusions on pollu- tion levels in the Hudson and Huangpu on Friday, February 9, 2007, 5:30 pm, at the New York Academy of Science. In March, BHSEC students and two teachers will travel to Shanghai, hosted by the same Chinese del- egation, to explore river remediation work.
Through this exchange program, students of disparate origins are given the opportunity to conduct serious sci- entific research on New York’s and Shanghai’s two most important watersheds while finding genuine com- monality with their peers across the globe.

Highlights of the program include:
Friday, February 9
5:30 pm to 8:00 pm at New York Academy of Science, 7 World Trade Center, 40th floor
A Multicultural Perspective on the Watersheds of New York City and Shanghai:
Students and Researchers from China and the U.S. Analyze the Current State of the Hudson and Huangpu Rivers: “Toxic Metals in the New York Bight” by Mossbah Kolkas, Ph.D.; “Ecological Restoration and Management Strategies for River Ecosystems: A Comparison Study of the Huangpu and Hudson Rivers” by Xiangrong Wang, Ph.D.; talk by Marta Panero, Ph.D. (director of Harbor Project, New York Academy of Science); Student Poster Session on Current State of Hudson and Huangpu Waterways

Monday, February 5
2:00 pm—Meeting with NY/NJ Baykeepers
4:00 pm—Michelle Comi of NY/NJ Baykeepers will give a talk at BHSEC

Tuesday, February 6
9:00 am—Presentation at local elementary school P.S. 41, which is also studying the Hudson River 1:00 pm—Visit to Columbia University’s Center for Environmental Research and Conservation (CERC) and meeting with CERC’s Nancy James

Monday, February 12
Panel discussion at BHSEC comparing Chinese and U.S. science education
For more information, please contact Martha J. Olson at (212) 995-8479 ext. 4073, or e-mail her at

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This event was last updated on 04-28-2011