Between Stony Brook Harbor Tides

The Natural History of a Long Island Pocket Bay

By R. Lawrence Swanson & Malcolm J. Bowman

Subjects: Marine Biology, Science And Society, Ecology, New York/regional, Environmental Studies
Series: Excelsior Editions
Imprint: Excelsior Editions
Paperback : 9781438462349, 152 pages, December 2016
Hardcover : 9781438462332, 152 pages, December 2016

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Table of contents


1. Shaping the Harbor

2. Physical Oceanography

3. The Living Harbor

4. Human Impacts on the Harbor

5. Scars upon the Landscape

6. Governance

7. The Harbor’s Future


Examines the ecological and historical significance of the harbor and what it can bring to future residents.


Winner of the 2017 Robert Cushman Memorial Award presented by the Three Village Historical Society

Stony Brook Harbor, or Three Sisters Harbor as it was known historically, is perhaps the most pristine of the Long Island north shore pocket bays. Untouched by major commercialization, it has been designated a Significant Coastal Fish and Wildlife Habitat by the New York State Department of State and a Significant Coastal Habitat by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Despite these designations, however, there is constant pressure to increase development of and around the harbor.

Between Stony Brook Harbor Tides interweaves scientific understandings of the harbor with a consideration of its colorful history to inform and educate a general audience about its unique and delicate state. Data is used to illustrate the harbor's tides and currents and to show how they influence geological processes and pollution susceptibility. Storm surge measurements going back to the early 1990s document some of the extreme high waters experienced, and descriptions of some of the more interesting or important marine species of plants and animals found in the harbor are also included. The book discusses the century-long conflicts that local residents have fought in order to preserve this beautiful place, and it documents the tools that currently exist to help manage the harbor well into the twenty-first century. An excellent supplement to any high school or undergraduate environmental course, Between Stony Brook Harbor Tides provides readers with a basis for embracing the significance of the harbor and what it can bring to future residents.

At the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences at Stony Brook University, State University of New York, R. Lawrence Swanson is Associate Dean. Swanson is the coeditor (with James S. Latimer, Mark A. Tedesco, Charles Yarish, Paul E. Stacey, and Corey Garza) of Long Island Sound: Prospects for the Urban Sea. At the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences at Stony Brook University, State University of New York, Malcolm J. Bowman is Professor of Oceanography and Distinguished Service Professor. Bowman is the author and editor of more than sixty scientific texts, including Storm Surge Barriers to Protect New York City: Against the Deluge (coedited with Douglas Hill and Jagtar S. Khinda).


"This thorough examination of Stony Brook Harbor, while of significant local interest, also provides a valuable resource to better plan for the futures of all our waterways and wetlands. Combining history and the latest scientific evidence in very readable format, R. Lawrence Swanson and Malcolm J. Bowman have written a book that offers readers a better understanding of the natural environment and its interconnectedness with society." — Long Island History Journal

"…[this book] should be in every school library on Long Island … for those interested in the history, current conditions and future of our wetlands and waterways, this book is an essential read." — TBR News Media

"This book is a small gem, an intimate look at a small local place that—like many small local places—is very special indeed. Many people have such places, often overlooked as too familiar, undervalued as too ordinary. The reader can take a hint from the authors and seek deeper acquaintance with one's own special places, wherever they are." — Carl Safina, author of The View from Lazy Point: A Natural Year in an Unnatural World

"I was impressed by Between Stony Brook Harbor Tides' well-written and comprehensive overview of the rich history of Stony Brook Harbor. The research in this was thorough and well documented using both current and historical studies of Stony Brook Harbor. It is vital when looking forward to future planning of our waterways to examine the historical background, as this book does, in order to move forward without harming the natural ecosystems that have developed over many thousands of years." — Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn, 5th District

"This book, by two eminent coastal oceanographers, is a must read for those interested or concerned with coastal community planning, management, or marine environmental processes." — Lee E. Koppelman, Executive Director Emeritus, Long Island Regional Planning Board

"It was at Cordwood Beach at the southern end of Stony Brook Harbor, where, at the age of six, I saw my first horseshoe crab. 'Don't step on its tail; it's poisonous and will sting you,' I remember imploring my friend, and, in so doing, perpetuating a persistent myth about the animal. As Larry Swanson and Malcolm Bowman indicate, in this interesting and informative book, while horseshoe crab tails are sharp, and were used for spear tips by Native Americans, they are not poisonous. This and a good many more fascinating facts about the harbor's cultural and natural history await the reader. It is a must read for anyone who loves this charming and special part of Long Island." — John Turner, author of Exploring the Other Island: A Seasonal Guide to Nature on Long Island