Hakai Magazine

Coastal science and societies

What’s in Brooklyn’s Gowanus Canal?

Hint: it’s pronounced fee-CAL-uh-bak-TEER-ee-um.

Authored by

by Dennis Cieri, Lina Zeldovich

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The Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn, New York, is less than three kilometers long yet hosts a vast array of microbes unknown to science. The canal, one of the most polluted waterways in North America, first felt the heavy hand of industrialization in the late 19th century, with tanneries, gas plants, and cement factories lining its shores over the years. Today, more than anything else, it’s a mysterious, albeit filthy, ecosystem. Follow scientists in this video as they hold their noses and race to uncover the unique Gowanus Canal microbiome—before it disappears.

Thumbnail image by Simon Fraser [CC BY-SA 4.0]