Science Connects Volunteers to Great Bay

Science Connects Volunteers to Great Bay


“Involve me and I learn.” Every year, research volunteers at New Hampshire’s Great Bay Reserve learn this lesson—often by getting their hands dirty and their boots muddy! In 2019, local community members donated more than 200 hours of support gathering data on water quality, saltmarsh vegetation, species diversity, and human impacts on the estuary.

In the process, these volunteers not only expanded the Reserve’s capacity to serve coastal decision-makers through critical research, they also became better-informed about the bay. Spending a summer working with a Reserve scientist is a great way to learn how migrating marshes can help to mitigate the effects of sea level rise or how rapid changes in plant and animal populations can mean trouble in an estuarine ecosystem. 

Monitoring environmental change over time is one of the best ways to contribute to  informed decisions about the long-term health of our estuaries and coasts. The Great Bay Reserve has been creating citizen scientists and advocates for our coasts, our oceans, and our planet for decades.


Virtual Lab Tours at ACE Basin

Virtual Lab Tours at ACE Basin

Through virtual programming, marine scientists at South Carolina’s ACE Basin Reserve reach students who wouldn’t otherwise have access to the estuary.

Inspiring future STEM students with fish science? Nothing fishy about that! 

South Carolina’s ACE Basin Reserve is making sure all kinds of students—regardless of their access to the outdoors—get a firsthand look at marine science with virtual laboratory tours. They get to observe a fish dissection, learn how different scientific tools are used, and ask a marine biologist questions about their field. They even get a peek behind the scenes of the South Carolina Reef Fish Survey, a fish monitoring program whose data supports the state’s $21.5 million fisheries. 

The virtual tours program was designed to reach students and classrooms who lack access to laboratory experiences. It promotes coastal science to students who are traditionally underrepresented science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields and may have little knowledge of career opportunities in marine or environmental science.

Kids of All Kinds Clean Up the Hudson

Kids of All Kinds Clean Up the Hudson

Daisy—who likes to munch on invasive veggies—was one of many volunteers who cleared the way for native species restoration at the Hudson River Reserve during I Love My Park Day 2019.

More than 40 people—including families, college students, and one hungry goat—attended the 2019 I Love My Park Day event at New York’s Hudson River Reserve headquarters. As part of the day-long cleanup and restoration event, they picked up trash, painted picnic tables, and cleared brush along the shoreline. The star of the day was Daisy the goat, who is skilled at eating invasive vegetation. She worked with the brush clearing team to clear an area for replanting with native flora.

Many volunteers at I Love My Park Day were families and college students. The event gave the next generation a hands-on role in stewarding our estuaries, not only for themselves, but also for future Reserve visitors.

“In our programs, we talk about environmental problems and solutions,” says Chris Bowser, the education coordinator at the Reserve. “It’s essential we make sure that everyone, especially the kids, can be a part of those solutions. When they come back to the Reserve and see the table they painted, the beach they cleaned, or the tree they planted, that adds agency and ownership to their experience. They can see that they had a real, positive effect.”

That positivity will be felt by everyone who comes to the Reserve this year. The headquarters host more than 7,000 visitors annually, many of them students. The I Love My Park Day cleanup site is the most visited and visible part of the Reserve. “Improving the site enhances our educational efforts,” says, Chris. “We can say: this is what a clean shoreline looks like, and here’s what native vegetation looks like.”

Now in its eighth year, I Love My Park Day is a collaboration between the New York Department of Conservation, New York State Department of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation, and many other partners. The work at the Reserve’s headquarters was one of more than 140 cleanups that took place, engaging more than 8,000 volunteers. Together they demonstrated what a difference we can make for estuaries when we collaborate—even when it’s across species lines!

NERRS Celebrates Earth Day

NERRS Celebrates Earth Day

Last week Earth Day celebrators welcomed local signs of spring like this forsythia from our Great Bay Reserve in New Hampshire.

Reserves around the country celebrated Earth Day by creating opportunities for people to appreciate the wonder of estuaries and help protect them.

Maine’s Wells Reserve brought neighbors, farmers, and scientists together with non-profits and businesses for bird walks, beach clean ups, and dialogues about Rachel Carson and current research. They also celebrated their new Webhannet Marsh Trail at nearby Harbor Park. The Reserve’s first ADA-compliant trail allows people with disabilities to approach the edge of a salt marsh and experience its unique sights, sounds, and smells.


A very sustainable ribbon cutting offically opened the Wells Reserve’s new trail. From left: Wells Town Manager Jonathan Carter, Wells Reserve Executive Director Paul Dest, Wells Selectman and Reserve Management Authority Board Member Karl Ekstedt, NERRS Program Manager Erica Seiden, and Laudholm Trust President and Reserve Management Authority Chair Nik Charov. Photo courtesy of Scott Richardson, communications director of the Wells Reserve.

Wisconsin’s Lake Superior Reserve “slammed it” with water-focused storytelling, while New Hampshire’s Great Bay “got wild” with Discover Wild New Hampshire Day, an event that connected kids to critters like the beloved (when at arm’s length) horseshoe crab.

Knowing that every day is Earth Day, New Jersey’s Jacques Cousteau Reserve installed some permanent reminders in the form of folk art from local blacksmiths.


Who said horseshoe crabs weren’t cuddly? Photo courtesy of the Great Bay Reserve. 

Mission-Aransas (TX), Wells, Jacques Cousteau (NJ), Waquoit Bay (MA), and Kachemak Bay (AK) Reserves gave it up for the birds and other estuary critters by setting up sound recording instruments for 24 hours over Earth Day. The goal?  Compare the sounds of biodiversity (including bird calls) and human impacts.

All week NERRA celebrated NERRS education programs, which helped more than 86,000 students take learning out of the abstract and into the outdoors in 2018. Education equals “change on the ground” for many Reserve communities—check out the impressive stats and stories from 2018.

Get InvolvedEarth Day