Bob Stankelis: NERRA’s Estuary Hero

Bob Stankelis: NERRA’s Estuary Hero

Photo courtesy Narragansett Bay Reserve.

NERRA is proud to recognize the late Bob Stankelis as our estuary hero of 2020. As manager of Rhode Island’s Narragansett Bay Reserve for more than 15 years, Bob left a legacy of people and places made better through his influence.

“Bob was inspired by a desire to make a difference,” says Rebecca Roth, NERRA’s executive director. “He left a career in rocket science to one focused on protecting the coastal places he cared about. Everyone who loves estuaries is in his debt.”

Under Bob’s guidance, the Narragansett Bay Reserve became a leader in salt marsh research and a living laboratory for environmental education.

“From conducting leading-edge seagrass science to enhancing the Reserve’s infrastructure and programs, Bob’s legacy is strong,” says Kenneth Raposa, the Reserve’s research coordinator. “His impact on Prudence Island and Narragansett Bay is a testament to his outstanding dedication to estuaries.”

Bob’s brought partners together to conserve more than 225 acres of land and ensure that 85 percent of Prudence Island will be protected in perpetuity.

“Bob understood that many people needed to come together to protect and restore our estuaries,” says Jen West, the Reserve’s coastal training program coordinator. “He brought us together and enhanced every process with his passion, knowledge, work ethic, empathy, and kindness.”

Bob was recently recognized with a posthumous lifetime achievement Environmental Merit Award by USEPA for his long career devoted to protecting the environment.

We miss you, Bob.

Time capsule unearthed for Great Bay’s 30th

Time capsule unearthed for Great Bay’s 30th

This vintage pic shows the burial of a time capsule at Great Bay Reserve in October of 1999—the capsule was unearthed this year as part of GBNERR’s 30th anniversary celebration!

The Great Bay Reserve turns 30 this year! To celebrate, staff and visitors unearthed a piece of Great Bay history during Estuaries Week—a time capsule from October of 1999. Inside was a roster of people who attended the ceremony, along with wishes for the future of Great Bay. 

The wishes were made by children who were fifth-graders in 1999. Many aligned GBNERR’s work to reduce pollution and preserve wildlife. Others are a bit harder to manage, such as 9-year-old Leah’s wish to find the Loch Ness Monster in Great Bay. (Leah, we promise if we find it, you’ll be the first to know!)

As part of the day’s celebrations, a new time capsule was buried that will be opened in 2039 for the Reserve’s 50th anniversary. Local third-graders added their wishes for the future of Great Bay to the new capsule.

Designated in 1989, the Great Bay Reserve has its roots in a group of environmental activists who mobilized to prevent the building of an oil refinery on the bay and protect the vital habitats the Reserve now conserves. It is host to a wide range of species, from oysters, lobsters, striped bass, and horseshoe crabs to migratory osprey and annually-spawning river herring.

“Our true legacy is a protected place on Great Bay that belongs to our communities,” says Cory Riley, Reserve Manager. “We all need for a place to go—to witness an eagle and osprey fight over a fish, to feel the mud between our toes, to start a journey by kayak or by intellectual curiosity. The Great Bay will always be here for that.”

One of the strengths of Great Bay Reserve is its strong investment in the future, including seeing our estuary through the eyes of children. We can’t wait to see what their wishes hold for the future!

Senate Declares National Estuary Week!

Senate Declares National Estuary Week!

 Narragansett Bay Reserve, Rhode Island.

Some excellent news from Capitol Hill: the Senate unanimously approved a resolution designating the week of September 15 through 22, 2018, as National Estuaries Week.

Sponsored by U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (Rhode Island) and 26 others, the bipartisan legislation recognizes the importance of coastal and estuarine regions to our national economy, and reaffirms the Senate’s continued support for protecting and restoring these vital resources.

“Estuaries are a big part of life in Rhode Island. They sustain our economy, from fishing to tourism to hospitality.  They protect us from storms, and serve as nurseries for all manner of marine and other wildlife. And they are the backdrop to so many happy memories with our families and friends,” said Whitehouse, who serves as co-chair of the Senate Oceans Caucus and also sponsored legislation to reauthorize the National Estuaries Program in 2016.

“We are so grateful to the efforts of senator Whitehouse and his colleagues for recognizing how important it is to work together to protect and manage estuaries as a nation,” says Rebecca Roth, NERRA’s executive director. “The benefits that Rhode Island receives from estuaries are experienced in every coastal state.”

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), estuary regions cover only 13 percent of the land area of the continental United States, but make up nearly half of the country’s economic output. However, these vital resources considerable threats due to changing land use, pollution, and the impacts of climate change. Programs like the NERRS and the National Estuaries Programs are on the front lines of understanding how these vital resources function and conserving them for future generations.

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