Top 5 Sweetest #IHeartEstuaries Valentines

Top 5 Sweetest #IHeartEstuaries Valentines

Jen Plunkett at South Carolina’s North Inlet-Winyah Bay shows #IHeartEstuaries some love.

This month, estuary lovers shared why they say #iheartestuaries across the NERRS and beyond. We are so grateful NERRds aren’t shy to share their estuary love. Together with our partners at the Association of National Estuary Programs, and Restore America’s Estuaries, we reached more than 40,000 people to share what makes these places special and why programs like the NERRS are so important. So many messages were so incredibly sweet, we’re sharing just a few of our favorites here. If you want to really relive the warm-and-fuzzy glow of #iheartestuaries, you can follow the hashtag on Twitter here

Most importantly of all, Congress heard from you! You broke out the hashtag for all kinds of reasons: the educational opportunities, the childhood memories, the calming nature, restoration successes, and your love for the wildlife that call estuaries home. You even stood out in the cold and looked a bit silly for the occasion. Thanks to everyone who participated for melting our hearts.

1. Scripps Institution of Oceanography wrote a mushy marshy poem.

2. …and another estuary lover did too! (Thanks Jane!)

3. Virtual Reserve Programs got a shout-out from the PEW Trusts.

4. New Hampshire Congresswoman Shaheen treasured her estuary.

5. JCNERR staff put together a video of all the reasons they say #IHeartEstuaries.

Reserve staff at Great Bay Reserve show some #IHeartEstuaries commitment. 

Spread the Word (and the Love)—#IHeartEstuaries is Coming

Spread the Word (and the Love)—#IHeartEstuaries is Coming

Estuary love starts young! Photo courtesy Great Bay Reserve.

This February, we’re making estuaries our Valentine. If you have loved all that the NERRS have to offer this year—from being natural outdoor places of refuge, to online science education, to data tools and training—help us spread the love by pitching in with NERRA’s #IHeartEstuaries social media campaign.

From 2/12 to 2/14, please join NERRA and our partners in our annual social media campaign to show Congress how much everyone values our estuaries and programs from coast to coast.

It’s not too early to start planning: check out this FAQ about the campaign and share it with anyone who loves estuaries as much as you do—from Reserve friends groups and partners to personal friends and family members. All NERRds are welcome—as long as you’re not shy about professing your sappy and unabashed estuary love!

Thanks, as always, for helping NERRA support Reserves and the special places we love.

Talk NERRdy to Me: Aitza Pabón Valentín

Talk NERRdy to Me: Aitza Pabón Valentín

 Talk NERRdy to Me is a column about leaders and luminaries from across our 29 reserves.  NERRA’s correspondent-at-large Nik Charov chatted with Aitza Pabón Valentín (Above right). Aitza is manager of Puerto Rico’s Jobos Bay Reserve, where hurricanes and earthquakes come up against big hearts, unflagging hospitality, and an ironclad commitment to science, education, and the community. Go see for yourself—Aitza invites everyone to visit!

Nik: I recently learned that “Puerto Rico is an island, surrounded by big water.” Is that true?!?

Aitza: Yes. It’s an island. It’s a unique place And we have a unique estuary. Our fresh water comes from groundwater, which makes it different from other estuaries around the states. 

Nik: There’s not an actual river mouth opening into Bahía de Jobos?

Aitza: There’s one river, but it’s called Dry River because, most of the year, it’s dry. 

Nik: So where’s the mixing happening? 

Aitza: On the seafloor, up from below! NRCS is doing geological studies to identify the soil types for coastal zone uses and management—that’s a pilot project that is going on for the first time in the Caribbean. We do know that where we have a lot of Antillean manatee (Trichechus manatus manatus), we have freshwater coming up from the aquifer. 

Nik: Fascinating. So how did you first get to Jobos Bay? 

Aitza: When I was in high school my science teacher took us on a field trip there, I was around 15 years old. The educator, who is still there, gave us a talk about all the research going on. It got in my head that there’s this place where you can do education, you can learn about the coastlines, and the differences in the habitats. I got hooked, thinking ‘oh, I could be a scientist or a biologist.’

I began doing science fairs, competed at regional and national levels, and then I went to the University of Puerto Rico. When I did my bachelors in biology, I focused on teaching, so I’m also a certified science teacher. Then I did my master’s in biological oceanography.

Nik: And now you’re the manager at Jobos Bay NERR.

Aitza: Si. The Jobos Bay Reserve has been around since 1981….next year we will celebrate 40 years, and I’ve been the manager for five years. The manager of Jobos Bay NERR is also the manager of the DNER whole area. I run all the NERR projects but also have other grants related to fish & wildlife management, and projects related to hunting monitoring—we have a hunting area within the Reserve boundary.

Nik: What’s your favorite part of your hob… I mean, job?

Aitza: When I get to see people, or go out on the boat with the researchers, or have a talk with the kids. I do not like being in the office doing paperwork only. Also the community—I love them. They come and visit us, sometimes they will come and bring us breakfast or  have a coffee with me. It’s a very good relationship. We have good neighbors.

Nik: Do you think that relationship has gotten stronger after all your hurricanes and earthquakes? What else can happen? Do you have locusts yet? Have the rivers run red with blood?

Aitza: Before Hurricanes Irma and Maria hit, I invited our neighbors to come stay at the Reserve. I had 26 people staying there during Irma, and then after Maria, I had 19 people. It’s not officially a refuge place for people, but all their houses were wooden, damaged, and we had a safe place. 

Nik: What a great camp! I heard you were also working with the Boy Scouts this week?

Aitza: I believe we need to leave a legacy to everyone, and when you teach you leave a legacy. My legacy is to teach people about conservation, about being involved in the protection and research of nature—ocean or forest, it doesn’t matter. The Unit 2815 of Boy Scouts of America (now BSA) is an interesting story. They were meeting in a public school, but after [Hurricane] Maria the public school closed. So they were without an institution. They asked me if the Jobos Bay NERR could adopt them. They needed a sponsoring house. Officially, Unit 2815 is the only one under DRNA in Puerto Rico, and it’s the only one under the NERR system! We have around 30 kids, and they meet every Friday at the Reserve.

Nik: Do you have any scouts of your own?

Aitza: Yes, my kids are in it. They’re the ones who help me with camping, collecting, cleaning dishes, or anything that comes up. This week, we were celebrating the 110th anniversary of the Boy Scouts of America. When the kids saw me at school with my BSA uniform to congratulate them, they were so happy. I enjoy it. It helps me to connect with parents and with the community.

Nik: What do you want people to know about Jobos Bay Reserve, or Puerto Rico in general?

Aitza: Puerto Rico is open for business. We would love to see more people learning our culture, and sightseeing on our island—forests, beaches, mangrove forests. It’s beautiful and it’s unique. And we are a very resilient people, very active, culturally-flavored people. 

Nik: There’s a lot of love there.

Aitza: Oh yes, so much love. And I love #iheartestuaries! My heart is with the Reserve system, so let’s keep doing this, let’s keep working for this and for the next generation, and leave a legacy.

Nik: Beautiful. Thank you. Happy Valentine’s Day, Pabón Valentín.

It’s time for #IHeartEstuaries—Spread the Word!

It’s time for #IHeartEstuaries—Spread the Word!

The love of estuaries starts young! Photo courtesy of the Hudson River Reserve.

This February, make estuaries your Valentine. If you love estuaries and programs like the NERRS as truly, madly, and deeply as we do, spread the love by pitching in with NERRA’s #IHeartEstuaries social media campaign.

From 2/12 to 2/14, please join NERRA and our partners in our annual social media campaign to show Congress how much everyone values our estuaries and our programs from coast to coast.

It’s not too early to start planning: check out this FAQ about the campaign and share it with anyone who loves estuaries as much as you do—from Reserve friends groups and partners to personal friends and family members. All NERRds are welcome—as long as you’re not shy about professing your sappy and unabashed estuary love!

Thanks, as always, for helping NERRA support Reserves and the special places we love.

Feeling the I Heart Afterglow

Feeling the I Heart Afterglow

We don’t know about you, but NERRA was really feeling all the estuary love last week! On NERRA’s social platforms alone, we were able to share how much we heart estuaries AND Reserves with more than 18,500 people around the country. Many thanks to all Reserve staff, friends, and fans for spreading the word even further—you sent a clear message to Congress that our Reserves and the estuaries they protect are special places that benefit everyone. It inspired NERRA to work with our partners to write our own estuaries Valentine to congressional leadership.

I Heart, You Heart—We All Heart Estuaries!

I Heart, You Heart—We All Heart Estuaries!

 Photo courtesy Maureen Dewire, Narragansett Bay Reserve, Rhode Island.

It’s that time of year again, when we ALL get to show how truly, madly, deeply we love estuaries and programs like the NERRS. Yup, it’s the I Heart Estuaries Social Media Campaign and NERRA needs your help.

From 2/12 to 2/14: please join NERRA and our partners in our annual #iheartestuaries lovefest. Help us show Congress how much estuaries and our programs are valued by everyone, regardless of which coastal state you live in or what side of the aisle you favor.

It’s not too early to start planning: check out this overview of what’s involved and please share it with friends, partners, and anyone else you think would profess their unabashed, sappy, NERRDy estuary love, be they folks from a reserve friends group, partners, family members, or personal friends.

Thanks, as always, for helping NERRA support Reserves and the special places we all love.

Get InvolvedI Heart Estuaries