Data Tells Storm Story

Data Tells Storm Story

For a community hit by a hurricane, recovery can be a long, traumatic process that begins with understanding the storm’s impacts. The sooner that happens, the sooner communities can address the changes and work to become more resilient in the future. 

To help address this need, a group of National Estuarine Research Reserves are teaming up to transform monitoring data into “Storm Stories” to help communities visualize changes in the local environment after a hurricane hits.

“We already track storm events through the System-Wide Monitoring Program [SWMP], which provides data on short-term variability and long-term trends related to hurricane impacts,” says Kaitlyn Dietz, project co-lead and coastal training program coordinator at Florida’s GTM Reserve. “We saw an opportunity to translate that data into visual stories using infographics, charts, and photos to make it more accessible for local communities.”

Storm Stories leverage wind, rainfall, water depth, dissolved oxygen, and salinity data to describe changes in local estuaries and the time it takes for them to recover from a storm. They put this analysis in the context of information about the storm’s degree and duration, along with comparisons to other storms and physical impacts seen after the storm.

“This is exactly why Reserves were created—to study changes in coastal environments and use what they learn to help communities manage change,” observes Rebecca Roth, Executive Director of the National Estuarine Research Reserve Association (NERRA). “Nineteen Reserves have been affected by hurricanes in the last decade alone. Because they experience these events alongside the communities they support, Reserves are living laboratories that are well-positioned to develop tools like this that are really needed.”

The Storm Stories project is a collaboration of educators, coastal trainers, and scientists at the Delaware, North Carolina, North Inlet-Winyah Bay, ACE Basin, Jobos Bay, and GTM Reserves. With funding and support from the NERRS Science Collaborative, the team is working with Limnotech to develop easy-to-generate templates for printable and online ArcGIS Storm Stories, along with a statistical package to help Reserves quickly analyze data and create graphs and tables. These resources will be available in spring 2022.

“While the Southeast and Caribbean Reserves created Storm Stories for local hurricanes, we hope that any Reserve affected by an extreme weather event will be able to easily adapt these tools to create locally relevant stories for their communities using SWMP data,” says Dietz.

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Longtime NERRd Returns

Longtime NERRd Returns

The Delaware Reserveand NERRAare excited to welcome Jennifer Holmes back to the NERRS family in her new role as coastal training program coordinator. Jennifer previously served as the Reserve’s education coordinator from 2006–2014.  

“Over my career, I have had amazing opportunities and experiences which allow me to see resource use and protection from numerous points of view. It has been wonderful to work collaboratively with so many talented individuals,” says Jennifer. “In my new role, I look forward to working with my colleagues in the NERRS as well as local and regional partners toward a sustainable and resilient future.” 

Jennifer returns to the Reserve from serving as the natural areas program manager for Delaware State Parks, and prior to that as a science and mathematics instructor at Calvary Christian Academy in Dover, Delaware. Before she served as education coordinator at the Delaware Reserve, Jennifer worked as an environmental scientist with the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) Wetlands and Subaqueous Lands Section and program manager in the DNREC Drainage Program. Before arriving in Delaware, she was a wetland ecologist in Ohio.

She has a Master of Science degree in Natural Resources Management from Ohio State University and a Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Science from Salem-Teikyo University (now Salem University) in West Virginia.

Welcome, Laurel!

Welcome, Laurel!

Laurel Sullivan, the new education coordinator at Delaware Reserve.

Please join NERRA in welcoming Laurel Sullivan, the Delaware Reserve‘s new education coordinator, to the NERRS family!

Laurel Sullivan, a Delaware native, comes to the Delaware Reserve with a Bachelors of Science degree in Captive Wildlife Care and Education from Maine’s Unity College.

“I am excited to return to interpretation in the Delaware Bay and continue to foster love for Delaware’s estuaries—and its horseshoe crabs!—through programming for all ages,” says Laurel. “I look forward to working with my team here at DNERR and with the NERRs nationwide.”

As a student, Laurel interned with Boston’s New England Aquarium, where she worked on several whale watching vessels. After graduation, she returned to her home state to work for the Delaware Fish and Wildlife DuPont Nature Center as their Lead Educator, where she grew her appreciation for the Delaware Bay.

Before joining the Reserve, Laurel worked for Delaware State Parks as an Interpretive Specialist in the Central Office. There, she managed statewide programming, coordinated large events, and assisted with the management of the visitor experience strategy. She is excited to start her next big adventure at the Delaware Reserve and return to educating others on the importance of estuaries and the Delaware Bay.

Welcome, Rachael!

Welcome, Rachael!

Rachael Phillos, the new manager at our Deleware Reserve.

Our Delaware Reserve has a new manager: please join NERRA in giving Rachael Phillos a warm NERRd welcome! She comes to the Reserve from another division in the Delaware State Parks. She is excited to be a part of the NERRS!

Rachael was born and raised in Delaware as the middle child of three and only girl. Her love of nature comes from her childhood spent outdoors. She spent her summers at Cape Henlopen and Trap Pond State Parks and on camping/canoeing road trips with her family. She learned how to canoe at seven years old by sitting with a paddle on the coffee table in the middle of the living room—prep for a three-week portage in the Adirondacks in New York.

Because of her love of science, growing up she wanted to be an “ologist”: marine biologist, then geologist, and then anthropologist. She received her degree from the University of Delaware in Wildlife Conservation and Ecology. She has worked at White Clay Creek, Lums Pond, Trap Pond, Killens Pond, Fort Delaware, and Fort DuPont. She started her career as an environmental educator, then became a Nature Center Manager and eventually a Park Superintendent.  

 In her spare time Rachael is always interested in learning new things—including that the Instapot has a burn notification! She is the proud owner of a bookcase full of books (that sometimes get read), and three kayaks which sadly sit neglected on the porch. Rachael and her husband bought a large piece of land and built a house in order to justify having six animals.

 Rachael’s first day in the office was Monday, October 28th, and she will be attending the NERRS and NERRA Annual Meeting in Charleston. That’s what we call a NERRd; don’t forget to introduce yourself! Or send her an email.

Talk NERRdy to Me: Kari St. Laurent

Talk NERRdy to Me: Kari St. Laurent

Apparently being a NERRd does not skip a generation: Kari with a recent addition to the NERRd family, Canna.

Talk NERRdy to Me is a column about leaders and luminaries from across our 29 reserves. This month, NERRA’s Maine correspondent, Nik Charov chatted with Kari St. Laurent, Research Coordinator at the Delaware Reserve and natural-born NERRd. (Interview edited for length and general appropriateness.)

Nik: Where ya from?

Kari: Just outside of Boston. Go Patriots!

Nik: What’s it like to be on an enormous bandwagon?

Kari: Just winning, constant winning.

Nik: How did you first get to the ocean?

Kari: Cape Cod was a rite of passage. My first-grade field trip was to visit a tidal pool. I was eight-years-old when I knew I wanted to be an ocean scientist. I wanted to figure out why the ocean was the way it was. 

Nik: Vast and terrifying?

Kari: Salty and full of invisible life.

Nik: Oh. Were your parents scientists?

Kari: Absolutely not. I’m the only scientist in my family, the only one into science; that makes Thanksgiving a real treat. No one understands me.

Nik: It’s great you’re in the NERRs community now, where science is all we understand!

Kari: I love it!

Nik: You stayed in the Northeast for school—nine years in Rhode Island?

Kari: Yes, and the Narragansett Bay NERR saved my life once. I fell into an oyster pond out there around New Year’s Day and got really cold. I took shelter [at the Reserve] and some wonderful soul who I don’t know gave me hot chocolate and I warmed up. It was wonderful on that remote island. 

Nik: You survived Prudence! And then you did a post-doc at University of Maryland?

Kari: Yep. I moved when my husband got a job with the National Weather Service.

Nik: You’re an oceanographer and he’s a meteorologist? And now you have a five-month-old daughter, Canna. Are you selectively breeding for climate science? Is that an effective adaptation strategy? 

Kari: I really hope so. I will love her no matter what she chooses, but she’s already having science thrown at her. Nature and climate will be part of daily conversations over the dinner table.

Nik: My kids love that. They’re completely depressed. Besides having a climate super-child, what are other research directions you’re going in?

Kari: I’m actively working on black and blue carbon in DNERR’s tidal wetlands area. In the air, black carbon is a pollutant, but on land, it’s really effective at binding organic pollutants. 

Nik: Like charcoal?

Kari: Yes, exactly! For lack of a better term, it’s the black pieces in your Britta filter. It makes the water more pure. 

Nik: NERRA will have to call Britta for a sponsorship!

Kari: Yeah, Britta filters of the marsh! I’ve also been working with the Mid-Atlantic Coastal Acidification Network on ocean acidification monitoring and research. DNERR is starting to look at PCB concentrations in our marsh and to look at rope mussels and fiddler crabs to detect any PCBs. I’m also immersed in the world of microplastics. 

Nik: That’s a lot of pollution work… 

Kari: It’s my comfort zone. Pollution is in every system; the next steps are how to best mitigate or understand it. We have Superfund sites in our watershed, nutrient pollution, lots of urban development. We are definitely in an area that is ripe to study a whole plethora of pollutions.

Nik: What’s the future hold for the Delaware Bay? Worse or better?

Kari: I want to say we’ve been getting better. We’re just starting to get an understanding of the complex mix of chemicals in these systems. I’m hoping to set up all the questions that someone like my daughter will have to answer.

Nik: Best part of your job?

Kari: We never do science just for the sake of science. We do it to apply and make recommendations for how to best manage an area. I feel like my job has meaning at the end of the day.

Nik: You’re a big science communicator. Favorite science word? Mine’s hypoxia.

Kari: Good one. I’m a big nerd: I like knowing the Latin and Greek meanings behind things. If I had to pick a favorite, it’s probably chemosynthesis.

Nik: Fresh or salty?

Kari: Brackish.

Nik: CORRECT! Favorite animal?

Kari: I love cats. 

Nik: Cats are not an estuarine creature. Your state agency job title is Environmental Scientist V. Is that because the previous four versions malfunctioned and attempted to murder their human overlords?

Kari: Could be. I’d never know. 

Nik: Do you train as a runner so much because you’re afraid of tsunamis?

Kari: I never thought of that as an ancillary benefit. I run because I like to think a lot; the majority of the time I’m running I’m planning new research projects. 

Nik: What’s next and exciting for your Reserve? 

Kari: We’re starting to update our management plan, so that’s all great and fun.

Nik: No one has ever answered that. That’s going to make so many people at NOAA happy.

Trees Are Terrific! (And So Is Art)

Trees Are Terrific! (And So Is Art)

Fifth-grader Amelia Myers took first prize in Delaware’s Arbor day Poster Contest.


Delaware students’ appreciation for trees was on full display last month at the Delaware Reserve’s newly planted science garden. Together with the state’s Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service, the Reserve hosted an Arbor Day Celebration that honored the winners of an elementary student poster contest. The theme was “Trees are Terrific for Pollinators.” Following the ceremony, poster winners helped plant two large hawthorn trees planted on either side of the science garden to attract pollinators.
The ceremony included presentations from (back row, from left) Delaware Department of Agriculture (DDA) Secretary Michael Scuse, Governor John Carney, DNREC Secretary Shawn Garvin, and Delaware Forest Service assistant state forester Kyle Hoyd. Photo courtesy of the Delaware Forest Service.