Building the Blue/Green Workforce

Building the Blue/Green Workforce

Digging into field work at Oregon’s South Slough Reserve.

An unprecedented number of young people want to work in the environmental sciences, and to do that, they need on the ground experience. Reserves around the country are helping our next generation of scientists get their boots wet—and muddy—through NOAA’s Hollings Scholarship Program.

This program supports summer internships for undergraduates at a NOAA facility. Many students end up at Reserves, where they can get practical experience in coastal, oceanic, and atmospheric science, technology, policy, and management, all while addressing some of the most critical issues facing our coasts today.

“I am very passionate about climate resilience,” says Everett Craddock, Hollings Scholar at Alaska’s Kachemak Bay Reserve. “This project could have a direct impact on the area’s ability to develop adaptation strategies that prevent local fisheries from being negatively impacted by climate change.”

“I aim to answer questions about the effects of industrial contamination and climate change on Indian Country,” says Jessica Lambert, another Hollings Scholar at Kachemak Bay and enrolled citizen of the Choctaw Nation. “I have seen the destructive impact on my own Tribe firsthand. I am excited about the possibilities for remediation and to bring to light such a crucial issue that is too often overlooked.”

Working side-by-side with their Reserve mentors and their partners gives the scholars an opportunity to network and develop the skills they need to work in science in the future.

“My time at Padilla Bay allowed me to work with and learn from incredible researchers,” says Anna Poston, Hollings Scholar at the Padilla Bay Reserve in Washington. “Working with the researchers at the Reserve solidified my desire to attend graduate school and helped me develop the critical thinking and coding skills necessary to succeed in research.”

A moment of zen amid the field work at the Padilla Bay Reserve.

Dozens of scholars have trained at Reserves over the past ten years and many of them do. Some even go onto graduate work.

“I am working on improving our understanding of the biogeochemistry of Great Bay,” says Anna Lowien, a Margaret A. Davidson (MAD) Fellow at the New Hampshire’s Great Bay Reserve and former Hollings Scholar. “I did my internship at Kachemak Bay and loved it! I knew then I wanted to be part of the Reserve System.”

The Hollings Scholarship Program sponsored Anna Lowein’s internship at Alaska’s Kachemak Bay Reserve, where she used her knowledge of hydrology to develop computer models, now used by Reserve partners to predict peak salmon months more effectively and plan management decisions accordingly.

Reserve participation in the Hollings Scholar Program is coordinated by Nina Garfield, Dani Boudreau, and Chris Kinkade at NOAA’s Office for Coastal Management and made possible by generous support from Reserve mentors every year.

Anna Posten’s work explored seagrass habitat resilience and restoration in the face of environmental change at Washington’s Padilla Bay Reserve. (Mentor: Sylvia Yang)

Everett Craddock’s work focused on groundwater recharge-discharge in the Anchor River watershed at the Kachemak Bay Reserve in Alaska. (Mentor: Mark Rains)

Jessica Lambert’s work analyzed different ways of knowing groundwater in Alaska’s Kachemak Bay region. (Mentors: Coowe Walker and Syverine Bentz)

Petra Zuniga researched the links between vegetation, hydrology, and soils in undisturbed and restored wetlands at the South Slough Reserve in Oregon. (Mentor: Jenni Schmitt)

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Great Bay Celebrates New Inclusion Garden

Great Bay Celebrates New Inclusion Garden

The ribbon cutting ceremony at the Great Bay Discovery Center.

Congratulations to the Great Bay Stewards and our New Hampshire Reserve for the new Inclusion Garden at the Discovery Center! The garden is the result of a collaboration to transform the Center grounds into a more accessible and inclusive space for the whole community.

“The Center and Stewards together have a long history of working toward accessibility and inclusivity,” says Deb Alberts, Stewards Board Chair. “We are so pleased to build on that past work and are thrilled to share the amazing garden created by Reserve staff and volunteers.”

The space includes a new sensory garden—built at a height within reach of visitors, including those in wheelchairs—a more accessible path, and playground equipment.

Grab bars in the natural play area make the area fun for visitors of all ages. A new Brava Universal Swing will allow children of all abilities to swing in multiple ways; it is also designed to mimic stimming behaviors for children with autism to participate in an activity that is comfortable and calming for them.

Hundreds of  grasses, annuals, and perennials are planted among sculptures in a design that simulates the flow of tributaries towards the estuary. The garden’s centerpiece is a blue heron sculpture by New Hampshire artist Jeff Whittum, who specializes in found and salvaged metal sculptures.

The new heron sculpture at the Great Bay Discovery Center.

The garden was inspired as a celebration of life for Jordan Roberge, son of Stewards Board Trustee Sheila Roberge, who was committed in his own life and work to diversity and inclusivity. It was made possible through the generous support of AARP, grant funding from the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, and an awesome team of volunteers. To learn more about supporting the Stewards and their work, visit www.greatbaystewards.org.

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Photo Contest Highlights Reserve Beauty in New Hampshire

Photo Contest Highlights Reserve Beauty in New Hampshire

Congratulations to Bill Doucet for his grand prize-winning photo of Great Bay.

The Great Bay Stewards celebrated 25 years of service to the bay with a photo contest

The winners were announced last week at the Stewards Annual Members Meeting. It wasn’t an easy decision with nearly 100 entries illustrating why people care so much about the estuary.

“It was a really wonderful reminder of all the special places, flora and fauna, and activities around Great Bay,” said Carla Collins, co-owner of New Hampshire based Four Square Framing and Fine Art Gallery, which sponsored the contest. “We had many difficult decisions to make.”

After two weeks of online voting and several hundred votes cast, Bill Doucet won with his entry, “All Calm.” The People’s Choice Award went to Nick Johnson’s photograph of a kayaker in fall foliage.

Eve Fralick received an honorable mention and won the “Landmarks Along the Estuary” category for a photo of a railroad trestle during a winter sunset. Christina Constanza received first place in the “People” category for a photograph of her son running along the boardwalk at the Great Bay Reserve’s Discovery Center.

“We loved getting to see how area photographers experience the estuary,” says Stewards Executive Director Allison Knab. “From kayaking on Little Bay to walking through the Great Bay National Wildlife Refuge to letting their children explore the Discovery Center boardwalk.”

The selection panel included Collins; Knab; Lauren Saltman, designer of the photo contest; board member Sheila Roberge; and Darlene Furbush Ouellett, local painter and member of the Art of Great Bay committee.

Doucet will receive a cash prize and his photo will be featured on an upcoming cover of Great Bay Matters, the print magazine of the Great Bay Reserve. You can find a list of all the winners and their photos here.

The Great Bay Stewards support the Reserve through programs and extensive fundraising. To learn more about them and the awesome work that they do, as well as how you can support them, visit www.greatbaystewards.org.

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Welcome Lynn & Steve!

Welcome Lynn & Steve!

This month two talented NERRds are taking up new roles in the Reserve System. Each are already veterans of the coastal sector and bring a wealth of knowledge and a passion for collaboration to their work that is sure to enrich our coastal training program and research communities. Lynn and Steve—welcome!

New Hampshire’s Great Bay Reserve welcomes a new coastal training program coordinator, Lynn Vaccaro! Lynn comes to the Reserve from the team at the NERRS Science Collaborative, so many in our Reserve system already know her!

With training as an educator and a scientist, Lynn has extensive experience working with researchers, decision makers and local communities in the Great Lakes region, and she’s eager to put that work in New Hampshire.

“After admiring the work at Great Bay Reserve from afar for many years, I am so thrilled and humbled to be joining the team,” she says.

Lynn’s experience includes 12 years at Michigan Sea Grant and the University of Michigan Water Center, where she facilitated stakeholder driven research and restoration. As collaborative research manager for the NERRS Science Collaborative, she ran research competitions, facilitated sharing between projects, organized workshops and learning opportunities, led communication efforts and dove into all things collaborative and stakeholder-driven right alongside project teams from around the country. It’s exactly that passion and attitude that Lynn will bring to Great Bay’s coastal training program.

“I feel lucky to have the NERR network to rely on for guidance as I navigate this new role,” says Lynn.

Ohio’s Old Woman Creek Reserve is welcoming Dr. Steve McMurray to the position of research coordinator. Steve is no stranger to Lake Erie, its challenges or its opportunities. A native of northeast Ohio, he brings more than 12 years of experience in coastal ecology research to his new role. 

“Having grown up on Lake Erie, I am excited to be in a position to build off previous research at Old Woman Creek Reserve to address a variety of local issues, like harmful algal blooms,” said Steve. “Moreover, I am looking forward to working collaboratively across the NERR System so that research at Old Woman Creek can contribute to national efforts to advance coastal management.”

Steve earned a B.A. in Biology with a minor in Chemistry from Hiram College, and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Marine Biology from the University of North Carolina Wilmington. He served as a NOAA Sea Grant Knauss Fellow in the National Sea Grant Office, and more recently has held teaching and research faculty appointments at Kutztown University and the University of North Carolina Wilmington, respectively.

In his free time, he enjoys spending time outdoors, especially on or under the water.

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Talk NERRdy to Me: Cory Riley

Talk NERRdy to Me: Cory Riley

Talk NERRdy to Me is a monthly column about leaders and luminaries from across our 29—soon to be 30—Reserves. This month, NERRA’s correspondent-at-large Nik Charov interviewed the very familiar Cory Riley, manager at New Hampshire’s Great Bay Reserve and past NERRA president. They talked about life stages, the need for friends and constant curiosity, and, naturally, mid-life motorcycles. Photo courtesy of Courtesy Danielle MacInnes.

Nik: We’re talking with Cory Riley today! Who is basically the last person on our list. Summer-brained, we couldn’t think of anybody this month, so we said well, why not Cory?

Cory: Anything for NERRA, Nik. Anything for NERRA.

Nik: You’ve been involved for like 50 years, or at least that’s how it feels. Why “anything for NERRA”? Why is NERRA worth Cory Riley’s time, by this point?

Cory: What!? NERRA does things for the system that nothing else can do. It gives us a collective voice to the Administration and Congress, which is really important because that’s how we get our funding. You need a friend in DC if you want to be a part of the federal budget! So that, number one, is why NERRA is worth all of our time, not just me but anybody who is in the Reserve system. NERRA helps us have a common message and forces us to have a vision.

And I love NERRA because in the last few years it’s really provided a very friendly way for Reserves to talk to each other and celebrate each other’s successes. Also, political winds change, there needs to be somebody who can remind people how awesome the Reserve system is—someday we won’t be so lucky. I love the historical stories about NERRA and why it started. 

Nik: What about how you started? Where are you from, Cory Riley? 

Cory: I am from Middleton, Massachusetts, north of Boston. Not far from the ocean, loved the beach as a kid. 

Nik: What about Middleton and the beaches of Boston’s North Shore was so great?

Cory: I had a best friend in high school who had access to a hunting shack on a little island on Great Marsh. We decided we were going to go out and fix up the shack, and so we spent every weekend cleaning out all the junk, bringing camp chairs out, and hanging out.

Nik: Wait a minute. High schoolers, unsupervised, in a shack in the middle of a marsh?

Cory: I know. I wouldn’t want it to happen within my Reserve boundaries. But it’s what made me realize that I love the smell of salt marsh. We weren’t doing anything nefarious because I was a big, fat nerd in high school.

Nik: So, it wasn’t the “beer bust at the Moon Tower” out there?

Cory: No. I always knew I loved the beach and the coast, but that’s when I really got into salt marshes. I studied biology at William and Mary and I had a professor who also worked at VIMS, which is, you know, where Willy Reay rules.

Nik: Has for 80 years. Retirement coming up, I hear. [Editor’s Note: This is a perverse rumor that starts—and ends—with Nik and has been repeatedly debunked by Dr. Reay.]

Cory: Yeah, yeah. Then… where was I? Peace Corps in Jamaica, where I did environmental education work in an organic garden in a little coastal town. Then I did something not related to the coast for one year, which was also awesome; I worked for a nonprofit with teenagers on the border of Texas and Mexico, training them how to do community service projects in their towns.

THEN I went to grad school to study Coastal and Ocean Science and Policy at UMASS Boston.  They have this research institute there, the Urban Harbors Institute. That’s how I got hooked up with the Reserve system, because I ended up working on a project with Jeff Benoit, who worked for Mass Coastal Zone, then NOAA, then Restore America’s Estuaries. He was behind a project at the time to look at performance metrics.

Photo courtesy of Courtesy Danielle MacInnes.

Nik: Oh, so performance metrics are your fault?

Cory: All of it is my fault. And the managers who were around then still blame me. As part of that project, I interviewed Paul Dest and the other New England managers at the time at Waquoit, Narragansett, and Great Bay. At my first interview, I was like “This is amazing! This is kind of what I want to do. I want to be someplace where you can do place-based research and education.” I got hired by NOAA out of grad school. I bopped around with Reserve work and did whatever needed to be done for a long time. It’s been almost 20 years! So I do feel like I know the System really well.

Nik: Where’s the system at by this point, if you had to give it a stage of life? We’re no longer larval.

Cory: (laughs) No, not at all. I think we’re in our mid 20s to mid 30s. For me at that time, it was like every two years, some big decision was happening. You’re going back to school, having a kid, buying a house,  getting a puppy… You were doing new things and taking on new responsibilities and learning things at an incredible rate. So I think that’s where I see the Reserve System now. We’re mature enough to be directing our own destiny, but we’re still moving at an exciting clip. 

Nik: We haven’t hit the midlife crisis yet. 

Cory: Right. I can’t wait to see what kind of motorcycle we buy when we do.

Nik: (laughs) A shiny one!

Cory: Sparkles and flames!

Nik: Do you think we would have a midlife crisis? Or do you think our System is like one of those lucky people that just keeps getting better as a person. Not that I know anybody like that. 

Cory: I think the people who do keep getting better are willing to embrace their mistakes and successes. They put their ego aside and are always taking a fresh look at the world. They aren’t afraid of a challenge or something that threatens their worldview. So I hope the Reserves can be like that.

If there’s anything we know about the coast is that it’s always changing. And I think that if the Reserves stay nimble, they will remain the sanctuaries that they are. In the last six years especially, Reserves have really embraced the place-based part of our mission. And I do think that’s what makes us special and is gonna make us relevant in the long term. 

Nik: What does “place-based” mean to you?

Cory: To me, a place is the thing you fall in love with. You can’t fall in love with a concept, you know. You’ve got to see it and touch it and smell it. We get people hooked on science, on ecology, on stewarding the coast. We show them what it really looks like—this is erosion, this is what marsh deterioration or flooding looks like. To fall in love and have your heart broken is what being place-based means. 

Nik: Someone should write an 80s rock song about us. What’s going on at Great Bay lately? Didn’t you just inherit a farm? 

Cory: Oh yeah. The farm has been a real handful, but it’s also stunningly beautiful and I cannot wait to connect people to Great Bay there. It also has a really interesting history that we’re learning a lot about. You sit at a coastal farm yourself at Wells! It’s fun to interpret history.

Nik: When you go place-based, there’s that history that’s straight behind you every single day.

Cory: Yup. We do that at the Hugh Gregg Discovery Center. All of our fall field trips interpret how people have interacted with Great Bay, from Native American times to today. We’re making the farmhouse into housing for visiting researchers. And then we’re going to build a big picnic pavilion to create an amazing space for people to go, and we’re partnering with other parts of our agency to restore the boat launch that’s there. 

Nik: Great Bay NERR’s state partner is New Hampshire Fish & Game, yes? 

Cory: Yes. I love being a part of Fish & Game because we have similar missions—to protect and steward the state’s natural resources and to connect people to those resources. All of our lands are open to hunting and fishing.

Nik: Everything sounds really well functioning. So why do you need the Great Bay Stewards

Cory: They are part of our birth story. The Great Bay Reserve was created when Aristotle Onassis wanted to build the country’s largest oil refinery here in Great Bay,  and a group of citizens came together and stopped that. That group morphed into the Great Bay Stewards once the Great Bay NERR was up and running. They have been invaluable because even though we are supported by NH Fish & Game, we are a self-funded agency, so all of our state match comes from hunting and fishing licenses, which is a challenge.

The Stewards provide all kinds of amazing project specific support. They also serve as fiscal agents for external funding, so they provide that essential role, which NERRA and the Laudholm Trust at Wells do too. It’s not glamorous but it’s very important. They’re also our citizen advocates for Great Bay and the community and carry our mission forward in different circles—as community leaders, as people who are engaged in their town. They’re an amazing group, we’re very lucky to have them.

Nik: I feel that Wells is very lucky to have its friends group, as well. You like the give-and-take. Who’s your favorite giver-and-taker in the Reserve system? Somebody the three people who read this every month will now.

Cory: I like to argue with you. As far as give and take, where you sit down and argue over beers? North Inlet-Winyah Bay’s Eric Smith is a good one.

Nik: Something this important can’t be left to the Eric Smiths. …hey, come to think of it, there are so many new people in the system lately!

Cory: I think that’s great. It’s a sign that the Reserve system is becoming this professional organization, where hotshot people come and work for five years and then go somewhere else. This has its pros and cons, but I do feel like we’re really contributing to the next generation of amazing people—you have to let people go to know that we’re influencing the world. 

Nik: It feels to me like more people have just retired, and the new people coming in are young and exciting and diverse and really prepared… You talk to the Davidson fellows and they sound just like you, except they’re, like, 19!

Cory: Oh my gosh, yeah. I’m ready to give my job to Anna Lowein, the Davidson fellow who works at Great Bay right now. She’s such a rock star.

Nik: I think we all just need to quit and give it to them, and see what happens. I think that’s the next stage in NERRS development. 

Cory: I’ve thought about that a lot lately. Am I becoming a stale voice in this community? At what point do you say ‘I should show myself the door?’ How do I productively challenge myself? How do I need to light my fire to have a totally different perspective on the Reserve system?

Nik: I think you should get a motorcycle.

Cory: I think you’re right. [Editor’s note: With sparkles.]

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Reserves Benefit Local Economies

Reserves Benefit Local Economies

Through a partnership with Rising Tide Explorers, the Rookery Bay Reserve attracts more than 13,000 visitors who generate more than $1 million in revenues annually. Photo courtesy Rookery Bay Reserve.

National Estuarine Research Reserves are a positive influence on local economies, according to a 2020 study by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office for Coastal Management (NOAA OCM) and the Eastern Research Group, with support from the Pew Charitable Trusts.

The team calculated the economic contributions of Reserves in Florida, Oregon, and New Hampshire in 2019 and 2020. They found that each Reserve makes positive economic contributions to local communities by supporting jobs and increasing local revenues.

Economic contribution is the economic activity that happens in a community as a result of spending related to a program or project,” explains Pete Wiley, NOAA economist and study co-author. “This study showed the spending that happens as a Reserve carries out its work has a ripple effect that touches many people and businesses. What makes a Reserve’s economic contribution particularly powerful is that it’s paired with activities that people love to do and places that they care about for many reasons.”

The study found that Reserves directly and indirectly support jobs in many industries— including tourism, construction, restaurant, real estate, fishing, retail—in the counties where they are located. For example, spending by visitors to Florida’s Rookery Bay Reserve supports approximately 104 jobs, not only in those businesses where visitors actually spend money, but also in others. The restaurant where a family buys lunch might depend on the local farmers cooperative for produce and engage employees who like to visit a nearby bowling alley after work. 

Through programs and partnerships, the study also showed that Reserves contribute to revenues that sustain the resilience of businesses and communities. For example, through investments in staff salaries, facilities maintenance, operations, and partnerships, Florida’s three Reserves increased local revenues by $45 million on average in 2019 and 2020.

Investments in Oregon’s South Slough Reserve staff salaries, facilities maintenance, operations, and partnerships enhanced local revenues by $5.3M in 2019. Photo courtesy, South Slough Reserve.

“Reserves make a significant contribution to their local economies, and these, coupled with the substantial benefits realized through their positive influence on the environment, result in an enormous value to their states and to the country,” says Wiley.

“This study verifies what we have always known—having a Reserve in your community makes significant contributions to the local economy,” says Rebecca Roth, executive director of the National Estuarine Research Reserve Association.

“Even beyond the studies that show the work that Reserves do to protect and manage their piece of the coast can make economic contributions, we know these places  provide many valuable benefits to natural resource-dependent industries, as well as communities and the public.”

For example, New Hampshire’s Great Bay Reserve partners to protect and restore the salt marshes, eelgrass meadows, and oyster beds that help make the waters of the Bay fishable, swimmable, and drinkable. Restoring these habitats could save up to $24 million in annual wastewater treatment costs and increase commercial fishermen revenues by $1.9 million each year.

New Hampshire’s Great Bay Reserve partners with Reserves around the country to develop tools to advance the resilience of salt marshes in the face of rising seas. Photos courtesy of the Great Bay Reserve.

ReservesGreat Bay, New Hampshire