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.

Want more Reserve stories delivered to your inbox? Subscribe to our newsletter.

Eagles Score Carbon Touch Down at Jobos Bay

Eagles Score Carbon Touch Down at Jobos Bay

Habitat restoration projects like these have collateral benefits for local economies. In a 2014 study, NOAA economists found that $1 million invested in coastal restoration creates 17.1 jobs, on average. Photo courtesy of Jobos Bay. 


In a first for pro football and the National Estuarine Research Reserve System, the Philadelphia Eagles will sponsor habitat restoration at Puerto Rico’s Jobos Bay Reserve. The goal? Offset carbon emissions from team travel in 2020, while enhancing Puerto Rico’s climate resilience.

Through a partnership with the Ocean Foundation and the Ocean Conservancy, the Eagles will sponsor the restoration of critical mangrove and seagrass habitat at the Reserve, as well as efforts to educate the public on the importance of carbon mitigation and build scientific capacity to do similar work in the future.

The Philadelphia Eagles will sponsor the restoration of critical mangrove and seagrass habitat at the Reserve. Photo courtesy of Jobos Bay. 


“We are thrilled to be part of this team,” says Aitza Pabón, manager of the Jobos Bay Reserve, which is a partnership of NOAA and Puerto Rico’s Department of Natural and Environmental Resources. “This is the natural next step for work we have done with NOAA to identify the most important habitats for restoration and with groups like Conservación ConCiencia and a local fishermen association, who are key partners in protecting the places that are the heart and soul of our communities. Their efforts to build community relationships led to our participation in this project.”

The 2,817-acre Reserve helps protect mangrove forests and seagrasses that are carbon-capture superstars. They also mitigate damage from ocean acidification, fortify communities against storm surge and hurricanes, protect coral reefs, and provide sanctuary to endangered species, including the West Indian manatee and green sea turtle.

“These places provide a focus for all of our work,” says Pabón. “Through our coastal training, research, stewardship programs, we’ve been able to do GIS groundwork and build the local interest and support for restoration and carbon mitigation that helped make this investment possible.”

The Reserve protects mangrove forests and seagrasses that capture large amounts of carbon. Photo courtesy of Jobos Bay. 


The work at Jobos Bay is part of a System-wide effort to advance the science and practice of blue carbon—the carbon that is captured and stored by coastal and ocean habitats. This includes a decade of work at Massachusetts’ Waquoit Bay to advance blue carbon science and bring this knowledge to bear on decisions to conserve, restore, and manage tidal wetlands around the coastal U.S.

“The challenges we face from climate change and the impacts of development are great,” says Pabon, “but when we can take actions like these here in Puerto Rico and around the Reserve System and the United States, it gives me hope.”

The Reserve is home to endangered species, including the West Indian manatee and green sea turtle. Photo courtesy of Jobos Bay.

Want more Reserve stories delivered to your inbox? Subscribe to our newsletter.

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.

Jobos Bay Reserve Is Safe

Jobos Bay Reserve Is Safe

January 10 update from Reserve Manager Aitza Pabon: “It is shaking every hour —close to 3.3 to 4.6 [richter scale]. We are prepared and each of my staff have their own equipment (first aid, water, food etc) in their cars. We are on alert mode! Thanks for your prayers and good thoughts!”

1/13 update

The Jobos Bay crew continues to pull together and have managed yet another challenge. On Saturday morning, a 5.9 magnitude aftershock hit. This has caused further damage mainly in areas around the southern coast.

All reserve staff are safe and are working to help each other and their community to ensure everyone is safe and has water and ice. Electricity and water is out across many areas. Thankfully, we have strong communication via satellite and cell service and will continue to stay in touch to address needs.

NOAA OCM and NERRA will continue to work together to keep you posted and let you know if we begin a campaign and/or provide ways that you can help. In the meantime, please send your prayers and good wishes their way. As you can imagine, the emotional toll between Maria and now these unprecedented quakes is high. 

1/9 update

Puerto Rico’s southern coast was hit with a magnitude 6.4 earthquake earlier this week. The epicenter of the quake was in Ponce, which is about 45 minutes west of of our Jobos Bay Reserve.

Our colleagues are safe and are staying in close communication. While the Reserve is okay, many people in the area are without power and water, and their homes are unsafe or unstable. They are keeping their things in their cars in case they need to move quickly.

Given that folks are still trying to recover from hurricane Maria, this is an extremely challenging situation on multiple levels. NOAA and NERRA are staying in touch and stand at the ready to support our friends at Jobos Bay.

 Right now, no specific needs have been identified, but we will continue to explore ways in which we can help. We will keep you posted on any new developments.

Please keep the Jobos Bay colleagues and their family and friends in your thoughts.

—Information thanks to Erica Seiden, NOAA’s Office for Coastal Management 































NERRds Support Puerto Rico’s Recovery

NERRds Support Puerto Rico’s Recovery

When disaster hits, NERRds are always willing to pitch in. With funding from NERRA, Reserve staff from around the country have worked alongside other volunteers to log 3,293 hours restoring trails at Puerto Rico’s Jobos Bay Reserve in the wake of Hurricane Maria and a devastating winter storm.

These dedicated helpers repaired and reopened all of the Reserve’s trails and salvaged and reattached more than 15,000 coral fragments to help regrow Puerto Rico’s badly damaged reefs. The restored trails provide access to valuable habitats for research, education, and enjoyment, including lagoons and mangrove groves that shelter endangered yellow-shouldered blackbirds, hawksbill sea turtles, and West Indian manatees.

Trail damage caused by Hurricane Maria and other storms prevented researchers from monitoring and visitors from enjoying and learning at the Jobos Bay Reserve. Volunteers, including Reserve staff from around the country logged more than 3,293 hours to restore the trails.

Access to these trails and reefs is essential to Puerto Rico’s tourism and recreation industries, which account for 87 percent of the territory’s ocean economy. The volunteer efforts were part of a larger endeavor by NOAA to restore and aid in Jobos Bay’s recovery, and their work saved an estimated $74,554 in labor costs. NOAA also provided fine-scaled flood maps and training to aid recovery and protect residents from future hazards and conducted a remote sensing assessment of the Reserve’s seagrasses to identify physical disturbances after Hurricane María.

All of this hard work was on display when Rear Admiral Tim Gallaudet, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and Deputy NOAA Administrator, visited the Jobos Bay Reserve last month.

“I deeply appreciate the NERR System for all that it provides,” he observed. “I’ve been a coastal resident my entire adult life, and my family and I enjoy natural resources and are passionate about their conservation and protection. The contributions of our NERRS, Puerto Rico Sea Grant, and CARICOOS to conservation and the Blue Economy are tremendous.”

Rear Admiral Tim Gallaudet (far right) and the Jobos Bay team.

Estuaries (and Educators) Without Borders

Estuaries (and Educators) Without Borders

Story by Chris Bowser, Hudson River Reserve. Photos, courtesy of Augusto Menezes.
Ernesto Olivares and I had been talking about a trip to Jobos Bay for more than a year. We were glad to make it happen last month, when I flew down with my friend, photographer Augusto (Gus) Menezes. We even got a chance to see Joan Muller from Waquoit Bay, who was part of the organized volunteer effort!
The next day we were honored to speak to an 8th and 9th grade class at the Colegio Perpetuo Socorro. The students were well behaved and in uniform, but soon opened up with smiles, laughs, and questions.

Ernesto and I took turns describing our two estuaries—manatees in one, sturgeon in the other; mangrove restoration at Jobos; eel monitoring and submerged vegetation planting in the Hudson. We kept the talk lively with a Spanish version of the “High Tide/Low Tide” estuary dance and wrapped up with the song  “Somos El Barco” ( We Are the Boat) in English and Spanish.

The next day we were honored to speak to an 8th and 9th grade class at the Colegio Perpetuo Socorro. The students were well behaved and in uniform, but soon opened up with smiles, laughs, and questions.

Ernesto and I took turns describing our two estuaries—manatees in one, sturgeon in the other; mangrove restoration at Jobos; eel monitoring and submerged vegetation planting in the Hudson. We kept the talk lively with a Spanish version of the “High Tide/Low Tide” estuary dance and wrapped up with the song  “Somos El Barco” ( We Are the Boat) in English and Spanish.

Later,  we rolled up our sleeves and started up some chainsaws. Under Ernesto’s direction, we cleared a section of boardwalk and trails through a stand of black mangroves on the Reserve. (Gus got some great time-lapse video; in fact, Gus got a lot of great footage and pictures from the whole trip. Thanks, Gus!)
The next day was a field program with high school science students from the Centro Residencial de Oportunidades Educativas ve Villalba. We investigated the Camino del Indio site, an area of mangroves, sandy beaches, and sea grass beds that the students have been studying since December 2017. The teachers and kids were wonderful! They spilled out of the bus and immediately started measuring the beach profile, troubleshooting an ROV they had built, and talking to us about how much it meant to be able to tell the world positive stories from Puerto Rico since the hurricane.
We added seining as a sampling component to the student’s monthly research protocol. Two passes in the shallows produced many treasures, including algae, colonial hydroids, two species of jellyfish, a small paddle worm, a tiny green nudibranch, and several species of shrimp and “swimming crabs” related to the Hudson River blue crab.
On our last day Ernesto took us back to San Juan, though we had time for one last get together at the quiet fishing village of Loiza with local proprietor Miguel.
While Puerto Rico is still recovering from Hurricane Maria, physically, logistically, and emotionally, the spirit of resilience and cooperation Gus and I found was truly inspirational. Driving around Jobos Bay with Ernesto was a rolling workshop of community engagement. Aitza and the rest of the staff are truly involved with their community in ways that I am taking to heart and I am going to try to make a part of my own work and attitude in New York.

ReservesJobos Bay, Puerto Rico