Boat launch completed at Pokegama Bay

Boat launch completed at Pokegama Bay

The goal of the Pokegama Bay rustic boat launch project in the Superior Municipal Forest was to create and improve safe water access as well as offer local communities a new way to enjoy the Pokegama River. The new boat launch was completed on the St. Louis River estuary, thanks to a partnership between NOAA, the Lake Superior Reserve, Wisconsin Coastal Management Program, and the City of Superior. 

“Now hunters, fishermen, school groups and families will be able to both enjoy the water and understand more about the estuary in their backyard. Getting close to a resource helps you to love it and you have to love something in order to want to protect it.” says Deanna Erickson, Director of the Lake Superior Reserve. 

The new facility includes restrooms, parking, native plants, a dock and a boat and paddle craft launch. It connects people to the St. Louis River Estuary National Water Trail and numerous hunting, fishing, and boating opportunities.

The city of Superior and Lake Superior National Estuarine Research Reserve hosted a celebration of the new access to the St. Louis River Estuary National Water Trail with a ribbon cutting ceremony, snacks, and free canoe rides to test out the new launch.

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Welcome Luciana & Lindsay!

Welcome Luciana & Lindsay!

Luciana Ranelli (left), new education coordinator at Wisconsin’s Lake Superior Reserve. Lindsay Charlop (right), new coastal training program coordinator at New York’s Hudson River Reserve.

NERRA extends our warmest welcome to the two newest NERRds in the family. Each brings a wealth of skills, passion, and experience to their roles in the education and coastal training sectors, respectively. To Luciana & Lindsay—welcome! We’re so excited to have you join us.

Luciana Ranelli recently joined the Lake Superior Reserve as the new education coordinator. She brings with her national experience in training environmental educators on community engagement and social and environmental justice. 

I am excited to be a learner at the start of my position and throughout—learning about past and current education programs and partnerships, and stories of the St. Louis River estuary,” says Luciana. “In the coastal environment around our office I’ve already seen ‘new-to-me’ sights, like crayfish claws left over from seagulls eating. I’m joining a team that is developing community action programs, and I’m energized by the opportunity to fold community input into the process.”

Luciana holds a Masters of Science in Environmental Studies from Antioch University New England and a Bachelors of Science in Biology and Secondary Education from University of Minnesota-Morris. She also has middle and high school Minnesota teacher licenses in life science.

Lindsay Charlop is extremely excited to be joining the Hudson River Reserve team and the larger NERR network. She combines a love of the Hudson Valley with a clear understanding of the region’s challenges and dynamics, honed while working with the Environmental Monitoring and Management Alliance (EMMA). There she assisted in building a regional coalition of land managers, focused on long-term environmental monitoring and stewardship-based strategies for managing large-scale ecological threats, including climate change. 

“I am so excited to be back in the Hudson Valley, learning more about the river and getting to know the wonderful community that helps to protect it,” she says.

Lindsay has experience with various aspects of conservation, including stewardship, education, field-based research, project coordination, and coalition-building. She loves work that involves planning, problem-solving, and innovation. In her spare time, Lindsay loves to be outside, preferably in a swamp, especially if there are frogs or turtles around to chill with. 

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Restoring Manoomin in Lake Superior

Restoring Manoomin in Lake Superior

A geese exclosure put in by staff at the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa prevented the birds from grazing the manoomin at right. Photos courtesy Lake Superior Reserve.

Reserves protect special places. But the wild rice beds, known as manoomin in the Ojibwe language, at the Lake Superior Reserve are exceptional. At least they were.

Manoomin once thrived in the clean waters of the Lake Superior Basin, where they were central to life for thousands of years. Since the 1960s, however, the abundance of wild rice has steadily declined. The threats are multiple, and include over predation by birds like geese and swans, hydrologic changes, pollution, land use impacts, and climate change. 

The Reserve has joined with First Nation and other partners in the Lake Superior Manoomin Workgroup to explore how to bring the manoomin back. The group has been working to understand the value of these beds and what can be gained by restoring and protecting them for future generations.

“We’re well-situated to be in the group,” says Deanna Erickson, manager at the Reserve. “The St. Louis River Estuary had some of the largest rice beds in the basin. Those were largely lost, and the community is in the process of restoring them now. We’ve provided ecological monitoring that is critical to these efforts.”

The group completed the Lake Superior Manoomin Cultural and Ecosystem Characterization Study last May. This report provides a baseline understanding of the current status of many historical manoomin beds, describes what it would take to restore their ecological and social functions, and makes recommendations for moving forward.

Manoomin is integral to the culture, livelihood, and identity of the Anishinaabe, a group of Indigenous peoples within Canada and the United States. In their culture, manoomin is considered a sacred, animate, “more-than-human” being. It is present at ceremonies, celebrations, feasts, funerals, and initiations as a food source and spiritual presence.

Manoomin is also ecologically important. Migrating and resident wildlife feed in wild rice beds, which provide a nursery for fish and nesting and breeding habitats for waterfowl and muskrat. Wild rice also helps stabilize shorelines, and by binding loose soils, it lowers nutrient loading, improving water clarity and reducing algal blooms.

“The potential for restoration is enormous,” says Erickson. “Even in places where restoration has been successful, more is needed. At one Minnesota site, Twin Lakes, it was found that if planned restoration improved habitat functionality by 2.5%, more than 100,000 additional acres of restored habitat—the area of 550 Twin Lakes—would be needed to recover the loss in functionality that occurred between 1966 and 2019.”

Thomas Howes, Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Natural Resource Manager, teaches Reserve education program participants at the wild rice lake Atawemegokokaaning.

The report highlighted the critical importance of monitoring data, such as the kind provided by the Reserve, to support restoration. Long-term data can help cultural leaders and  other natural resource managers assess the health of existing habitats and evaluate the success of different restoration strategies. It also can provide information about manoomin productivity and other aspects of the ecosystem. 

“Our Reserve will keep supporting our partners in manoomin restoration,” says Erickson. “We’re here to sustain the Estuary and the people who rely on it. Because of this project, we can speak more articulately about the value of restoration, and we’re looking to what we all can do together to support the harvest of manoomin and ecological integrity of the Estuary in the future.

Superstars Among Us

Superstars Among Us

We know they’re awesome, but it’s wonderful to see Reserve staff from around the System receiving formal accolades for their creativity and hard work in support of estuaries and coastal communities. A big congratulations to these NERRS superstars—and thank you for all you do!

Sarah McGuire Nuss, Education Coordinator, Virginia’s Chesapeake Bay Reserve

Sarah McGuire Nuss received the 2020 Conservation Educator Award from the Garden Club of Virginia. This prestigious statewide award honors Sarah for her education and outreach programs that bring marine science to K-12 students. These include family-friendly Discovery Labs, summer camps, teacher training workshops, and partnerships with local schools

She has also served as president of the Mid-Atlantic Marine Education Association and helps lead the Virginia Scientists & Educators Alliance. Through these and many other activities, she has impacted thousands of children in tidewater Virginia and beyond. During the current COVID-19 pandemic, Sarah and the education team have continued to provide alternative online opportunities for learning about the environment. 

Julie Stone, President of the Garden Club of Gloucester, says “Sarah’s students not only learn about marine science but also about how to bring a spirit of scientific inquiry to exploring nature. Whether her students are in elementary school, middle school, or high school, or are teachers themselves, they are truly inspired by her energy and passion for science.”

Kristin Evans, Education Coordinator, Texas’s Mission-Aransas Reserve

Kristin Evans received the Higher Education Award from the Coastal Bend Bays Foundation’s Environmental Conservation & Stewardship Award program. Kristin’s award recognizes her work with educators, students, families, and professionals across the Texas Coastal Bend.

The foundation credits her as being “among the most innovative educators in the Coastal Bend, holding over 25 years of experience which include education, professional services, and hands on pedagogical expertise.” They also acknowledge how her ability to deliver effective education programs during unpredictable, challenging times “has shaped the community of not only teachers and students, but families, and other educators in the informal realm.”

Rose Masui, Harmful Species Program Coordinator, Alaska’s Kachemak Bay Reserve

Rose earned the Alaska Invasive Species Partnership’s Outreach Award for her outstanding efforts and commitment to the early detection of marine invasive species. She continues to build partnerships across communities and agencies to provide education and outreach, share protocols, guides and datasheets to support local efforts for the early detection of marine invasive species.

Rose is also the coordinator for the Kachemak Bay Community Monitor European Green Crab Early Detection Program and the Kachemak Bay Reserve’s Invasive Tunicate Monitoring Program. Her nomination recognizes that she pursues all her work “with a professionalism, openness and reliability that enables partnerships and programs to thrive.” Rose also coordinates the statewide Harmful Algal Bloom Monitoring Network, a lifesaving outreach program.

Chris Bowser, Education Coordinator, New York’s Hudson River Reserve

Chris Bowser received the 2020 Leadership Award from the New York State Outdoor Education Association in honor of his 25 years of service as an environmental educator in the Hudson Valley. 

This touching and inspiring video (that Chris was asked to prepare by the awards committee) recognizes how the programming he has run behind for many years has made a difference in  one of the New York communities he supports. Thanks in part to Chris’s work, there is a new generation of environmental stewards emerging in the Hudson River Valley. Now that’s something to be thankful for!

Lake Superior Reserve, Wisconsin

The Lake Superior Reserve won an award from the National Weather Service (NWS) in September for enhancing community understanding of lakeshore flooding. The Ambassador of Excellence awards recognize local community members who have made significant contributions to helping build a weather-ready nation. The Lake Superior Reserve was recognized as a critical partner on multiple fronts, most recently in organizing a local conference on the subject of high and low water levels in Lake Superior, at which the National Weather Service presented. The conference connected National Weather Services resources with dozens of stakeholders across the Lake Superior shoreline. Afterwards, the Reserve partnered with NWS to establish the working group CHAOS (Coastal Hazards of Lake Superior), whose activities are continuing to connect communities with science, data, and best practices around lakeshore flooding and other coastal hazards.

Reserves Meet Teachers & Students Online

Reserves Meet Teachers & Students Online

In 2020, Reserve educators have rallied behind students and teachers coping with the challenges of learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Many have taken to the virtual world, creating new ways for students to learn about estuaries with activities, curricula, video tours, and projects that encourage children to get outside in safe ways. They also are offering professional development opportunities for teachers on topics such as online learning platforms and outdoor schooling. 

As a result, thousands of students and teachers around the country continue to benefit from Reserve education programs. Some of these are highlighted below but there are many more. We encourage you to learn more about your estuary and others here. (Bookmark that page—we update it weekly!)

ACE Basin Reserve, South Carolina

When schools shut down in March, the ACE Basin Reserve’s education staff didn’t skip a beat. They created lessons using local water quality data, which were shared with 840 teachers and several hundred parents across the state. Later, they took children on virtual field trips and hosted virtual summer camps. This fall, they are supporting teachers with activity emails, virtual field trips, educational videos paired with live Q&A, and hands-on training adapting curriculum and teaching methods for an online world. 

“We have provided marine science and environmental education to teachers in South Carolina for decades and have developed close relationships with them,” says Julie Binz, education coordinator at the Reserve. “We’ve been able to reach out to these teachers in times like these, ask them directly what they need, and do what we can to help.”

Chesapeake Bay Reserve, Virginia

Springtime at the Chesapeake Bay Reserve usually means field programs that bring children to the estuary. This year, education staff jumped into action to transfer key programs, like the Discovery Lab, online. They created themed DIY activities, engaged families with online experts, and made educators directly available through Facebook to answer questions. 

They also created a 12-week program, Summer on the Bay, that offers videos, virtual field trips, resources, and activities. Using Reserve materials, they were able to create and mail out free literacy kits to over 50 students from Virginia to California.

“The Reserve is where locals get a lot of information about the Bay,” says Sarah Nuss, Reserve education coordinator. “It was the right fit because we already have that connection with the local community.”

Educators from Virginia’s Chesapeake Bay Reserve film a video outside.

Lake Superior Reserve – Wisconsin

Last spring, local elementary school teachers got vital support from the Lake Superior Reserve’s Rivers2Lake program. The Reserve’s Nature Nibbles videos and worksheets became the sole science curriculum for more than 2,000 elementary school students throughout the Superior school district.

The Reserve also provided a workshop on how to teach outdoors and created a monthly virtual professional development series for teachers. 

“We really want to emphasize the role of nature in the social and emotional wellbeing of kids,” says Deanna Erickson, acting manager at the Lake Superior Reserve. “We have the content, the bandwidth, the relationship with teachers, and the knowledge of these students to really jump in and try to help them solve the insolvable.”

This fall, the Reserve plans to expand its offerings by creating the St. Louis River Field School to provide safe, healthy field experiences for middle schoolers who are practicing home-based learning.

“The Reserve staff are kind, honest, passionate people,” says Sue Correll, a fourth and fifth grade teacher at Lake Superior Elementary. “They are experts but very approachable with questions. People feel like they can come to them.”

Fourth grade Rivers2Lake teacher Jess Gagne special guest stars in a Nature Nibble video about trees.

Local Research Becomes Online Learning

Local Research Becomes Online Learning

What better place to start with science education than your own backyard? In 2019, that question inspired Wisconsin’s Lake Superior Reserve and their local school district to partner to develop interactive online lessons about local research projects in the St. Louis River estuary.

Every 5th grade class in the Superior school district now has access to these lessons, which cover topics like algal blooms, coastal flooding, and wild rice restoration. The lessons align closely with state science standards and are delivered in a format similar to the rest of the district’s science curriculum.

They didn’t have a global pandemic in mind, but the Reserve and their partners have made it possible for the region’s children to continue to build science literacy and connect with their Great Lake.

ReservesLake Superior, Wisconsin