Migrant Students Connect with Estuary Monitoring

Migrant Students Connect with Estuary Monitoring

Students hold up weather instruments to make a living weather station, with Old Woman Creek Stewardship Coordinator Sebastian Mejia.

At the Old Woman Creek Reserve, a new community of students is getting their boots wet gathering data through a new program that serves the children of migrant farmers.

The Reserve partnered with the Willard Ohio Migrant Education Program to engage 25 students in hands-on monitoring and stewardship. Children from migrant farming families often change schools throughout the year. They also face more barriers to education and have higher drop-out rates than their peers. Some may call Ohio home for only a short season.

“I was not part of a migrant family, but I am of Latino descent, and I wanted to provide these kids with the opportunity to see someone who looks like them and speaks their language in the environmental field,” said Sebastian Mejia, Stewardship Coordinator at the Reserve. “There are real opportunities for them in monitoring and stewardship, and the Reserve is well-resourced to share that.”

Through the program, the students and teachers received handheld weather meters and rain gauges to install a new Community Collaborative Rain, Hail & Snow Network station (CoCoRaHS). The Reserve engages students in a two-part lesson on weather and watersheds. In the process, students build their technical monitoring skills, explore the Reserve’s habitats, and use donated monitoring technology like rain gauges, Kestrel meters, and the CoCoRaHas station. 

This program allows the students, who often lack continuity with their community because of their visas, to make a longer term connection with the school and community by helping maintain a weather station,” said Jennifer Bucheit, Education Coordinator at the Reserve who supported the program.

Students are not the only ones to benefit from the program. Teachers were provided equipment, training, and resources to integrate weather monitoring into their curricula, and the Reserve is able to use data gathered by students.

“The CoCoRaHS station is going to help us fill our data gaps in the southern reaches of the watershed,” said Mejia. “This expands our ability to record and track when flow events into the estuary may occur.”

The Reserve hopes to continue this program and provide targeted job shadowing opportunities for interested students in the future. Old Woman Creek staff also hope this program can support engagement with migrant farming communities at any Reserve that is close to agriculture or other industries utilizing migrant workers.

“The Reserve is able to engage diverse audiences because of our many partnerships and offerings,” said Mejia. “We benefit from our proximity to the agricultural lands around here—it gives us access to the farm workers and their communities who are inextricably connected to the land and weather.”

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Welcome Jacob!

Welcome Jacob!

Jacob Cianci Gaskill is the new SWMP Coordinator at Old Woman Creek Reserve. 

Please join NERRA in welcoming Jacob Cianci Gaskill, the new System Wide Monitoring Program Coordinator at Ohio’s Old Woman Creek Reserve.

“I am thrilled to have the opportunity to be a part of the NERRS and contribute to the monitoring program,” says Jacob. “Knowing my work will make a difference is a great feeling, and I am so fortunate to be joining such a great team here at Old Woman Creek.”

Jacob is finishing his PhD in Natural Resources at the University of Missouri. Originally from Western New York, he received his Bachelor’s in Environmental Science from SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry and his Master’s in Biology, with an emphasis on Aquatic Sciences, from Grand Valley State University in Michigan. He enjoys spending his free time reading, hiking with his dog, and trying—with limited success—to keep tropical plants alive inside his home.

Another perk about his new job? “I’m excited to be able to come to work each day at such a beautiful place!”

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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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Winning Photos at Old Woman Creek

Winning Photos at Old Woman Creek

As part of their National Estuaries Week Celebration, the Friends of Old Woman Creek Reserve held a photo contest that showcased the beauty of their Reserve’s lands and waters, which remained open to the community as a safe natural place to visit throughout the year.

“The photo contest helped us to involve the community in appreciating the beauty of the Old Woman Creek NERR,” says Sandra Wright, director of the Friends of Old Woman Creek. “And it increased the participation of young people!”

We can’t think of a better way to ease in 2021 than this reminder of the estuarine beauty of the Great Lakes.

1st place, adult category: Mark Capucini

2nd Place, adult category: Bradley Winters

3rd Place, adult category: Mark Capucini

1st place, teen category: James Daneker

2nd place, teen category: Christina Edwards

3rd place, teen category: Faith Edwards

1st Place: Sunset by Ethan Edwards

2nd Place: Violet by Faith Edwards

3rd Place: My Little Friend by Faith Edwards

Smart Sensors, Wise Decisions

Smart Sensors, Wise Decisions

LimnoTech and Ohio Department of Natural Resources staff deploy inexpensive water quality sensors alongside monitoring systems at the Old Woman Creek Reserve.

Technology and circuits might make new water quality sensors “smart,” but it takes decades of time-trusted data to make them “wise.” A new project in the Lake Erie basin is demonstrating the viability of real-time, inexpensive sensor technology—the same kind found in your dishwasher or cell phone—by comparing it to long-term standardized data collected through Ohio’s Old Woman Creek Reserve’s System-wide Monitoring Program.

“We are thrilled to be working with the Reserve on this project,” says Bryan Stubbs, executive director of the Cleveland Water Alliance. “Their gold-standard monitoring and data create a baseline so we can vet new technologies against validated, accepted national standards.”

The sensors could save the state’s Department of Natural Resources significant time and money, allowing them to collect reliable data at roughly 10% the cost of legacy sensors. The abundance of new, real-time, remotely-accessible data will support science, research, and land management decisions in the Lake Erie basin. 

Improving water quality is a statewide goal as laid out in Governor Mike DeWine’s H2Ohio initiative, which seeks to support the health and safety of the Ohioans who live, work, and play on the water. Effective water quality monitoring is integral to this goal and Northeast Ohio’s burgeoning “blue economy.” Water-related industry is one of the fastest growing sectors in Cuyahoga County, more so than aerospace, advanced manufacturing, energy, and biohealth.

“We know that investing in the health of our lakes, creeks, and rivers is investing in our local economy—be that through tourism, sport fishing, research and innovation, or talent and job development,” says Stubbs. “The Smart Sensor project will have the ability to assess our return on investment in freshwater resources and help build the growing water sector in Northeast Ohio.”

“We know that investing in the health of our lakes, creeks, and rivers is investing in our local economy—be that through tourism, sport fishing, research and innovation, or talent and job development,” says Stubbs. “The Smart Sensor project will have the ability to assess our return on investment in freshwater resources and help build the growing water sector in Northeast Ohio.”

That kind of impact requires people from all sectors to work together. The project was born out of partnership between the Old Woman Creek Reserve, Ohio Department of Natural Resources, the Cleveland Water Alliance, and LimnoTech. 

“What the Reserve brings to this partnership is our long-term historical dataset with known reliability and quality,” says Dr. Janice Kerns. “Our role is and always has been to be a tool for others. Our research, education, and training programs make us a resource. We provide the foundation for others to innovate and develop new technologies and new resources.”

“When it comes to water, more information is better,” adds Kerns. “And wetlands specifically are so diverse. No two are the same. So for us to fully understand their dynamics, we need widespread monitoring. Smart sensors can help us do that.”

Old Woman Creek Is 40 Years Young

Old Woman Creek Is 40 Years Young

Join us in celebrating our Old Woman Creek Reserve’s 40 years of conservation, education, and research on Ohio’s Lake Erie.

Established in 1980, the 573-acre Reserve protects one of Ohio’s best remaining examples of natural estuary. More than 300 species of birds use the Reserve as habitat, including bald eagles. For the first time this year, great blue herons started a heronry in the wetland, and the first chicks are now fledging. The Eastern Box Turtle—Ohio’s only terrestrial turtle species—also calls the Reserve home. 

The Old Woman Creek Reserve works on behalf of the communities that surround Lake Erie. Many community members enjoy recreational activities like paddling and hiking at the Reserve. They also participate in Reserve programs designed to protect the estuary, including workshops focused on reducing plastic pollution and volunteer efforts to remove invasive species.

“In the future, we look forward to bringing more people to the coastal wetlands to learn about science, stewardship, and what Lake Erie’s backyard should look like,” says Jennifer Bucheit, the Reserve’s education coordinator. “We have a chance to shape the future of Lake Erie, and our goal is to introduce as many people as we can to the wonders of living near a Great Lake.”

After forty years of watching Old Woman Creek lead the way on clean water, healthy habitat, and climate resilience in Ohio, we can’t wait to see what the next forty look like! 

To keep up with happenings at our Ohio Reserve, follow their Friends group on Facebook.


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