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

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DC Download: October 2021

DC Download: October 2021

NERRA enthusiastically applauds Senate Appropriations leaders and the entire committee on its FY 2022 Appropriations Bill, released October 18th. For NERRS Operations, Research, and Facilities (ORF), it included an increase of $5.5M for a total budget of $34M, and for NERRS Procurement, Acquisition, and Construction (PAC), it called for a $2M increase that brings the total budget to $6.5M.

Affirmation for the NERRS was included in the bill’s report language: “ … The Committee recognizes that the NERRS sites provide mixed-use areas that are protected for long-term research, monitoring, education, and coastal stewardship and provides $34,000,000 for the program …

Thank you to Chair Leahy (VT), Vice Chair Shelby (AL), Subcommittee Chair Shaheen (NH), Subcommittee Vice Chair Moran (KS), and to Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Committee Members: Senators Reed (RI), Schatz (HI), Feinstein (CA), Coons (DE), Merkley (OR), Van Hollen (MD), Collins (ME), Murkowski (AK), Graham (SC), Kennedy (LA). We appreciate our coastal, Great Lake, and estuary Senate champions!

Next Steps? Once the full Senate approves this bill, the two houses of Congress join in conference to reconcile their respective versions of the bill. After agreement is reached and each house votes on the revised bill, it is sent to the President to sign into law.

Here’s what else is on our radar:

  • Final House action on Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill; HR 3684, as amended, includes $77 million for the NERRS!
  • The Build Back Better Act passed out of committee so it can be considered for full action in the House of Representatives. This contains a provision for $98 million in non-match spending for construction projects for National Estuarine Research Reserves and National Marine Sanctuaries over ten years—See page 967.

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Talk NERRdy to Myself: Confessions of an AuctioNERR

Talk NERRdy to Myself: Confessions of an AuctioNERR

Talk NERRdy to Me is a monthly column about leaders and luminaries from across our Reserves. This month, NERRA’s correspondent-at-large Nik Charov interviewed himself, in a ludicrous bid (get it?) to build excitement for the annual NERRA auction, which he somehow got stuck co-managing some years ago. While everyone else was busy doing real work.

Nik: Hi Nik, welcome to Talk NERRdy. It’s so good to finally sit down with you.

Nik: Whatever. This is your psychotic, quarantine-borne delusion; I’m just here for the snacks.

Nik: That’s great! Every year at the annual meeting, whether it’s in-person or virtual, NERRA raises extra money for all the good things it does through an auction of donated handmade goods, services, trips, and equipment. That support helps NERRA lobby on behalf of the NERRS in Congress. But tell us, Nik, what don’t we know about the NERRA Auction?

Nik: Oh, it’s wild backstage. If it weren’t for the multi-talented auction committee, the whole thing would go down in flames. First of all, the items come in like a California mudslide, and we have scant hours in between Important Meeting Sessions to sort them, price them, arrange them, and determine which special ones go into the live portion of “The Show,” as we call it. The trips and the SWMP equipment, the “rare” wines from New Jersey, and rum from Jobos Bay—those are all locks for the live auction. But then … there’s the weird stuff.

Nik: Can you remember any particular items?

Nik: Funny thing about that: I reached out to a number of past auction committee members about their favorite items from auctions past and most said, “Oh, somehow I just can’t remember.”

Fortunately, auctioneers have perfect recall. Over the years, we’ve sold beaver nuggets, fake cat vomit, lost & found wallets, industrial lubricants, Estuary beer, precious art … and uh, less-precious art. I sold myself in 2012 as a dodgeball free agent, but that got awkward … Anything for NERRA, I guess. (shrugs)

Nik: How did you get into auctioneering?

Nik: Well, as a young boy, I spent my summers tidepooling on Maine’s coast, picking up periwinkles and selling them to other beachcombers. I also wore a lot of suits as a kid and majored in Competitive Microeconomics at Duke.

Nik: Hmm. Are you usually funnier in the auctions?

Nik: Yes. Listen, it’s not an easy gig. I really don’t like talking into a microphone [Editor: this is a lie], and I really don’t think it’s fair to coerce the Underpaid NERRds of America to spend their government salaries on sea turtle jewelry or metal water bottles.

But then again, I do love to sell things and make fun of people like former manager Willy Reay. Plus: the NERRA auction is super important. How did I get into it? Like so many NERRA volunteer opportunities, co-managing the auction was an “everyone else stepped back while I wasn’t paying attention” selection process.

Same thing happened to my fellow auctioneer Chris [Bowser]. We filled a vacuum. The previous auctioneers, Terry Stevens and Peter Wellenberger, God rest their souls, were great, but they retired to The Old Auctioneers Home in … 2015, was it? 2016? I’ve heard they’re still there, writing books about climate change on sheets of toilet paper.

Former auctioneers Peter Wellenberger and Terry Stevens ran the annual show for decades before succumbing to patrician neuroses and changing cultural norms.

Nik: You mentioned Chris Bowser? Isn’t he “the funny one” in the auction?

Nik: He was, yes. Also “the loud one.” But at the last in-person meeting, he sold an enchanted mermaid doll handcrafted by known sorceress Betsy Blair. Chris fell under a powerful curse, and we haven’t seen him since.

Last known photo of auctioneer Chris Bowser with the cursed doll.

Nik: You auctioneers have been known to walk the edge of humor?

Nik: Listen, it’s for charity, and we expect the audience to be charitable. The sound system never works anyway, so most of the jokes turn into “<crackle> <hum> crabs <hiss> <pop> Delaware.” The most important thing is that we’ve cut the auction down to just 90 minutes of malarkey and shenanigans, and it reliably raises twenty thousand dollars. You wouldn’t believe how long the old auctions used to go …

The auctions used to go on so long, these photos of former Great Bay CTP Coordinator Steve Miller were taken ON THE SAME NIGHT.

Nik: The annual meeting is once again virtual this year, and so the auction is solely online. It’s one big silent auction showcase. Does that make it less fun for you and the team?

Nik: Next question.

Nik: Where do you see the NERRA Auction going in the future? I know the NERRA Auction Committee has a Strategic Planning Subcommittee with monthly calls and a whitepaper in pre-print …

Nik: We’ll be back together again in Seattle in 2022, because Jude Apple bought a fusty, cryptic blanket in 2019 for $800 and—surprise, surprise—it comes with Annual Meeting hosting duties. Sucker! No, seriously, the team is really looking forward to hawking crustacean art, overpriced bumper stickers, three-sleeved handknit sweaters (or were those pants, Coreen?), and beautiful sweetgrass baskets from Sapelo Island, live and in-person again.

I think we’ll be adding more musical numbers in the future, maybe some juggling or burlesque routines. Really, the sky’s the limit. We’ve got material and merchandise for years. I’ll do anything for NERRA, because they’ve got a lot of compromising information on me.

Pro tip: Never hand over a microphone.

Nik: So you’re in it to win it?

Nik: For at least two more years, yes.

Nik: Do I hear three? Can we get five more years?

Nik: I see what you did there.

The 2021 NERRA Auction runs from November 1 to November 18. Register to bid and get shopping now!

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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

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Keeping the Bay Wild—And Accessible

Keeping the Bay Wild—And Accessible

The San Francisco Bay Reserve’s China Camp site is home to a vibrant ecosystem that most residents and visitors can enjoy via an extensive trail system. Unfortunately, barriers can make it difficult for those with disabilities to have the same opportunities to explore this extraordinary patch of “wild” in one of the nation’s most important biodiversity hotspots.

“The value of accessible trails is the ability to get the disabled community out into the wilderness and learn about how important nature is to us,” says Nyri Scanlon, a research assistant at the Reserve who drew attention to accessibility issues on China Camp’s Turtle Back Nature Trail. “Even though my motorized wheelchair is heavy duty, the trail was too rough and rocky.”

This observation spurred an extensive project to create an ADA compliant path that is accessible for those in wheelchairs or with walkers, families with strollers, and people who can’t access non-compliant trails for other reasons. The project aimed to connect the newly renovated trail to the local community and showcase it as a resource and educational opportunity.

To celebrate the trail’s completion, the Reserve organized a walk in partnership with Friends of China Camp and Marin Lifehouse Agency, an organization that supports adults with physical and developmental disabilities. Fourteen participants completed the hike, with plenty of stops along the way to learn about the vibrant salt marsh habitat and endemic plants and animals like the federally endangered Salt Marsh Harvest Mouse.

“The trail at Turtle Back is excellent to be on,” says Nyri. “It is right up to the edge of the marsh. Trails are getting improved every day around the Bay Area, and I would like to encourage more events like this.”

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Teachers Workshop on the Estuary

Teachers Workshop on the Estuary

Oysters, rockweed, and living shorelines, oh my! Ten educators explored the Bay Area’s intertidal zones in a professional development workshop hosted by the San Francisco Bay Reserve. It included a series of virtual webinars, a research experience with oyster monitoring sites, and an in-person workshop at the Estuary and Ocean Science Center. Designed for upper elementary and middle school science, the series was part of Teachers on the Estuary (TOTE), a teacher training program at National Estuarine Research Reserves across the System.

“This workshop was unique because it combined research and pedagogy,” says Bella Mayorga, education program coordinator at the San Francisco Reserve. “Teachers got to work directly with scientists on an active oyster monitoring project and then connected that experience to classroom activities that meet Next Generation Science Standards and get kids thinking about their local estuary.”

Teachers were able to share what they learned with their students. One teacher replicated quadrat sampling with hula hoops in the schoolyard. Another planned to search for native oysters in a part of the Bay near their school using a monitoring protocol learned during the workshop. And another wanted their students to develop a testable research question about the Bay—similar to what the educators did in their training. At the final workshop, the educators presented on how they incorporated what they learned with their students.

This program was the result of a partnership between Karina Nielsen, Executive Director of San Francisco State University’s (SFSU) Estuary & Ocean Science Center, faculty from the SFSU Graduate College of Education, researchers from the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC), and the San Francisco Bay Reserve. It was made possible by NERR funding, the Marin Community Foundation, and the California State Coastal Conservancy.

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