Advancing Diversity in Marine Sciences

Advancing Diversity in Marine Sciences

Written in collaboration with Amy Plantarich.

The inspiration for a new internship program at New Jersey’s Jacques Cousteau Reserve was simple: diversity in science is better for everybody. Not only is creating equal access important for advancing equality, science is stronger when everybody contributes.

In that spirit, the Reserve welcomed six undergraduates to pursue their own research last summer. Their experience was made possible through a partnership between the Jacques Cousteau Reserve and two programs from Rutgers University: the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP) and the Idea, Design and Entrepreneurship Academy (i.d.e.a.).

The path to a career in the sciences is long and challenging. The goal of this partnership was to create opportunities for students from racial and ethnic minorities to explore the fields of marine and coastal science, education, and resource management, connect with mentors, and identify career development opportunities.

“This internship gave me a better understanding of the field of marine and coastal science, as well as relevant career opportunities.” says Austin Crawley, one of the interns from Rutgers University.

“The research that I dove into taught me a lot regarding computer automation’s role in advanced projects and the potential for it to help even more with future innovation.” says Jake Stocki, another intern from Rutgers University. “The program as a whole has inspired me tremendously in my studies, and I will forever be grateful for the opportunity and support.”

In addition to their own research, the interns were able to take advantage of field-based projects currently underway at the Jacques Cousteau Reserve and the New Jersey Aquaculture Innovation Center (NJAIC) and take part in professional development training. 

“This was my first opportunity to work in a research environment,” says Stocki. “It not only taught me a great deal about the topic I was working on but it also gave me a great respect for the work that is done at these facilities all over the country and the world.”

On August 13th, program partners and interns celebrated their experience with presentations of the students’ research projects. This prepared them to participate in the upcoming GS-LSAMP symposium on February 25th, 2022, when more than 200 New Jersey undergraduates are expected to present research.

“This internship made me more comfortable with presenting my work in a professional setting. I was able to network with undergraduate and graduate students all interested in various topics in marine and environmental science,” says Intern Jordan Tarleton. “I was able to gain mentors who have been helping me with professional development and finding new research opportunities to be a part of.”

Staff at all the participating institutions were grateful for the opportunity to work with these students and have already begun preparations for the next cohort of interns next summer. Anyone interested in learning more about last summer’s program or the plans for next year, please contact Amy Plantarich at plantarich@marine.rutgers.edu.

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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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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 www.greatbaystewards.org.

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