Know Your Tides

Know Your Tides

Check out the Know Your Tides campaign trailer here.

Along the coasts of New Jersey, residents and visitors are getting the message—you have more fun and stay safer when you Know Your Tides.

A partnership of the Jacques Cousteau Reserve and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, this social media campaign aims to raise awareness of tidal flooding risk by encouraging people to learn more about their local tides. The campaign launched in June, with funding from NOAA’s Office for Coastal Management and will run until September. 

“​​The diversity of our coast makes it complicated to communicate about flood risk in New Jersey,” says Vanessa Tropiano, coastal training program coordinator for the Reserve. “We hope the campaign will overcome that challenge through messages that integrate local experiences and culture across diverse coastal communities.”

The campaign team is using a mix of videos, infographics, and local photography to build awareness of sea level rise, tidal flooding, and locally relevant resources that people can use to prepare for future floods. These are shared on the Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts of campaign partners, which include dozens of informal education centers in coastal regions of the state (#TideSmart, #KnowYourTidesNJ).

The team created infographics to communicate key concepts related to sea level rise and tidal flooding.

“Partnering with informal education centers allows us to reach new audiences,” says Tropiano. “A pre-campaign survey of education center staff and their public audiences was used to inform the campaign, and afterward we’ll do a post-survey to gauge campaign effectiveness”

The team leveraged its new MyCoast New Jersey to create a home for the campaign, creating a potential model for other MyCoast states interested in running a similar campaign. Want to learn more? Contact Vanessa Tropiano for more information.

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Calling Future Davidson Graduate Fellows

Calling Future Davidson Graduate Fellows

The Davidson Fellowship creates opportunities for students like Johanna L’Heureux, whose research aims to understand how changes in marsh elevation and nutrients in runoff affect salt marsh carbon storage. Photo courtesy Great Bay Reserve.

A new group of coastal scientists is soon to get their start at Reserves through the Margaret A. Davidson Graduate Fellowship Program. The program is now accepting applications for the 2022 to 2024 cohort of fellows. Each Davidson fellow is placed at one of the 29 Reserves in the National Estuarine Research Reserve System. With the support of a Reserve mentor, fellows work with scientists and community representatives to pursue research that is locally relevant and nationally significant. In the process, they develop career skills and build their professional network that extends around the country.

Depending on congressional appropriations, NOAA anticipates an annual budget of up to $45,000 in direct costs to support the fellows and their research. More information about the fellowship and application process can be found on NOAA’s Office for Coastal Management website.

Interested? Join a webinar on Tuesday, June 29, 2021, 2–3 PM ET that will feature a panel discussion with current fellows where they will highlight their experiences and lessons learned working collaboratively with reserves and end users to design and complete their research. You can register for the webinar here.

Can’t wait? Let the current fellows share their enthusiasm now.

Estuary Caucus Explores Living Shorelines

Estuary Caucus Explores Living Shorelines

Living shorelines built with oyster shells stabilize the shoreline and provide critical habitat.

Join the Co-Chairs of the Congressional Estuary Caucus, Representatives Bill Posey (R-FL), Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), Rick Larsen (D-WA), and Brian Mast (R-FL) on Thursday June 17, 2021, 3:00 to 3:40 EST for a virtual briefing on nature-based infrastructure solutions for coastal communities.

Hear from coastal restoration professionals about projects that have improved community resilience and helped shape the way we think about infrastructure along our coasts.

Speakers will include Brandon Puckett, NERRA board member and research coordinator at North Carolina’s Coastal Reserve and National Estuarine Research Reserve; Alicia Lehrer, executive director of the Woonasquatucket River Watershed Council; Duane De Freese, executive director of the Indian River Lagoon Council and the Indian River Lagoon National Estuary Partnership; and John Floberg, marine habitat resource specialist at NOAA’s Office of Habitat Conservation. The briefing will be moderated by Daniel Hayden, president and CEO of Restore America’s Estuaries.

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Growing to Meet the Climate Challenge

Growing to Meet the Climate Challenge

Our soon to be 30th Reserve in Connecticut Reserve will help protect the state’s greatest natural resource.

As the federal government strives to slow climate change by conserving 30% of America’s lands and waters by 2030, efforts to expand the National Estuarine Research Reserve System (NERRS) could not be more timely. The addition of three new Reserves in Connecticut, Louisiana, and Wisconsin will build on the 1.3+ million acres Reserves currently help protect, much of which is publicly accessible. It also will grow the network of NERRS programs that rely on the principles of locally-led conservation, as described in a recent report to the National Climate Task Force.

“Saving land is critical, but putting management in place to care for it in perpetuity is just as important,” observes Rebecca Roth, executive director of the National Estuarine Research Reserve Association (NERRA). “I was happy to see the report call out NERRS expansion—the creation of new Reserves by Congress. Reserves not only support the administration’s goals for conservation, they are the gold star for how it should be done.”

A Growing National Estuarine Research Reserve System


In addition to the Reserves in the designation process, a request has been submitted to NOAA to consider a Reserve in the U.S. Virgin Islands. New Reserves will expand the NERRS network of living laboratories, across which scientists and practitioners collaborate with stakeholders to test and share innovative approaches to habitat restoration and management. They will widen and deepen the impact of education and coastal training programs designed to meet local and regional needs, including those of tribal nations.

“When a Reserve is established, it brings with it a national community of practice, dedicated to working collaboratively to evolve tools and strategies  to advance estuarine  science, monitoring, stewardship, education, and training,” says Roth. “This approach creates tangible economic benefits for states and communities, and promotes the equitable distribution of the benefits that Reserves provide.

#30 - Connecticut

The Connecticut Reserve will contribute science and monitoring to support management strategies for a healthy and productive Long Island Sound, which contributes $7 billion annually to the regional economy.

Alongside research into how habitats and species have changed in response to centuries of development in the Sound, the Reserve will provide a unique understanding of the interplay of big river systems and receiving waters. It also will deepen our collective knowledge of the connection between oysters, eelgrass, and water quality, and protect critical habitats for hundreds of species of migratory birds and fish, including the endangered Atlantic and shortnose sturgeon.


Home to diverse natural resources of commercial, cultural, and economic importance, Louisiana faces some of the greatest challenges of any coastal state in terms of land loss, flooding, hurricanes, and sea level rise. A Reserve would help protect the health of the Louisiana Delta, while providing targeted science, monitoring, education, and outreach to support the state, including its underserved communities, in being more self-reliant in the face of these challenges.

“This could be the highest and best use for the port ever,” said South Tangipahoa Port Commissioner Bill Joubert, adding that regardless of where the Reserve is placed, it’s a win for Louisiana and the port.

Currently, three regions are under consideration for designation, and the search committee anticipates one site will be selected and submitted to NOAA for approval by the end of 2021. Louisiana is currently the only coastal state in the U.S. without at least one Reserve. Learn more about their selection process.


For centuries, Green Baythe world’s largest freshwater estuaryhas been vital to how Northeast Wisconsin lives, works, and plays. To help preserve the Bay for future generations, supporters are pushing to designate it as a Reserve. 

Although the Bay of Green Bay is slowly bouncing back after generations of abuse that degraded water quality and habitat, much work remains. Supporters of the Bay hope that a Reserve will spur further research and identify new solutions to existing and emerging problems.

Site selection is currently underway for the Green Bay Reserve and is expected to complete by the end of 2022. Learn more about what’s happening with this Reserve.

U.S. Virgin Islands

The governor of the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI) submitted a letter of interest in establishing a Reserve in December 2019. NOAA found the request compelling, but did not have the capacity to provide funds to engage in the site selection process at that time; they will reconsider the request in January 2022.

The Territory’s tropical estuaries are experiencing rapid changes as the climate shifts. In the wake of extreme storms, including Hurricanes Irma and Maria, USVI partners are studying how to support the resilience of these natural systems, and the surrounding communities, as they recover from large disturbances. They also are exploring how to diversify the Territory’s economy and invest in greater food security, including fishing and aquaculture.

Given the majority-minority population (76% African-American, 17% Hispanic and Latino), a Reserve in the USVI will increase diversity, equity and inclusion within the NERRS and be a valuable addition to the the System’s understanding of how to engage different communities—especially those from underserved and historically underrepresented groups in the STEM fields—in coastal science and coastal decision-making.

How to Talk About Climate Change During a Pandemic

How to Talk About Climate Change During a Pandemic

Emphasizing connections to the natural world is one way communities can integrate efforts to address climate change and manage the COVID-19 epidemic. Photo courtesy Narragansett Bay Reserve.

As the world faces down the challenges of the past year, one fact remains: we need to talk about climate change. Whether the conversation is between scientists and decision makers, educators and students, or even family members at the dinner table, how we talk about it has a huge impact on how our words are received. A new training from Rhode Island’s Narragansett Bay Reserve is helping coastal communities reckon with the climate change conversation in a way that’s constructive, even under the weight of other crises.

“Many people are still building their confidence to talk about climate change, and the pandemic didn’t help,” says Jen West, the Reserve’s coastal training program coordinator who developed the training with support from the National Network for Ocean and Climate Change Interpretation (NNOCCI). “This training is intended to help everyone adapt and respond to the unique demands of this moment by providing ways to maximize the positive outcomes of climate communications in a COVID-19 context.”

Through the NERRS national network, the Rhode Island-based training has been offered to communities and Reserve partners from the Gulf of Maine to the Gulf of Mexico. These events engaged hundreds of participants at more than 53 organizations, providing tools and ideas to help shape local educationand conversationaround climate change. One component of the training advice is specific to navigating these conversations in the context of the COVID-19 pandemican ongoing concern for many communities.

“This training was a great reminder that the language we use to discuss topics greatly impacts the way our audience receives the message; it provided tools for discussing climate change at a time when our communications have to be drastically modified,” says Taylor Ryan, an air quality specialist at the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management.

“One idea that has really stuck with me is how the media is often pitting environmental ‘improvement’ against the COVID-19 crisis; for example, saying ‘air quality is better because less people are driving to work.’ As representatives of environmental agencies, and personal environmental stewards, we want to ensure the narrative does not create a divide between environmental and economic issues by using positive messaging toward both.”

COVID offers us an opportunity to highlight our connections to each other and the natural world, observes West. “It can be a way to help people understand why it’s important to take action at a community level. Any time we can align efforts to address COVID-19 with with those focused on climate change, we are helping to build that understanding and sense of empowerment,” she says.

The training uses a set of market-tested “frameworks” to give people effective, proven ways to shape the climate change conversation in ways that connect with the person they’re engaging. Certain metaphorical frames are effective for communicating complex concepts: for example, NNOCCI recommends explaining ocean acidification as an “osteoporosis of the sea.” Positive frames that emphasize protecting people and places and responsible stewardship work better to promote action than dire messages.

“We have to tell a story that’s not just doom and gloom, because we know that doesn’t work,” says West. “Hope promotes dialogue and action—now is the time to shift the national conversation about climate change to be more positive, civic-minded, and solutions-focused.”

Tips for How to Talk About Climate Change—Even During a Pandemic. Watch a recording from the Wells Reserve here.

Using more positive frames has resonated with many participants. “I’m redoing our forest ecology program for students in middle school and want to add a climate connection,” says Tracey Hall, an education coordinator for the Audubon Society of Rhode Island. “I got some helpful ideas to connect the importance of forests, trees as a carbon sink and related steps people can do that take the gloom and doom out!”

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Reserve Data Tracks Climate Change Threats

Reserve Data Tracks Climate Change Threats

A water quality monitoring station in one of the estuaries monitored by the North Carolina Reserve. Photo courtesy of the North Carolina Reserve.

In October 2018, Hurricane Florence hit the Carolinas, causing $24 billion in damages and killing more than 50 people. But the dangers of the storm extended beyond the immediate wind, rain, and debris. Using data from the North Carolina Reserve, investigators tracked a tripling in infections of the deadly pathogen Vibrio vulnificus in the hurricane’s wake.

Data from the Reserve’s System-Wide Monitoring Program (SWMP) showed that Florence’s heavy rains shifted the salinity of coastal waters into the ideal range for Vibrio, likely contributing to the spike in infection rate. Three North Carolinians died after exposure to Vibrio in the days following the storm. 

This graph shows the salinity ranges from a Reserve monitoring station near where Ron Phelps, a North Carolina man who died of Vibrio infection, was likely exposed in the days following Hurricane Florence. Credit: Elisabeth Gawthorp.

As oceans warm and storms grow harsher and more frequent, Vibrio infections are becoming increasingly common, even in areas they have never occurred before. In this article, Glenn Morris, an emerging pathogens expert at the University of Florida, calls Vibrio “an early warning system” for the kind of public-health crises that will keep arising from climate change.

Vibrio infections are quite climate sensitive,” said Morris. “Even a slight rise in temperatures can significantly boost their growth.”

Scientists call Vibriooften characterized as a “flesh-eating bacteria”a bellwether for climate change because it flourishes in warm brackish waters. V. vulnificus, the most deadly strain, kills one in every five people who contract it. Since 2007, South Carolina has seen a three-fold increase in Vibrio infections and North Carolina’s rate is 1.6 times greater. 

The North Carolina Reserve has been collecting standardized water quality and climate data on the coast since 2002. “The investigators approached us because we had some of the best data in the area,” said Byron Toothman, a monitoring technician at the Reserve. “The value of our data is that it stretches across many geographic regions, and it’s consistent in the way it is collected, processed, and handled.”

To assess public health risks driven by the impacts of climate change, high-quality, long-term environmental data is essential.The Reserve’s data not only supports science and research, but also natural resource management. The University of North Carolina Wilmington, for example, depends heavily on Reserve expertise for the management of their shellfish research hatchery life support system.

A sediment elevation table (SET) tracks the elevation of a marsh in the face of climate change-driven sea level rise.

The Reserve’s science and monitoring is complemented by a robust Coastal Training Program that provides tools, training, education, and support for local communities. Since Hurricane Florence, they have provided training on climate resilience for almost 400 local professionals, including real estate agents, marine contractors, engineers, and land managers. 

“The North Carolina Reserve seeks and values partnerships with organizations and communities in our local watersheds,” says Whitney Jenkins, the Reserve’s coastal training program coordinator. “By providing resources and training opportunities to improve coastal resilience to climate change impacts, we further the NCNERR’s mission while also meeting local needs.”


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