From the Estuary Files: Reserve Data Mysteries

Jul 25, 2023

Ominous blobs, shoreline shrimp slaughter, a catastrophe on Bang’s Lake… who said science was dull? In honor of the return to school—and maybe the next Halloween blockbuster—educators across the Reserve System are serving up locally-inspired data mysteries

These activities are designed to help middle and high school students explore real estuary events and make predictions about future ones. In the process, they connect with estuaries and the challenges they face using data from the NERRS System-Wide Monitoring Program (SWMP).

SWMP is a nationally unique program that monitors local changes in weather and water quality. By combining data from SWMP and local research projects, these mysteries encourage educators and their students to explore the estuary in their backyard or another in the Reserve System.

Each mystery poses a question about a past event. What, for example, killed millions of grass shrimp on Cape Cod? Did a tsunami really hit the New Jersey coast? Why did one hurricane suck most of the water out of Weeks Bay and the next one cause flooding?

Using the SWMP Graphing and Export System, students assume the role of a scientist looking for data-driven patterns and trends and draw their own conclusions regarding what happened. Each mystery meets next generation standards for learning about science.

“Data mysteries are another example of Reserves coming together nationally to create tools that any educator in the country can use,” says Rebecca Roth, NERRA’s executive director. “Activities like these not only enrich education everywhere, they help stretch state and local education budgets by offsetting costs for curriculum development.” 

Data mysteries were developed through a successful collaboration between Reserve education and research coordinators and SWMP technicians. So far, the project has created seventeen mysteries, with more on the way. You bring your magnifying glass and we’ll bring the data. Let’s solve a mystery!

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ReservesFrom the Estuary Files: Reserve Data Mysteries