Ocean Community News

Four Ways to Celebrate Estuaries in February

1. Show Some Love

Calling all reserve lovers, coastal cupids, and estuary admirers! The time has come to shine your love for your estuary across social media—it’s #iheartestuaries. Now in its sixth year, this three-day, social media extravaganza is an easy way to demonstrate your support for your reserve, the NERRS, and other coastal programs to Congress and the administration.

From February 12th–14th, NERRA needs your help to unleash a “Twitter Storm” and “Facebook Frenzy” that gets noticed by Congress. Details on how you can help, including sample posts and tweets, are all included in the I Heart FAQ sheet. Feel free to use our IMAGES FOLDER. Get creative, have fun, and encourage friends and family to join. The only rule: be sure you use the hashtag #iheartestuaries in each and every post so that we can track how much estuary love there really is out there.

2. Do Your Part to Conserve Estuaries

Estuaries are some of the most productive ecosystems in the world and are home to many different plants and animals. Estuaries also support the U.S. economy in the form of seafood sales, jobs, and recreational activities such as fishing, bird watching, and boating.

Our National Estuarine Research Reserves are designed to protect these areas and the species that inhabit them. Research reserves are unique places that represent an important part of NOAA's place-based coastal management efforts. A total of 1.3 million acres of coastal wetland areas are managed and conserved through this partnership program with states and territories, but that's not all. Reserve staff work closely with local coastal communities to help make them healthier and more resilient, bringing needed coastal science to the decision- making table, and providing innovative, estuary-based educational opportunities to children and adults.

Do your part to help protect and conserve our nation's estuaries:

At Home:

  • Keep septic systems working properly. Pump your system every three years. Leaking systems seep into estuaries and pollute them.
  • Think before you pour something down the drain. Many hazardous products flow from household drains through sewage treatment plants and into coastal bodies of water.
  • Pave Less. Hard surfaces speed up water runoff and increase pollution and erosion.

In Your Garden

  • Avoid using toxic pesticides. Try using natural lawn and garden treatments. Plain soap and water does the job and can keep harmful chemicals from ending up in nearby waterways.
  • Use native plants. Garden and landscape with plants native to your areas and reduce the need for watering and fertilizing.
  • Collect rainwater. Reducing runoff is critical to minimize the impact our yards and gardens have on surrounding lakes and streams.

On the Water

  • Adhere to "no-wake' zones when on your boat. Waves destroy shorelines and increase erosion.
  • Fish respectfully. Follow "catch and release" practices and keep more fish alive.
  • Respect habitat. Treat the homes of vital marine life with care. Healthy habitat and survival go hand in hand. When habitat disappears so do many plants and animals.


  • Get involved! Volunteer at your nearest National Estuarine Research Reserve. Organize a stream or beach cleanup. Encourage your local newspaper to write a story, or ask an expert to speak at your community organization or school.
  • Take a few minutes to learn more about estuaries and perhaps visit your nearest National Estuarine Research Reserve.

3. Congratulate the 2017 National Estuarine Research Reserve System Award Winners:

IMPACT Award: Puerto Rico’s Jobos Bay reserve wins for its outstanding contributions and community involvement in the Jobos Bay area in the face of severe challenges.

The reserve is comprised of nearly 3,000 acres of mangrove forest and wetlands, including the Mar Negro area and Cayo Pájaros, Cayos Barca, and Cayos Caribe—an array of coral reef-fringed mangrove islands at the mouth of the bay. The reserve includes extensive seagrass beds, upland dry forests, and lagoons, and is home to the endangered brown pelican, peregrine falcon, hawksbill turtle, yellow-shouldered blackbird, and the West Indian manatee. Through a combination of research, monitoring, and outreach, reserve staff work to advance the sustainable management of Puerto Rico’s coastal resources and to protect regional watersheds and wetlands.

Technical Assistance Award: Chris Mitchell (research assistant, Hudson River) and Melissa Ide (data center manager, Centralized Data Management Office) for their technical skills and support of the System-Wide Monitoring Program (SWMP).

Site-based monitoring data provide standardized, quantitative measures to determine how conditions are changing in the short and long term. Three major components are focused on (1) abiotic indicators of water quality and weather, (2) biological monitoring, and (3) watershed, habitat, and land use mapping. Shapefiles of each reserve’s management boundary and watersheds of interest are provided. Abiotic parameters collected include nutrients, temperature, salinity, pH, dissolved oxygen, relative humidity, barometric pressure, wind speed/direction, and precipitation. Biological monitoring includes measures of biodiversity, habitat, and population characteristics. Watershed and land use classifications provide information on types of land use by humans and changes in land cover associated with each reserve.

Award for Outstanding Contributions: Betsy Blair, manager of Hudson River Reserve, for her exemplary leadership and commitment to the mission for the past 32 years.

This reserve protects nearly 5,000 acres along a 100-mile stretch of New York’s Hudson River Estuary. It embraces a wide range of habitat at its four locations—from the brackish marshes of Piermont and the Iona Island wetlands to the freshwater tidal mudflats and marshes of Tivoli Bays and Stockport Flats. A nursery for sturgeon, striped bass, and American shad, the river is home to more than 200 species of fish and an abundance of other wildlife. Dedicated to improving the health and vitality of the estuary through integrated education, training, stewardship, restoration, and monitoring and research, this reserve has emerged as a leader in advancing the science and practice of sustainable shoreline management in New York State.

4. Watch These Kids Celebrate Estuaries

Watch this blast of estuary love from the Apalachicola Bay Charter School fifth graders; it will inspire you to show that you heart estuaries this month! Video courtesy of the Apalachicola Reserve.

About National Estuarine Research Reserves
The National Estuarine Research Reserve System is a network of 29 coastal sites designated to protect and study estuarine systems. Established through the Coastal Zone Management Act, the reserves represent a partnership program between NOAA and the coastal states. NOAA provides funding and national guidance, and each site is managed on a daily basis by a lead state agency or university with input from local partners. Learn More.

ECO Magazine is a marine science publication committed to bringing scientists and professionals the latest ground-breaking research, industry news, and job opportunities from around the world.


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