Conversations about Hudson River Shorelines

Shorelines PhotoToday was a great day!  The last two weeks have been packed with planning and preparing for the Hudson River Sustainable Shorelines Project (HRSSP) workshop – a day-long training for engineers, landscape architects, ecologists, and regulators to share some of the information and tools produced by the HRSSP.  For the past 8 years, the Reserve and its partners have been working to engage end-users, conduct research, produce tools, and implement case studies to provide guidance on making shorelines more sustainable on the Hudson River.

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Monitoring Change, Among Other Things

Greetings from the Great Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve in Greenland, New Hampshire! I can’t believe I’ve already been working at GBNERR for almost two months. I’ve learned so much already and met so many talented and engaged people who are working on issues like climate change adaptation and nutrient pollution in New Hampshire and Maine.

photo-10One thing that has struck me during my experience in the TIDES Program thus far is how well the curriculum meshes together. During my brief time at the reserve, I have already been able to apply the skills and knowledge learned during my first year of course work, including planning public participation events, conducting interviews, and using wetland sampling techniques and GIS.

One of the many topics we covered this year is the importance of high-quality environmental monitoring data. Continue reading

A Kayaker’s View of Great Bay


As an aspiring marine educator, I always struggle with the best educational tools that I can use to teach people about the importance of X topic. To me, simply telling people in a lecture is not effective, nor is reading about it in a textbook. Experiencing what you are learning about in a hands-on manner has been shown to be the best way to get someone engaged in the topic. John Dewey, a pioneer in the social science and education world, talked about the importance of a learning experience. He stated that learning only occurs through experience in his book Experience and Education. However, there are two types of experiences that Dewey addresses; if an educative experience occurs this will cause the person’s learning to grow and foster, whereas a miseducative experience can halt or severely hinder future learning. Most commonly this theory of experience is applied to a more structured form of education. Yet, it is one theory that has great importance for one of my favorite types of education, kayak education. Continue reading

The long and winding road of public participation

One of the questions I keep getting is, “So what do you actually do?”  The work that the TIDES program prepares you to do does not necessarily fit in to the familiar categories of professions.  I like to refer to it as “environmental problem solving,” but that is not a very tangible career path.

Right now I am working on developing a stakeholder engagement plan to inform and involve the public in the development of a marsh management plan at Piermont, the HRNERR’s southernmost site along the river.  Here’s some background – maybe longwinded, but there’s a lot of layers – bear with me!  Last year, the New York State Thruway Authority got a permit approved to demolish the existing Tappan Zee Bridge between Rockland and Westchester Counties and construct a new one.  This project involves a variety of impacts, including dredging, construction of permanent fixtures, and “incidental take” of Atlantic and short nose sturgeon, which are listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act, due to overfishing and habitat degradation.

Tappan Zee bridge construction

Tappan Zee bridge construction in the distance, from Tallman Mountain State Park

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The Festival that Saved a River

Clearwater1The Great Hudson River Revival!  What a perfect way to get a glimpse into the history of environmental challenges and grassroots activism in the Hudson Valley.  In the 1960s, Pete Seeger wanted to “build a boat to save the river.”  He held small concerts to raise money to build the sloop Clearwater.  This ship has provided a unique venue for environmental education and inspired activism to fight for a clean Hudson.  His concerts grew into the Clearwater Festival, the largest annual environmental celebration in the country.  Now the festival helps fund the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, Inc., a nonprofit that supports the educational programs and keeps the boat up and running.

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Farewell and Welcome!

Congratulations to the 2014 graduating TIDES cohort (Abbie, Cristina, Christos, Will, Natasha)!

Congratulations to the 2014 graduating TIDES cohort!

Congratulations to the 2014 graduating TIDES cohort!

As my fellow TIDES students and I (2013 interns) are moving on to new adventures (PhD pursuits, prestigious fellowships, government jobs and internships, and other paths), I wanted to introduce to you the TIDES class of 2015 (2014 interns). I am very proud to say that we have another excellent group of individuals learning how to integrate ecosystem science with decisions to help solve complex coastal issues. Meet the new interns:

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CERFing the West Coast!

TIDES students (Natasha, Will, Cristina, Abbie, and Christos) are concluding their internships with National Estuarine Research Reserve (NERR) sites around the country. They are also beginning to share their work with scientists and professionals from all over the world. Last week, Natasha (Natallia) Leuchanka (Chesapeake Bay NERR) and Cristina Bourassa (Tijuana River NERR) had the honor of sharing their research, experiences, and collaborative projects at the 22nd Biennial Conference of the Coastal Estuarine and Research Federation (CERF) in San Diego, California.

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Getting to change: from dumping grounds to prized possessions

This string of lateral pilings once supported a sewage pipe.

This string of lateral pilings once supported a sewage pipe.

When you’re standing in the middle of the salt marsh at the Tijuana River Estuary Research Reserve (TRNERR), aside from remaining wooden support pilings, it’s hard to believe that a sewage pipe once disposed city waste here. Like most wetlands, the Tijuana River Estuary was not always considered important. Reserve staff work together with California State Parks and the Southwest Wetlands Interpretive Association to continuously restore, enhance, and preserve the estuary. Today the region is preserved as a National Wildlife Refuge, a State Park, and a national estuary of importance through the National Estuarine Research Reserve System (NERRS).

path1The NERRS approach restoration through a blend of scientific research, practitioner training, education, and stewardship; these are expressed through core sectors that exist at every reserve. What’s really interesting about the diversity of reserves around the country is that  sectors have opportunities to work together differently, drawing from each other’s expertise. Sometimes, I think of these engagements as mini-collaborative projects.

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Happy National Estuaries Day!

IMG_0204This Saturday September 28th is National Estuaries Day; a day dedicated to promoting the importance of estuaries and the need to protect them. You may be asking yourself, “what exactly is an estuary anyway?”. Many of us have heard the term but might not know exactly what makes an area an estuary. An estuary is defined as a partially enclosed body of water where two different bodies of water meet and mix. More simply, estuaries are where rivers meet the sea. They are some of the most productive habitats on the planet and support a vast range of plants and animals from vegetation that protects our shorelines against storms to the striped bass on your dinner plate.

There are a number of events going on this weekend across the country in celebration of National Estuaries Day (click here to find an event near you). So no matter where you are, from California to Texas to New Hampshire, get outdoors this Saturday and explore all that your local estuary has to offer!