Interested in visiting a freshwater estuary? The National Estuarine Research Reserve system added another Reserve site in October 2010 raising the number of Reserves to 28 around the United States. The Lake Superior NERR is comprised of approximately 16,000 acres and is located along the confluence of the St. Louis River and Lake Superior. You may see some familiar habitats within their Reserve boundary including freshwater marshes, sandy beaches, and dunes. Have you visited all 28 Reserves? We encourage you to do so and you can start by visiting the Lake Superior NERR or stop by and see us here in Delaware. For more information on the Lake Superior National Estuarine Research Reserve visit them on the web and for information on the Delaware NERR please visit our website or like us on Facebook.
Posts Tagged ‘Estuaries’
Have you been to the Blackbird Creek Reserve lately? You may have notice some changes to our farm field. As part of our restoration plan for the Blackbird Creek Reserve, we have taken some agricultural land out of production and created/restored some freshwater wetlands. Wetlands are areas where there are water loving (hydrophytic) plants, saturation of the land or free standing water during portions of the growing season, and hydric soils (soils that are wet enough during the growing season to develop low/no oxygen conditions). Wetlands have many benefits such as absorbing water like a sponge which helps to reduce flooding, acting as a natural filter, and providing important habitat for food, shelter, and nesting. A couple of weeks ago staff and volunteers planted the wetland sites with various native water loving plants including rushes, wool grass, buttonbush, sedges, and pin oak. Visit us on the web for more information about the Blackbird Creek Reserve, Delaware Wetlands, and Wetland and Waterway permitting in Delaware.
Did you see the movie stars at the St. Jones Reserve this past Saturday? They attended the premiere of the new St. Jones River video entitled The Price of Progress…The Promise of Protection in which they starred. The 20-minute video explored the St. Jones River through time. The river is both rich in natural history and cultural history. If you missed the show you still have an opportunity to see it as we will be showing it again this winter. Copies will also be available for educational use.
In addition to the premiere of the new video during the St. Jones Open House, we also showcased the research being conducted at the Reserve as well as the sea level rise inundation mapping tool; the facility and estuarium were opened for tours; and there were crafts for our younger visitors. The Open House was held in conjunction with the Delaware Native Plant Society’s annual plant sale. Thank you to all who visited us at the Open House and Plant Sale!
Delaware Coastal Programs, Manager, David Carter retired from the Department of Natural Resources & Environmental Control (DNREC) on September 1, 2012 following a 25+ year service to the State of Delaware. For over twenty five years David Carter has dedicated both his career and personal time to the protection and restoration of Delaware’s wetlands. As a biologist and Regional Manager with the DNREC Division of Fish and Wildlife his vision and drive was key to establishing the Northern Delaware Wetlands Restoration Program, which continues to be implemented today and has restored hundreds of acres of wetland. As a Program Manager with the Delaware Coastal Programs he employed innovative planning and funding tools to improve the management and protection of wetlands in the state, through development of the Pea Patch Island Heronry Special Area Management Plan, Coastal and Estuarine Land Protection Program, horseshoe crab and shorebird monitoring, Marsh Vulnerability Index and the System Wide Monitoring Program for the National Estuarine Research Reserve. In his home life, as an active hunter and member of Ducks Unlimited, Dave has created wetland and habitat on his 40-acre farm, providing a demonstration site for others. In addition, David has cultivated a climate of innovation and implementation-focused planning for the next generation of coastal and wetland managers. “Congratulations and best wishes for a wonderful future filled with continued success and happiness.”
Many east coasters have heard of brackish water estuaries…where rivers meet the sea. But, have you ever heard of a freshwater estuary? The National Estuarine Research Reserve (NERR) System actually has two freshwater estuaries…Old Woman Creek in Ohio and Lake Superior in Wisconsin. Freshwater estuaries do not contain salt water but rather, are combinations of river and lake water (large lakes). The river water and lake water are chemically different and the estuary tends to be driven by storm surges and seiches (shifting of lake water) rather than tides. Today’s destination is the Old Woman Creek NERR located on the southwestern shore of Lake Erie just east of Huron, Ohio. It was the first freshwater estuary adopted into the NERR System in 1980. Old Woman Creek NERR encompasses approximately 573 acres and includes critical spawning and nursery ground for many recreational and commercial fisheries including crappie, blue gill, and channel catfish. So, if you are taking a trip near Huron, Ohio stop in and visit the Old Woman Creek Reserve! For more information about freshwater estuaries visit the estuaries.gov website and to learn more about Old Woman Creek NERR visit them on their website.
So needless to say, this past Monday I was excited to assist with such an interesting project. We launched our boat just after 5 am into the St. Jones River, and we were off to survey set points along the marshes for these “secretive” birds. It was quite an enjoyable experience as we diligently listened for the birds and was quite delighted to see a few. The most exciting sighting was a mother clapper rail with her chicks following closely behind. Our resident bird expert said this was quite an unusual sight as it is rare to see the chicks (don’t forget…they are secretive). It was certainly an interesting morning on the River and an experience I won’t soon forget. In fact, I’m looking forward to going back out in July. It’s amazing the wildlife you see early in the morning. You never know what might be lurking in the marsh.
Have you ever wondered what the marsh was like many years ago? Probably not, but we (scientists) have a way of determining how much sediment has been collected on the marsh surface over long periods of time (also known as accretion). Recently, we collected three sediment cores within the St. Jones Reserve as part of a long term bio-monitoring project. In order to collect these cores, we used a large tri-pod to help pull up a PVC pipe that was pushed into the marsh to collect and hold the sample. This may sound simple, but there needs to be the right amount of suction to keep the core sample inside of the PVC pipe as we lift it up. Sometimes this process can take multiple tries! After each core is collected we put rubber caps on each end until the soil sample is ready to be processed. Analyses of these core samples for lead-210 and cesium-137 helps determine accretion rates and the age of various depths within the sediment over the past 50-100 years.
Processing the cores can be a messy and smelly job, but it is fun to work with marsh mud. Thankfully, we can open the windows to help reduce the smell. The first part of the processing requires the sediment core to be cut up into 2cm sections and dried in a scientific oven. Then the samples are sent to the University of Delaware campus in Lewes, DE for the final analysis.
Understanding coastal marsh development is an important part of determining their future. Brandon Boyd, a University of Delaware graduate student, has been conducting research on Delaware’s coastal marshes – from saltmarshes near the bay mouth to tidal fresh farther up river. In conjunction with his advisor, Dr. Christopher K. Sommerfield, Brandon is studying sediment cores to determine the rate of sediment accumulation (collection) on the marsh surface. As shown in the picture, these cores are collected by pushing a five foot PVC pipe into the ground and removing it with a metal tripod. The collected soil is processed and radioactivity in the sediment layers is measured at the University of Delaware’s lab located in the College of Earth, Ocean and Environment in Lewes, Delaware. The radiation measured is naturally occurring. The chronologies or date-assigned depths from these sediment cores are used to understand how sediment moves in the coastal system. Other researchers use the sediment core date data for measuring nutrient burial or tracking pollutants.
As a NERR graduate research fellow for the Delaware NERR, Brandon is looking at the variability in the development of the marsh surface over the past 100 years. The development of the marsh can vary greatly from water front to high marsh. Analyzing the differences in marsh surface development will assist in determining how well the marshes will adapt to sea level rise. So, the next time you’re out in one of Delaware’s marshes, watching the waterfowl or kayaking down a tidal creek, remember to be grateful for all that mud that sticks to you and your gear…without it, we wouldn’t have marshes!
It is that time of year when the Reserve gears up for all things horseshoe crab related. Every spring around May and June, the Delaware Bay beaches are covered with spawning horseshoe crabs. During this time trained volunteers help assess the horseshoe crab population by participating in the horseshoe crab spawning survey. The survey began in the 1990’s to assist scientists in monitoring changes in population of spawning horseshoe crabs in the Delaware Bay. Delaware’s well-trained and enthusiastic volunteers have made this program one of the most successful volunteer based wildlife surveys in the country. As part of the bay-wide survey, the Reserve coordinates the volunteer efforts on three bay beaches (Kitts Hummock, Ted Harvey, and North Bowers). The preparation for the survey begins in March by seeking volunteers who are interested in participating in research and are up for an adventure!
It is important that volunteers are trained for the survey as the data is being used in management and policy decisions. The Reserve staff holds two volunteer training sessions in April each year for anyone interested in assisting with the Horseshoe Crab Spawning survey. The trainings take place at the St. Jones Reserve, 818 Kitts Hummock Road, Dover. You are only required to participate in one of the following trainings:
Thursday, April 5, 2012 from 6 - 7:30 p.m. at the St. Jones Reserve
Saturday, April 14, 2012 from 10 – 11:30 a.m. at the St. Jones Reserve
Are you ready and up for this awesome opportunity to be a citizen scientist? We hope so! We could definitely use your help. To register for a training or for more information visit us on the web.
The St. Jones Reserve is now taking reservations for the Spring 2012 and Fall 2012 field trip seasons. We thank everyone for their patience and support as the Reserve was in a strategic planning mode this past fall. We will be offering field trip opportunities on Tuesdays and Wednesdays beginning March 1st. Field trips are designed based on grade levels and Delaware state standards. Possible activities for your school’s field trip experience may include a muckless marsh walk; discovery labs on various topics (such as weather & climate, horseshoe crabs, water quality); activities about horseshoe crabs; skins, scat, and tracks activity; watershed models; fish printing; plant collecting and preservation; and boat trips just to name a few. Please contact Kate Marvel if you are interested in participating in a field trip at the St. Jones Reserve by e-mailing her at Kate.Marvel@state.de.us or by calling (302) 739-3436. For more information about the Reserve visit our website.