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Delaware National Estuarine Research Reserve


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coastal-training-program

New faces at DNERR! Meet our Summer Interns

Written on: June 26th, 2017 in Coastal Training ProgramEducation & OutreachNERRResearchSt. Jones ReserveStewardship

We’re excited to welcome our summer interns to DNERR! We have several new faces around the Reserve, all undergraduate students coming from five states and four universities. They’re helping staff members with various tasks for the summer months including research, communication and policy, education and outreach, and conservation and stewardship. Read on to find out a little more about each of them! (Johanna Hripto, DNERR Assistant Education Coordinator & Blog Editor)

Alegna Adams, Conservation Intern

Alegna Adams

What is your position here? DNERR Conservation Intern under Charlie Bishop, Conservationist

Where do you go to school, what year are you, and what do you study? Senior at University of Delaware, Newark studying Wildlife Conservation

Where are you from? Newark, Delaware

What are you most excited about experiencing in your internship? I’m most excited about gaining hands-on experience and applying what I learn to my studies in school.

What is something people would be surprised to know about you?  I once went to California on a school-sponsored business trip.

Jacob Filby, Communications and Policy Intern

Jacob Filby

 What is your position here? Communications and Policy Intern under Kelly Valencik, Coastal Training Program Coordinator

 Where do you go to school, what year are you, and what do you study? Senior at the University of Delaware, Newark pursuing Environmental Studies with a concentration in Public Advocacy with a minor in Journalism

 Where are you from? Buffalo, New York

 What are you most excited about experiencing in your internship? Sitting in at local government meetings and learning how various processes work and then being able to write about all of it.

 What is something people would be surprised to know about you? I run a widely read training blog about collegiate rowing.

Elle Gilchrist, Research Intern

Elle Gilchrist

What is your position here? DNERR Environmental Science Research Intern, under Drexel Siok, Environmental Scientist and Christina Whiteman, Environmental Scientist and Stewardship Coordinator

Where do you go to school, what year are you, and what do you study? Senior at Unity College of Maine studying Marine Biology with a focus on Sustainability

Where are you from? Westport, Connecticut

What are you most excited about experiencing in your internship? I am super excited to work on the Horseshoe crab surveys! They are my favorite creatures and I can’t wait to work with them!

What is something people would be surprised to know about you? I was previously a state park ranger in CT and I love a good cup of coffee!

Sydney Hall, Research Intern

Sydney Hall

What is your position here? DNERR Research Intern under Mike Mensinger, Environmental Scientist

Where do you go to school, what year are you, and what do you study? Junior at Wesley College, Dover studying Environmental Science

Where are you from? Smyrna, Delaware

What are you most excited about experiencing in your internship? Experiencing the wide variety of projects and getting in the field or in the lab. Being an intern here has provided me a way to channel myself into my work and to gain a strong perspective of what a future career in environmental science could be like.

What is something people would be surprised to know about you? I’m a sister of Delta Phi Epsilon Sorority.

Dan Hribar, Research Intern

Dan Hribar

What is your position here? NOAA Hollings Scholar, DNERR Research intern under Kari St. Laurent, Research Coordinator and Environmental Scientist

Where do you go to school, what year are you, and what do you study? Senior at The Ohio State University studying Environmental Science with a concentration in Restoration Ecology

Where are you from? Euclid, Ohio

What are you most excited about experiencing in your internship? I am most looking forward to building my network (and circle of friends) and becoming more versed in the practice of the scientific method. This is my first extended stay on the East Coast and getting to experience a new region of the country is exciting and worthwhile. Those who know me best are well aware of my outspoken passion for all things biological and environmentally-related, and I intend to pursue an advanced degree in a corresponding field upon graduating from OSU next spring.

What is something people would be surprised to know about you? One thing some people may be surprised to learn about me—given my sometimes quiet demeanor—is that I genuinely love getting to know new people and learning about their interests and passions!

Anna Kjellson, Education Intern

 Anna Kjellson

What is your position here? DNERR Environmental Education Intern, under Maggie Pletta, Education Coordinator and Johanna Hripto, Assistant Education Coordinator

Where do you go to school, what year are you, and what do you study? Sophomore at Gordon College in Wenham, Massachusetts studying Chemistry and Secondary Education

Where are you from? Swedesboro, NJ

What are you most excited about experiencing in your internship? I’m excited about the opportunity to design and present original curriculum for formal and informal educators.

What is something people would be surprised to know about you? I spent five years learning to saber fence with an FIE world champion!

Bryce Stevenosky, Research Intern

Bryce Stevenosky

What is your position here? DENIN Research Intern through DNREC Policy Internship, DNERR Research Intern under Kari St. Laurent, Research Coordinator and Environmental Scientist

Where do you go to school, what year are you, and what do you study? Senior University of Delaware, Newark studying Geography with a Geological Science Minor

Where are you from? Magnolia, Delaware

What are you most excited about experiencing in your internship? I’m very excited to present on my research and hopefully stir more interest on blue carbon in our regional scientific community. I also look forward to garnering new research methods and data collection skills that will help me in the future.

What is something people would be surprised to know about you? I was raised in a home on the St. Jones River.

education-outreach

Undercover Researcher: Exploring the Connection Between Education and Research

Written on: May 30th, 2017 in Education & OutreachNERRResearch

Assistant Education Coordinator Johanna Hripto writes about her experience combining education and research at the Delaware National Estuarine Research Reserve. They really aren’t that far apart! 

Reading the Sediment Elevation Tables (SETs) at the St. Jones Reserve.

Reading the Sediment Elevation Tables (SETs) at the St. Jones Reserve.

As the Assistant Education Coordinator for DNERR, I get to spend a lot of time teaching others about the Delaware Bay and sharing just how awesome and important our estuaries are. I have the opportunity to share my knowledge and passion of the environment with others while getting to interact with a variety of people from school groups and the public. The thing I find most exciting about our education curriculum is that we are lucky enough at DNERR to be able to incorporate research from our own Reserve right into our programming. Our researchers collect data to learn about the health of our estuaries, including water quality, marsh assessments, and the flora and fauna that rely on the marsh and Delaware Bay for life. I then get to take this research and finds ways to translate it into school and public programs, sharing DNERR’s efforts and findings with the community.

Counting spawning horseshoe crabs at Kitts Hummock Beach

Counting spawning horseshoe crabs at Kitts Hummock Beach

After graduating with a BS in Biology last May, I started work at DNERR the end of the summer, eager to learn how to translate my biology background into educational opportunities. After half a year at the Reserve of learning DNERR’s education curriculum and different interpretation techniques, my supervisor allowed me to continue my interest in biology research and help out with research needs around the Reserve (thanks Maggie!). I had experience with research projects and field work in college and was excited to apply what I learned to this new environment. At Lycoming College in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, we worked in thick deciduous forests and freshwater river ecosystems, mainly on the Susquehanna River. It’s been quite a difference learning about coastal ecosystems, salinity gradients, and remembering to always check the tide before going out!

Early morning sunrise for the nekton trawl.

Early morning sunrise for the nekton trawl.

So far I’ve been able to assist with SET readings (sediment elevation tables) to see how the marsh elevation ischanging, horseshoe crab spawning surveys (counting spawning crabs as they come up on the beaches at night to lay their eggs), nekton surveys (using an otter trawl net in a river to see what you find- think blue crabs, fish, and American eels), and also with zooplankton collection and assessment (yes, like Plankton from Spongebob- he does exist!). I’ve also created a zooplankton lesson plan that allows students to collect, process, and identify their own sample taken right from our boardwalk at St. Jones Reserve. The lab is a reflection of the zooplankton assessment being conducted by our researchers, whose goal is to determine long and short term changes in zooplankton biodiversity and populations in the St. Jones River.

Hogchoker flounder from the nekton trawl on Blackbird Creek.

Hogchoker flounder from the nekton trawl on Blackbird Creek.

I’ve learned a lot already and am excited to experience more opportunities in the future and to continue finding new ways to tie it all back to education. After all, you can count all the horseshoe crabs you want but if you can’t tell the public why we do it, you’re missing something!

blackbird-creek-reserve

“THIS SPACE AVAILABLE: Insert Your Name Here!”

Written on: April 27th, 2017 in Blackbird Creek ReserveGuest BlogNERRSt. Jones ReserveVolunteers

To add variety to the blog and to offer a fresh perspective from our visitors, we are inviting guest bloggers to write posts describing their visits and thoughts while at the Reserve. Want to become involved yourself? This post is for you! Read on to see what DNERR has to offer and consider the possibilities of becoming involved with DNERR, as described by guest blogger M.L. Christmas. Enjoy! (Johanna Hripto, DNERR Assistant Education Coordinator & Blog Editor)

A tranquil pond, a stone bridge, and acres of welcoming trees: the gateway to the St. Jones Reserve awaits!

A tranquil pond, a stone bridge, and acres of welcoming trees: the gateway to the     St. Jones Reserve awaits!

Consider the space: At the St. Jones Reserve, you are greeted by over 5,100 acres of outdoor wonders: tidal brackish-water and salt marshes; hiking trails; wetland restoration ponds; a visitor’s center providing hands-on interactive activities and exhibits; educational programs and volunteer opportunities; a native plant nursery; and of course a river runs through it: the St. Jones, on its way to the Delaware Bay.

Consider the space: At the Blackbird Creek Reserve, 1,180 acres await your exploration: hardwood and softwood trees; tidal and non-tidal wetlands and brackish marshes; wetland plants; the possibility of spotting river otters, bald eagles, osprey, wild turkeys, and great blue herons; and at the center of it all is Blackbird Creek, meandering to the Delaware River.

Colorful trees, glistening water, and dappled sunlight: Explore the beauties of the Blackbird Creek Reserve!

Colorful trees, glistening water, and dappled sunlight: Explore the beauties of the Blackbird Creek Reserve!

Consider the space: A crowd-sourced blog, hosted by the Delaware National Estuarine Research Reserve, reaching a worldwide audience of outdoors-minded adults and families, natural-science teachers and other professionals, school students, and even representatives of other Estuarine Research Reserves. (Did you know there are 29 Reserves across the U.S., including the new He‘eia National Estuarine Research Reserve in Hawaii, designated in 2017? A map of the NERR system can be found here.)

Consider the possibilities: When we say “THIS SPACE AVAILABLE: Insert Your Name Here!,” what we mean is not only that you should pay a visit to the Delaware National Estuarine Research Reserve, or to one of the other Reserves in our system, but also please consider dropping us a line about your experiences, for possible posting.

A study in black and white: The guest blogger literally pictures herself at the Blackbird Creek Reserve.

A study in black and white: The guest blogger literally pictures herself at the Blackbird Creek Reserve.

All of these wide-open spaces — including those of this blog — are available to you! Feel free to canoe, hike, explore, experience. Then write about your adventures, add your personally captured photos, and submit your material to Johanna Hripto, DNERR Assistant Education Coordinator, at Johanna.Hripto@state.de.us.

Let us hear from you soon!

Text and photos by M.L. Christmas

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M.L. Christmas, MSM, is a freelance writer/editor living in the Dover area. She is a longtime member of Delaware Press Association and the National Federation of Press Women.

education-outreach

“Education Volunteer Training III: ‘You Had Me at Zooplankton!’”

Written on: April 11th, 2017 in Education & OutreachGuest BlogSt Jones Events and ProgramsSt. Jones ReserveVolunteers

To add variety to the blog and to offer a fresh perspective from our visitors, we are inviting guest bloggers to write posts describing their visits and thoughts while at the Reserve. This guest blog covers a recent DNERR Education Volunteer Training written by M.L. Christmas. Missed the training? Read on to find out what happened! Enjoy! (Johanna Hripto, DNERR Assistant Education Coordinator & Blog Editor)

Packet of goodies! We also received handout sheets and BPA-free water bottles from the Delaware Clean Water Alliance.

Packet of goodies! We also received handout sheets and BPA-free water bottles from the Delaware Clean Water Alliance.

One good training session, followed by another, deserves yet another: Education Volunteer Training III! You might be thinking: What’s more to learn? Should I bother attending? Haven’t we already covered the waterfront*? This guest‑blogger was wondering the same things. It turns out the answers are, respectively: “plenty”; “yes”; and “yes,” but also “no,” because there is always more to gain.

[*apologies to composer Johnny Green and lyricist Edward Heyman]

Enough new material was on the agenda that Yours Truly again took some time off from her other responsibilities in order to go to DNERR that morning for a look-and-listen. The “listen” category included the scheduled appearance of a special speaker: Michael Bard, Clean Water Advocate, from the Delaware Nature Society in Hockessin.

A volunteer-trainee prepping a specimen for examination under, no, not a regular microscope, but a dissecting microscope.

A volunteer-trainee prepping a specimen for examination under, no, not a regular microscope, but a dissecting microscope.

Some folks in attendance at EVT3 were new to DNERR volunteering and were still weighing the possibilities. Hence, we were given a brief review of the agency’s guidelines for volunteering. Nothing new, there, for anyone who had been at EVT1 or EVT2; but moving right along….

Big on the agenda were an overview of the “Muck-less Marsh Walk” (with its customary but ever-welcome excursion onto the boardwalk) and “Under the Microscope with Zooplankton” (aka “Zooplankton: Tiny Wonders of the Sea”), the latter described to this writer by Johanna Hripto, DNERR’s Assistant Education Coordinator, as “an extension of what was covered in the December 2016 Volunteer Appreciation Night, but with a lesson plan for younger students.”

Awesome-sauce! A mount on the microscope for one’s smartphone!

Awesome-sauce! A mount on the microscope for one’s smartphone!

We soon discovered the Zooplankton Lab is pretty cool for adults, too. The exercise (no pun intended) that day included adults spontaneously movin’ and groovin’ in the aisles of the lab, while digging an educational YouTube music video from the Singing Zoologist.

And what’s singing and dancing without cameras, or in this case, camera? While the adults were boogyin’ between the workstations, and at the same time learning about copepods and cladocerans and their ilk, Johanna announced that so many students had inquired about taking photos of the microorganisms on the microscope slides that the St. Jones Reserve now owns, ta-daaaa, a smartphone mount for that purpose! Brilliant!

Even without a smartphone, Yours Truly could see each microscope slide was like a miniature work of art, an aquatic portrait just waiting to be added to her personal sketchbooks: drawings and/or watercolors entitled “Hydra,” “Daphnia,” etc., complete with setae, cilia, flagella, manubria, colloblasts, and all the other fancy terms that would be more fun to draw than to spell. This writer, for amusement, has been sketching seaweed and jellyfish in her personal time. Seriously. And in the Zooplankton Lab handout, we learned jellyfish are plankton; so, boom, this guest-blogger is already on the scene!

A glimpse inside the mysterious and alluring Herbarium at the St. Jones Reserve.

A glimpse inside the mysterious and alluring Herbarium at the St. Jones Reserve.

We were also shown some of the more mysterious rooms in the St. Jones Reserve Visitor’s Center. For instance, the facility also contains dorm space for scholarly guests and visiting interns; and this guest-blogger finally got to peek behind the tantalizing door marked “Herbarium.” Further details about the Herbarium are hoped to be posted to this blog in the future.

Johanna then gave a presentation about the energy conservation methods used at the St. Jones Reserve’s buildings and grounds. DNERR has geothermal heating, low-flow/hybrid flow toilets, and much more. As Johanna said, “If people are volunteering for DNERR, they should know how we walk the talk! And they should be able to share that knowledge with others, at the Reserve and elsewhere!”

The EVT3 session concluded with guest speaker Michael Bard, from the Delaware Nature Society, giving a rousing talk on clean-water advocacy and how to promote water-conservation awareness. We were also given handout packets containing information from the Delaware Clean Water Alliance, of which Bard is a member. He noted how Reserve volunteers can take what they learn and apply it to clean‑water efforts at DNERR and beyond. There was that echo again, twice in the same training session: that knowledge gained at DNERR can translate to civilian life.

The boardwalk's end is just a beginning! Share your enthusiasm about the estuary with others!

The boardwalk’s end is just a beginning! Share your enthusiasm about the estuary with others!

Does all of this sound like fun? Sorry you missed the latest Education Volunteer Training? Don’t get your flagella in a bunch! Simply contact Johanna Hripto, Assistant Education Coordinator, and sign up for the next DNERR training session. Much learning and inspiration await, and you might just find all of it spilling over into your daily life! (This time, pun intended.)

Text and photos by M.L. Christmas

* * * *

M.L. Christmas, MSM, is a freelance writer/editor living in the Dover area. She is a longtime member of Delaware Press Association and the National Federation of Press Women.

 

guest-blog

Of Rain Gauges & Rainfall Averages

Written on: March 3rd, 2017 in Guest BlogNERRResearchSt. Jones Reserve

To add variety to the blog and to offer a fresh perspective from our visitors, we are inviting guest bloggers to write posts describing their visits and thoughts while at the Reserve. This guest blog is Part II to December’s post by M.L. Christmas about her interview with Research Coordinator Dr. Kari St. Laurent. Enjoy! (Johanna Hripto, DNERR Assistant Education Coordinator & Blog Editor)

The interview with Dr. Kari St.Laurent, in December 2016, contained more information than could fit in any one blog. Makes sense, does it not? Weather is “big stuff,” and just like everything else in life, there is often a lot more going on than initially meets the eye.

Home sweet home-based rain-gauge! It’s functional, but not always pretty. Despite cleaning it out from time to time, this writer still finds moldering leaf bits, tinges of algae, and the occasional spider web (sometimes occupied!).

Home sweet home-based rain-gauge! It’s functional, but not always pretty. Despite cleaning it out from time to time, this writer still finds moldering leaf bits, tinges of algae, and the occasional spider web (sometimes occupied!).

The following is some “overflow” from that interview. Not to be skeptical, buuuuut…the delay allowed this guest-blogger to set out to prove (or disprove) something she had heard.

MLC: Your spikey chart is based on the Dover Air Force Base data. Though our house is just a few miles from the Base — and from the St. Jones Reserve — we often receive a different rainfall amount in our backyard rain gauge. We used to refer to the DAFB measurements for gardening purposes, but now that we have our own gauge, we feel we have a better idea what is really going on in our yard.

Checking for any obstructions (or special guests) before emptying the gauge.

Checking for any obstructions (or special guests) before emptying the gauge.

KSL: It might seem that way to you, but in fact, rainfall amounts will all even-out within a region! A single-day event can be very variable per location, but the amount of rain in one area is usually very similar throughout the region over the course of a year.

MLC (not completely understanding KSL and still stewing about the seeming inequality of it all): I have also wondered about the possibility that rain amounts in our front yard and back yard could be different! The rain/no-rain line has to fall somewhere, and might even be between us and our neighbor’s house. Installing a rain gauge out front, to supplement the one in back, might not be sufficient to give a fully accurate picture of the rainfall in our yard. I have jokingly thought that we could fill our yard solid with hundreds or even thousands of rain gauges, placed shoulder to shoulder, and still not know for sure what our conditions are.

KSL (somewhat easing the mind of the fretting guest-blogger): Think about the flow of water in your yard. A big rain that falls in the back yard is going to follow the gradient to the lowest point — a river, the ocean. Where rain falls, and where it flows, are two different things. But again, the rainfall totals within a region will all even-out.

Hindrance number 1: Keep rain gauges away from the sheltering effect of trees!

Hindrance number 1: Keep rain gauges away from the
sheltering effect of trees!

That is why the most important thing, M.L., is not how many rain gauges you might have in your yard, but how the one rain gauge you do have is situated. For ideal placement of a rain gauge, the location very much matters: not under a tree, or next to a big building where the wind goes only in one direction. A big open space, ideally, is where a rain gauge should be sited, like at an air force base.

 Dr. St.Laurent’s official, educated pronouncement should have marked the end of the matter: So much for our household’s friendly rainfall-rivalry with DAFB! Or was it still unresolved? This business about the rainfall averaging-out may sound good, on the surface, but in the interim, this guest-blogger decided to dig into her notebooks to see if she could prove otherwise.

Hindrance number 2: Keep rain gauges at a distance from homes, buildings, fences, sheds, etc.!

Hindrance number 2: Keep rain gauges at a distance from homes, buildings, fences, sheds, etc.!

Here are the stats. I crunched the numbers for 2016, based on our household notes about the rain received in our gauge versus the levels reported at DAFB. (This does not include data for weeks we were out of town or were hindered for other reasons from making a comparison.) The disparity in total rain amounts, between our yard and what was reported at DAFB, over the course of the entire year, came down to a difference of just over an inch in our backyard’s favor. That one-inch advantage might well have netted out in the aforementioned intervals for which we had no comparison-data; and putting additional years’ comparison-data into the mix might only further flatten any backyard-versus-DAFB discrepancies.

So there you have it. I could have sworn we’d have come in significantly ahead of DAFB in the precipitation department, no matter what DNERR’s in‑house meteorologist might claim. Good thing I didn’t make a wager on Dr. St.Laurent’s being wrong, or I would have been on the losing side of that bet: say, having to take a wince‑inducing, mid-winter swig from a muck-bottomed, backyard rain gauge.

 

 Text and photos by M.L. Christmas

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M.L. Christmas, MSM, is a freelance writer/editor living in the Dover area. She is a longtime member of Delaware Press Association and the National Federation of Press Women.




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