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education-outreach

Never the Same NERR Twice!

Written on: August 1st, 2017 in Education & OutreachGuest BlogNERRVolunteers

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 from DNERR volunteer M.L. Christmas, who did an  “undercover” visit to the Great Bay NERR in New Hampshire. Enjoy! (Johanna Hripto, DNERR Assistant Education Coordinator & Blog Editor)

“Walk this way.” Just one example of the many types of animal footprints stenciled along Great Bay NERR’s new boardwalk.

A recent “stealth visit” to Great Bay NERR, in Greenland, NH, yielded some surprises. The visit was stealthy only in the sense of its being late on a June afternoon, not long before the buildings were closing; but the grounds, as at DNERR, stay open until sunset; and this being summer, we still had hours of sunlight remaining.

Our visit was unannounced to the GBNERR staff, although as a DNERR volunteer, I would have been happy to convey (again) our heartiest Delaware greetings. But we did not want to spring ourselves on them last minute, so we opted to head directly to the nature paths and see for ourselves what might have changed.

Also new: Binocular viewfinders! Step right up and enjoy the ever-changing views!

The Greek philosopher Heraclitus tells us no one steps twice into the same river, and so it is with visits to any NERR. The last time we stopped here (seeDNERR Invades Greenland (NH, That Is)”), we learned GBNERR’s staff and volunteers, in the off-season, would be replacing the boardwalk. The beautifully fresh boardwalk before us, looping through the wetlands, was not the only new experience in store.

Last time, we had left some of the Woodland Walk unexplored; so this time, apart from repeating the scenic points from our previous visit, we also made our way along the farthest reaches of that woodland path, where the damp, low‑lying areas on the trail were helpfully spanned by planks on which to step.

Sometimes the footprints are human. The moist impression on this plank would soon evaporate and leave no trace.

Whether sights we had seen before, or sights we were seeing for the first time, we were rewarded with sensory treats in every direction — from the rich smells of the forest, to the flute-like sounds of the Wood Thrush (Hylocichla mustelina), to enchanting glimpses of Eastern Chipmunks (Tamias striatus).

Think you’ve seen GBNERR, or DNERR, or any NERR, once and you’ve seen it all? Wrong! It’s never the same NERR twice, even if visiting two, three, four, or forty times.

As with everything in life, new experiences always await!

 

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.

guest-blog

Climate and Weather: What’s the diff’?

Written on: July 25th, 2017 in Guest BlogNERRResearch

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 III of  M.L. Christmas’ interview with Dr. Kari St. Laurent, DNERR’s Research Coordinator. Enjoy! (Johanna Hripto, DNERR Assistant Education Coordinator & Blog Editor)

The pressing matters of the spikey weather-chart and the battling rain-gauges having been discussed, this guest-blogger faced the obvious, as-yet unasked question…then went there.

MLC: What’s the difference between “climate” and “weather”? Are the terms interchangeable?

KSL: That is one of my favorite questions! —

Let me pause the narrative. Dr. St. Laurent is a kind, patient, education-minded person, but I could not help but suspect her response was meteorologist-speak for “Oh no! Not that question again! Puh-leeez!” But she politely continued, without missing a beat:

A beautiful, warm afternoon at the Blackbird Creek Reserve

…Here is the analogy used by the National Weather Service. “Climate” is what you have in your closet: tank tops, bathing suits, sweaters, parkas, etc. “Weather” is what you are wearing today.

Easy-peasy sunblock-squeezy, right? Things were about to get slightly more complicated:

Climate, in meteorological terms, uses a long-term mean, which is another name for a statistical average. The U.S. comparisons for weather data are based on a 30-year mean. Every 10 years, that average gets updated. It is a moving baseline. Right now, the baseline is the 1981-to-2010 dataset.

When a TV meteorologist states that “today was 8 degrees above normal,” “normal” is “climate,” and the 8-degree variance is the current “weather.” Weather is the day-to-day change. So “climate” and “weather” are part of the same picture, but they are saying two different things.

Anticipating the guest-blogger’s next question, Dr. St. Laurent went on: 

       A partial glimpse of what the scientists see at the             St.Jones Reserve and elsewhere: mud, water, air, plants, animals, boardwalk, and a whole lotta weather!

“Climate change” is about any statistically significant change in the long-term trend, even though the weather is of course going to fluctuate from day to day.

Scientists, such as those of us at DNERR, look for evidence of those long-term changes that might reveal themselves in the course of our research.

MLC: So, what does the future hold, in the meteorological field? There has been so much scientific study, for so many years, is there really anything left for climate scientists, marine biologists, etc., to learn?

KSL: Yes! Our weather forecasting can only get better. Advances in satellites and modelling continue to be made, which gives a greater accuracy of data; and pixels are getting smaller, which means we have access to even-higher-resolution images — and weather information — than before.

Thank you, “Dr. Kari”! I got the picture!

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.

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 is changing, 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.




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