Orange fish in the ocean - photo by Hiroko Yoshii - photo by Hiroko Yoshii

Exploring Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve

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As part of an ongoing project, Erika Zambello is visiting all National Estuarine Research Reserves in the continental United States. Established by NOAA, the sites work together toward long-term research, education and coastal stewardship.

Wells Reserve on the coast of Southern Maine was designated in 1984 and encompasses 1,600 acres. The reserve staff facilities sit within beautifully restored farm buildings. A wide network of trails explores bottomland forest, freshwater wetlands, a sandy beach and salt marsh.

As part of my two-day visit, I met with researchers to discuss their innovative mapping projects, ongoing bird and larval fish studies, and vegetative transects. Key themes for their research also include:

  • Understanding salt marsh habitats and plant communities
  • Measuring the value of salt marsh habitats for fish, shellfish and birds
  • Exploring how salt marshes degrade and how they can be restored
  • Monitoring water quality estuaries.

Taken together, scientific exploration at the Wells Reserve aims to describe how coastal processes may change in the future, and how managers can help the landscape prepare.

I was fortunate enough to take an early morning paddle with Linda Littlefield Grenfell, a registered kayak guide and environmental educator. Morning mist burned off the marsh grass as we slowly slipped past the mud flats, watching shorebirds such as least sandpipers and semipalmated plovers seek prey in the shallows. Here, scientists are also adventurers!

For more information, see my trip diary here!

All images are copyright protected and may not be reproduced without permission. Photos are used with the permission of Erika Zambello.

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