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

Grand Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve

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Established in 1999, the Grand Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve (GB NERR) now stretches across 18,000 acres. In addition to the estuary’s salt marshes, the reserve also covers rare pine savannas, full of blooming wildflowers and carnivorous plants.

GB NERR staff focus on many areas of research, including sea level rise, tidal marsh vertebrates, coastal pines, mercury and long-term monitoring of environmental conditions within the estuary. During my visit, I was fascinated to learn about the nano-tagging and monitoring of secretive marsh birds. The tags are picked up by nearby radio towers, giving the scientists critical information about the movements of avian species rarely seen, but present within the dense marsh grasses.

In addition to research, the reserve provides educational opportunities for students as well as professionals. Educators from GB NERR work first in classrooms, then lead groups of students on field trips through unique habitats within the reserve, connecting in-person experiences to important learning objectives.

The natural resources at GB NERR are impressive, and their Grand Bay Coastal Resources Center adds yet another reason to visit the site. In addition to being a Gold LEED certified facility, the center houses important educational exhibits and a dorm for visiting researchers and educators. Everything in the design has been specially selected to save energy and resources, including the installation of solar panels, rainwater cisterns, and screens and roof hangings that avoid heat from direct sunlight.

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