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

Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve

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I disembarked at Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve (mercifully abbreviated to GTM NERR) with a group of practitioners, researchers and ecologists from around the world. The group had descended on Jacksonville, Florida, for a conference on ecosystem services, and GTM NERR provided the perfect living laboratory for their field trip.

The reserve ranges across 74,000 acres, and includes diverse habitats from wet meadows to forests to the swaying grasses of the estuary itself. The conference attendees were bowled over not only by views of American Alligators, but also through listening to stories of changing salt regimes and the impact on tree species; of living shoreline techniques meant to halt erosion and improve oyster habitat; and of the ongoing perils of invasive species. As I listened to them ask questions and saw the wheels of deep thought turn in each head, I knew that they would take lessons from the GTM NERR stewardship back to their home states and countries hundreds if not thousands of miles away.

This NERR provides educational opportunities for professionals as well as for students and kids. Their Environmental Education Center includes life-size dioramas of local species, a bird-watching station, and multiple classrooms and laboratories. One of their high school interns, Madison Toonder, has taken her oyster research, inspired by work and mentorship at GTM, to state-wide and national science fair competitions.

As a student, field trip attendee or hiker, each visitor is guaranteed to experience new facets of the coastal environment within GTM NERR!

Read more about Erika’s trip to the GTM NERR here.

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

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